Don't Blame Trump's Brain - Neuroskeptic

Don't Blame Trump's Brain - Neuroskeptic

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This is a discussion on Don't Blame Trump's Brain - Neuroskeptic within the Science and Technology forums, part of the Topics of Interest category; The past year has seen the emergence of a new field of neuroscience: neuroTrumpology. Also known as Trum phrenology ...

  1. #1

    Don't Blame Trump's Brain - Neuroskeptic

    The past year has seen the emergence of a new field of neuroscience: neuroTrumpology. Also known as Trumphrenology, this discipline seeks to diagnose and explain the behaviour of Donald Trump and his supporters through reference to the brain.

    Here are some examples of neuroTrump scholarship: Donald Trump’s Lizard Brain (February 2016) and After a brain injury, I suddenly displayed some behavior similar to Donald Trump’s (August 2016). More recently we have Trump’s Lies vs. Your Brain (January 2017) and Basic ‘lizard brain’ psychology can explain the rise of Donald Trump (February 2017).

    Trump neuroscience goes hand in hand with another thriving field, namely Trump psychiatry. According to various experts, Donald Trump could be diagnosed with mental disorders ranging from narcissitic personality disorder and psychopathy to ADHD.

    Here’s why I think all of these attempts to explain Trump’s behaviour with neurological or psychological abnormalities are wrong.

    The basic problem is circularity: the observed facts of Trump’s behaviour are what motivate us to seek some kind of label as an explanation, but the only evidence for the explanation is the same observed facts that we started off with. In other words, in saying that Trump is “a psychopath” or “dominated by his amygdala”, we seem to be explaining or at least shedding light on his behaviour, but all we’re actually doing is circling back to where we started.

    For example, you might believe that the President is a rash person who tends to speak and act on impulse. That’s your description of his personality, but suppose you want to give a more scientific statement. So you note that in neuroscience, damage to the prefrontal cortex can produce impulsivity. Aha! So maybe Trump’s prefrontal cortex is underactive! Or maybe he has a personality disorder! Yet these aren’t explanations, let alone a scientific ones, for Trump’s rashness. They’re just more sciencey and impressive ways of saying he’s rash.

    We don’t need these kinds of quasi-scientific analyses of Trump’s (or anyone’s) character. We should stick to describing and commenting on the behaviour that we can directly observe. If Trump is rash, then that’s it: he’s rash. It doesn’t matter what’s going on in his brain to make him that way. If he’s egotistic and selfish, then just say so – it adds nothing to the discussion to speculate about whether he meets criteria for ‘narcissistic personality disorder’, not to mention that such a diagnosis-at-a-distance is ethically questionable.

    More broadly, as I’ve argued previously, neuroscience can answer questions about the brain but most political and social questions are about behaviour. Now, while all behaviour is the product of brain activity, it’s rarely useful to try to understand a behaviour in neuroscientific terms. If you’re thirsty, then you could make me understand your situation by saying “I’m thirsty”, and the solution would be a glass of water. A neuroscientific analysis of activity in your brain’s subfornical organ wouldn’t help anyone.
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  2. #2

    it seems the presidunce has been reading the trumphrenology literature and isn't amused Trump Budget Would Slash Biomedical and Science Research Dollars

    Stephanie Simon,STAT

    President Trump’s proposed budget chops $6 billion, about a fifth of the total budget, from the National Institutes of Health, a move that could decimate biomedical research in a number of areas and stagger academic institutions around the country that depend on NIH grant money to keep their scientific research programs afloat.

    Research funding at the Department of Energy and the Environmental Protection Agency would also take steep cuts under the budget blueprint, released early Thursday.

    The budget for the National Science Foundation isn’t specifically listed but it likely falls under the category of miscellaneous agencies targeted for across-the-board cuts of nearly 10 percent.

