Use your mind, don't believe myths

12th December 2008 at 00:00

Forget claims that we only use 10 per cent of the brain, or that listening to Mozart makes you more alert, or that the right half of the brain is creative.

They are all "pseudo-scientific" myths, Sergio Della Sala, of Edinburgh University's school of philosophy, psychology and language sciences, told his audience at the university's first Christmas lecture.

Professor Della Sala, winner of the Tam Dalyell Prize for excellence in engaging the public with science, is a well-known debunker of myths about brain training.

What he finds "obnoxious", however, is that some of these myths are being perpetuated in education, with authorities paying Pounds 3,000 a time to train a teacher in brain gym methodology or the Dore programme for dyslexia, which went into liquidation earlier this year.

"We don't have enough computers in school or enough money to have small classes, but we spend a fortune training teachers to go onpseudo-scientific programmes so they can implement them in schools," he told The TESS.

He picked out one particular claim for ridicule: that if you shape your fingers like a C and then press on your collarbone, you will stimulate arteries linked to the brain and increase oxygen in the frontal lobes, helping you to learn more quickly.

It did not take a neuro-scientist to work out that the claim was "absurd", Professor Della Salla said.

"Teachers should know better," he added. "Oxygen is pumped up by the heart, not by pressing your finger on the collarbone.

"Why do you have to dress up movement as pseudo-science? Just ask the children to do exercise, instead of spending Pounds 3,000 per teacher on training.

"Instead of following New Age mumbo-jumbo, teachers should do what they have been doing for 100 years very well."

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