An Attempted Navigation Through All That Neuro-Bollocks That Is Thrown At Us!

Dr Ashok Jansari

Wednesday, May 17 2017 at 7:30PM

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84 Parrock Road
DA12 1QF

Dr Ashok Jansari

What's the talk about?

The last few decades have seen a massive mushrooming of research into the workings of the most complex system known to mankind, the human brain. Part of this wonderful expansion in knowledge has been the development of ever-more sophisticated techniques for looking at the brain both physically and functionally in vivo rather than needing to wait for a post-mortem autopsy. There is a veritable alphabet-soup of methods available: CT, MRI, EEG, fMRI, ERP, MEG, tDCS to name a few. These techniques have given us fantastic insights into brain functions both in healthy individuals and also in those with neural abnormalities; some of this work has also been enormously beneficial for helping to identify or develop new treatments. However, parallel to this wonderful contribution has been an abuse of this information. Some of this has been by the researchers conducting the studies – there is a sense of ‘believing the hype’ a bit too much. In addition to this, the ‘neuro-revolution’ has been firmly embraced by those who want to legitimise their work – neuro-psychic, neuro-coaching, etc.. It has reached the point where it has even been used by some to drive public policy by using brain scans purporting to show the impact of social deprivation on a child’s brain. In this talk, I will try to navigate you through some of the wonders of the brain but also try to show you that some of what you may hear is better classified as ‘neuro-bollocks’......

My expertise is in mental brain functions that we use on an everyday basis such as memory and face-recognition. I conduct research on healthy individuals, those with brain damage and children who are either typical or have developmental disorders such as Autistic Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). I am one of the UK's experts on face-recognition including face-blindness (also known as 'prosopagnosia') and exceptional face memory (known as 'super-recognition'). Some of the latter work is being done in conjunction with London's Metropolitan Police who are the first police force in the world to strategically use serving officers with exceptional face-memory to apprehend criminal suspects. I have also developed an expertise in being able to 'translate' general issues in psychology and science to the lay-person to make them more accessible.

I have been working in the field for 23 years. I have a degree from arguably the best university in the world (Cambridge), a doctorate from one of the best psychology research departments in the country (Sussex) and worked with two of the most noted neuroscientists in the world (Professors Antonio Damasio and Ralph Adolphs). I have won an award from the International Neuropsychological Society for my research in memory disorders and been awarded a Media Fellowship by the British Association for the Advancement of Science for my skills in communicating science to the general public. In 2011 I was awarded a three-month Wellcome funded Live Science residency at London's Science Museum to conduct one of the largest prevalence studies of super-recognition in the world. I have contributed widely to public engagement with science through TV (both national TV such as the BBC and Channel 4 as well as internationally), radio and print media as well as annual public lectures as part of International Brain Awareness Week. In addition I have lectured extensively throughout Europe, North America, South America, India, Malaysia, Australia and New Zealand. For this work, I have been nominated for a British Academy Charles Darwin Award for communicating science to non-specialist audiences. In 2014, I won Best Research Supervisor prize at my university for my ability to teach and inspire students to high levels of research. I teach cognitive psychology and cognitive neuropsychology which are my two specialist areas.

I am a Fellow of the Higher Education Academy, an Associate Fellow of the British Psychological Society and Vice-Chair of the Neuropsychology International Fellowship. My expertise means that I currently collaborate with scientists in 14 other countries spanning 4 continents.

Away from my research, I love travelling (52 countries visited and counting), speak my mother tongue (Gujarati) as well as Italian (I’ve visited Venice over 45 times!) and have an identical twin – I show three-dimensional scans of our brains in lectures to amuse students and then to demonstrate certain issues to do with the brain. I actually have a bit of a ‘wonky’ brain that I love telling students about.....

Webclips of Dr Jansari speaking about his field:

Speaking about the general field of cognitive neuropsychology:

Speaking on BBC1’s The One Show:

Speaking about his ‘super-recognizer’ study at London’s Science Museum:

Speaking about face-recognition for Universities Week: