How can social media be used to introduce Neuroscience?

Neuroscience is a transforming field of science. In the words of Martha Farah in her William James Award Address “(it) has rappelled down from the ivory tower and eloped from the hospital ward,” Neuroscience can now be used as a tool to understand, access and predict a wide variety of problems in society and beyond. Social media is society's platform for communicating and seeking information, it is used to see what is happening globally and share opinions, and for that reason, it can play a part in introducing neuroscience to the world.

The media portrays that there is a huge divide between scientists and the general public, but that is not strictly true as both scientists and members of the public engage with scientific research on social media, although there are disparities in the topics that people find of most importance. From a survey done by Cat Williams in November 2016, it was seen that professionals tweet a myriad of topics, related to science, aimed at scientists etc. On the other hand, members of the public are more focused on mental health and well being, which are examples of some of the top twenty articles most tweeted. This demonstrates that scientists or professionals should use neuroscience to target the public, by using these favorite categories and focusing more on society and everyday problems. Doing so will hopefully allow for deeper interactions between scientists and the general public.

Mental health and well being is an important issue. Approximately 1 in 4 people will experience a mental health problem each year, solely in the UK, yet overall numbers of people with mental health illnesses have not changed that much over the years. Worries caused by money and work, for example, can prevent people from coping. Neuroscience is key to understanding the brain and can be used as a method to find treatment, with social media being an effective platform to express any findings of this global issue. There are many findings that can serve as an explanation for why we are the way we are. One example is that the brain is affected by stress, which can lead to it switching off into habit mode, which means people might go out of there usual routine. Neuroscience also challenges previous beliefs and social media can share this. For example, recent work has enabled neuroscientists to see that the disorder ADHD is caused by differences in the grey matter in the brain, instead of major abnormalities in the dopamine function, therefore, the general public would become better aware of any misconceptions. All this can be of interest to the general public as it is something that can be overcome due to social media usage and allows for many people to understand their own selves and others, which is a great way for the public to be introduced to neuroscience and the difficult scientific jargon.

On the other hand, social media is very opinionated. Topics such as sexism, politics etc. appear constantly on these websites. Neuroscientists are interests in seeing whats different about the brains of people with unpleasant qualities. Neuroscientist Hikaru Takeuchi at Tohoku University and his colleagues have identified that the brain of a person who supports gender inequality has a different level of grey matter to the one who is the opposite. Additionally, the neural differences found were linked to psychological characteristics, which in turn can help explain sexist beliefs. Because misogyny appears quite readily on social media websites, neurologists can share their own findings and engage themselves with the general public. Moreover, sexism, in a sense can be overcome, as people can understand, more fully, why it can happen in a neural sense. In this way, social media can be used to bridge the barrier between the professionals and the general public.

Neuroscience is a vast topic, in relation to science. There are approximately 100 billion neurons in the brain and neurology acts as a tool to understand affective and cognitive problems that society faces. Social media is used to share millions of problems, that neuroscientists could take into their own hands, whilst sharing their expertise, as a result, the general public can be introduced to neuroscience.

Saira-Noor Mohammad

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