Insular cortex may well be associated with feelings of love and compassion, but this hardly proves that we are in love with our iPhones. In Tal Yarkoni's recent paper in Nature Methods, we found that the anterior insula was one of the most highly activated part of the brain, showing activation in nearly 1/3 of all imaging studies! Further, the well-known studies of love by Helen Fisher and colleagues don't even show activation in the insula related to love, but instead in classic reward system areas. So far as I can tell, this particular reverse inference was simply fabricated from whole cloth. I would have hoped that the NY Times would have learned its lesson from the last episode.But most striking of all was the flurry of activation in the insular cortex of the brain, which is associated with feelings of love and compassion. The subjects’ brains responded to the sound of their phones as they would respond to the presence or proximity of a girlfriend, boyfriend or family member.In short, the subjects didn’t demonstrate the classic brain-based signs of addiction. Instead, they loved their iPhones.
Saturday, October 1, 2011
NYT Op-Ed + fMRI = complete crap
Many of you may remember the controversy that arose a few years back when the NY Times published an Op-Ed titled "This is your brain on politics" by Marco Iacoboni and colleagues. This steaming pile of shoddy reverse inferences inspired a group of us to write a letter to the editor, published online. Well, the NYT editorial page is at it again, this time with a piece by self-proclaimed neuromarketer Martin Lindstrom, titled "You love your iPhone, literally" (h/t Raj Raizada for pointing me to it). The argument of the article is that rather than our feelings about iphones reflecting something like an addiction driven by dopamine (which I have argued for in the past), our feelings about our digital devices instead reflect true love, based on fMRI: