Published on December 13, 2018 | Updated on January 29, 2019

CORTEX conference by François Gonon

June 25th, 2015

Misrepresentations of neuroscience observations in the media: causes and social consequences

There is often a huge gap between neurobiological findings and their media coverage. We analyze the neuroscience discourse and we show that misrepresentations and overstatements of neuroscience observations already occur inside scientific publications. Publication bias also plays a major role in the distorted media reporting. Indeed, initial scientific publications often report larger effects than subsequent studies on the same issue and this is not chocking on the scientific point of view. However, we observed, with the case of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, that journalists preferentially report on initial publications and almost never inform the public that most of them are refuted or strongly attenuated by subsequent studies. These distortions bias the evidence in favor of a neurobiological understanding of mental disorders. This conception favors drug treatments, increases patient rejection and discredit social policies that might decrease the prevalence and severity of these disorders