Emotionless brain research that didn’t deal with human reality

Are tasks you do at work and home never influenced by emotional content or contexts?

Does your ability to focus on a task always have nothing to do with your emotional state?

The researchers who designed this 2015 Boston human study acted as if both of your answers to these questions were “Yes” by stripping out any emotional content from their experiments. As a result, this study which purported to:

“Have the potential to provide additional insights into how inhibitory control may break down in a wide variety of individuals with neurological or psychiatric difficulties”

couldn’t achieve anything near its goal.


This study included fMRI scans of subjects’ entire brains. Limbic system areas were in 3 of the 5 modules, and lower brain areas were in one.

Functional MRI signals depend on changes in blood flow that follow changes in brain activity. Given this study’s goal, did it make sense for researchers to design experiments that didn’t actively engage scanned areas of subjects’ brains?

It wasn’t all that difficult to include emotional content that could potentially contribute to the purported goal. This 1996 review described studies that developed varieties of emotional content with the same test type (Stroop) used. Presumably these approaches had made progress since 1996 incorporating emotional content in Stroop tests given to normal people, who were subjects in this study.

http://www.pnas.org/content/112/32/10020.full “Flexible brain network reconfiguration supporting inhibitory control”

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