    As for the pharmaceutical industry: Trump has repeatedly promised drug makers he’ll make it easier and cheaper for them to bring new medicines to market, but he’s also counting on them to pay more for their regulatory reviews. His budget calls for hiking the fees that industry pays the Food and Drug Administration to review medical products, arguing that companies “can and should” pay their fair share. Trump aims to bring in $2 billion from these user fees in 2018, approximately double the current level.

    Funding for the NIH has been a bipartisan priority for years; one of Trump’s key advisers, former Representative Newt Gingrich, has long championed that cause. It was just two years ago, in fact, that Gingrich called for doubling the NIH budget, calling health spending both a moral and a financial imperative. “It’s irresponsible and shortsighted, not prudent, to let financing for basic research dwindle,” Gingrich wrote then.

    But Trump’s $1.1 trillion budget reflects new priorities in D.C.: The Pentagon, Department of Homeland Security, and Veterans Affairs would all get significant boosts in funding, offset by sweeping cuts across other domestic spending. The EPA and the State Department would be hardest hit, with each taking cuts of about 30 percent.

    The Department of Health and Human Services comes in for a cut of more than $15 billion, or nearly 18 percent. Trump has talked often about the need to address the opioid crisis; his budget calls for a $500 million increase in spending to increase access to treatment and recovery services.

    Trump’s budget proposal, which is slim on details, is just a blueprint; the details will be negotiated with Congress, and top Republicans have already made clear that they’re not on board with all the cuts. Just this month, Representative Tom Cole, who chairs a key appropriations committee, told STAT he hoped to boost NIH funding by as much as $2 billion this year. (The agency got its first significant budget hike in years, of $2 billion, in late 2015.)

    And within hours of the blueprint’s release, Senator Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), who has also called for increasing NIH spending, issued a statement calling the president’s plan just the “first step” in a long a process. “There are many concerns with non-defense discretionary cuts,” Blunt said.

    Though the details are sure to change, the budget document is important nonetheless in laying down a marker of the president’s priorities.

    At the NIH, for instance, the plan calls for a “major reorganization” of the 27 institutes and centers that make up the agency. It outright abolishes the Fogarty International Center, which spends $69 billion a year to support research on global health and encourage collaboration between health research institutions in the US and in other nations.

    The Department of Health and Human Services comes in for a cut of more than $15 billion, or nearly 18 percent. There are no specifics listed for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, beyond a pledge to create a $500 million block grant fund to help states respond to their specific public health challenges. It’s not clear if that’s new funding or if it would be reallocated from elsewhere within the CDC. The budget also talks about unspecified investment in “mental health activities” such as suicide prevention.

    Also mentioned in the document, without specifics: A plan to create a “federal emergency response fund” to address public health emergencies such as Zika.

    And the plan calls for “consolidating” the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, which among other things provides evidence-based guidelines for clinicians. It’s not clear whether, or how, the agency’s work would continue.

    The budget doesn’t mention specific funding levels for Medicare and Medicaid, though the Republican health care bill moving through Congress would enact significant cuts to Medicaid spending.

    Among the few specifics in the HHS budget blueprint: Trump would eliminate $403 million in funding to train health professionals and nurses, calling the program ineffective.

    It proposes a modest increase, of $20 million, in the Department of Housing and Urban Development budget to mitigate health hazards such as lead-based paint in homes.

    Megan Thielking contributed to this report.
    Republished with permission from STAT. This article originally appeared on March 16, 2017

  3. #3

    These posts are a bit crazy, but with regards to the second post I don't at all understand the connection between conservatives in Anglo speaking countries and being cheap and selfish. Trump campaigned mainly on a different solution to economic problems and is now allowing policies of the typical American fiscal conservatives. He said he admired the single payer system and now is supporting a plan to uninsure his own people. They are not coming from his mind, but he's permitting and then encouraging them. I thought he was going to use tariffs to offset job loss, not go back to the typical broken position of his party. Who doesn't view basic healthcare as a right anymore if you're in a first world country that can easily afford it?


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