Theo Tsaousides Ph.D.

Smashing the Brainblocks

How to Protect Your Brain Cells From Shady Brain Sales

Neuroscience can lead to breakthroughs or break the bank if you are not careful!

Posted Sep 16, 2016

wake1003mike/Shutterstock
Source: wake1003mike/Shutterstock

You’re sitting in a meeting, barely listening to your narcissistic boss, who is going manic on the team, while you are trying to stay focused and keep your ADHD under control. When she announces next year’s projections, you are about to have a panic attack. Her assistant, who is so OCD, drives you crazy as he keeps rearranging the handouts on the table. You want to quit so badly, but you are stuck in this codependent relationship with your work.  If only you weren’t such an INTJ personality! The only way to get through the rest of this meeting is to silently practice your mindfulness meditation.

Psychobabble. That’s what happens when psychology jargon escapes from the hands of professionals and lands on the mouths of the public. Psychobabble is the loose use of psychological terms out of context and without real meaning. Psychobabble thrives on buzzwords. Narcissist, introvert, chemical imbalance, OCD, ADHD, or PTSD. You too have probably used one of these words recently.  No?  Then you must be in denial!

But psychobabble is now coming face to face with serious competition: neurobabble.  More jargon – this time borrowed from the world of neuroscience – has made its way into our lives and businesses and it is here to stay!  And just like psychobabble, neurobabble is sometimes used properly and sometimes just for buzz.  Neurobuzzwords like neuroleadership, neuromanagement, and neurocoaching are sexy.  Throw in a couple of words like plasticity, amygdala, and reptilian brain, and you are set.  You now have a brain-based product that can turn your life around.  You can begin to rewire your brain for unlimited success!

I am a big fan of neurobabble too. The title of my book is Brainblocks (click here for meaning!), and I teach the neuropsychology of success!  But because I am a neuropsychologist and I know a thing or two about the brain, I can tell when the “neuro-” prefix adds actual value and when it only adds pizzazz.

To protect your brain cells from neurobabble sales, here are some important neuro-terms  that you should also know:

  • Neurons: the cells that make up the brain and spinal cord.  Neurons communicate with each other through electrical impulses and the release of chemicals. 
  • Neural pathways: collections of neurons that are bundled together and connect different areas of the brain.  Neurons in the same pathway are activated together, and serve the same function.
  • Neurotransmitters: the chemicals that the neurons use to communicate with one another.  The most popular ones are serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine.  It was believed that abnormal levels of these chemicals were the cause of mental illness, like depression.  This theory, however, has not been scientifically proven.
  • Neuroscience: the scientific study of the brain and the nervous system.  Neuroscientists aim to explore how the brain and the nervous system influence behavior.  While neuroscientists focus on both normal function and pathology, they are typically researchers working in labs, not clinicians working with patients. 
  • Neurology: the branch of medicine that focuses on the diagnosis and treatment of disorders of the nervous system, both the central (brain and spinal cord), and the peripheral nervous system.  Examples of neurological disorders include Parkinson’s, Huntington’s, and Alzheimer’s Disease.
  • Neuropsychology: the branch of psychology that focuses on the relationship between brain function and behavior.  Neuropsychologists conduct assessments to link impairments in functioning to underlying problems in the brain, such as trauma or disease.
  • Neuroimaging: different techniques used to study brain structures and functions, using the physical, chemical, and electrical properties of the brain.  The most popular ones include Computerized Tomography (CT scan), Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI), and Electroencephalography (EEG).
  • Neuroplasticity: the microscopic changes in the structure and the function of the neurons, that lead to short- or long-term changes in behavior, as in development and maturation, learning, adapting to new environments, and adjustments to loss of function due to aging or brain injury.
  • Neurogenesis: the creation of new nerve cells throughout the life span, a discovery that challenged the prevailing view that brain cells die without being replaced.
  • Neurofeedback: the use of EEG to help a person have more control over their brain activity.  Just like biofeedback, where you can see how your heart rate changes in response to doing a relaxation exercise, with neurofeedback you can see the changes in brain electrical activity as you try to improve your performance on a task.
  • Neurolinguistics: the discipline that studies the brain mechanisms involved in learning, producing, and understanding language.  Neurolinguistics is a rigorous academic discipline, not to be confused with Neurolinguistic Programming (NLP), which is a self-improvement method that borrows bits and pieces from various theories, and tends to be more commercially and less scientifically oriented.

Would you like to expand your neuro-vocabulary further?  What other neuroterms would you like added to the neuro-dictionary?