The Life Scientific
Knowing SinMaking Sure Good Science Doesn’t Go Bad
Like all tools, scientiﬁc advances may be used for good or for ill. As our knowledge about the human brain increases, we will certainly use that knowledge to relieve human suffering in profound and wonderful ways. But the vast promise of the science should not blind us to the possibilities of its misuse.
The Idea That Scandalized Brain Science
Many neuroscientists say that the most startling about-face in their field has been the abandonment of the idea, once gospel, that the adult central nervous system has a fixed endpoint of development. Since no new nerve cells ever grew, repair—for example of a severed spinal cord—was out of the question. The revolution that shattered this orthodoxy is called “plasticity.” The scientist who coined that term reflects on how the implications of plasticity keep nudging us to reformulate basic questions about the brain.