Is neuroscience the cool, trendy science-y thing to be talking about? Yes, unfortunately. I know, you’re all like ‘Why unfortunately? Isn’t it great that the everyday Joe wants to talk about your field?’ Well, when science topics becomes popular, it’s not always a good thing. Here’s a few pros and cons.

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Brain cells, from GE Healthcare on Flickr.

CON: We simplify everything. Science is complicated – it’s complex, and difficult, and it uses terminology that someone with a degree in another field is probably unfamiliar with. That is not to say that people in other fields are unintelligent. I don’t know the first thing about coding in C++, but as a programmer, you probably know about as much about the hippocampus. So we tend to oversimplify what is in actuality extremely complex.

PRO: It gets people talking, and if people are talking that means they are interested. More interest can mean more money for the field. Science typically runs on grants from the government and sometimes private investors. More money does mean more real research on the topics, so the scientists can learn even more.

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Needlepoint brains, from Hey Paul Studios on Flickr.

CON: It tends to be inaccurate  When you want to catch the attention of an expert in a field, you don’t need to blow things out of proportion. Unfortunately, if you want the attention of someone outside the field – sometimes throwing around crazy headlines does the trick. Just be careful of what you read, because the headline of a news article doesn’t tell the whole story that a journal article might.

PRO: It’s more accessible. For someone who is interested in the topic of neuroscience, popularity means that your interest is easier to study on your own. I enjoy reading nonfiction narratives about brain disorders, and as the brain becomes more popular, more people are writing on the topic. Check out Neurocomic, a future brain science graphic novel.

Popular science is something that’s been discussed for awhile. Every time something new becomes trendy, we question whether or not this is good. Science affects society, and society affects science – so we certainly can’t ignore that it happens – but it’s not all bad.

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