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Blame the brain: How Neurononsense joined Psychobabble to keep women in their place

There is a long history of debate about biological sex differences and their part in determining gender roles. Join Gina Rippon to root out the neurotrash, stamp out the neurosexism and make way for neuronews.

Artist's impression of active brain
Armed with science

Event description

There is a long history of debate about biological sex differences and their part in determining gender roles, with the ‘biology is destiny’ mantra being used to legitimise imbalances in these roles. The tradition is continuing, with new brain imaging techniques being hailed as sources of evidence of the ‘essential’ differences between men and women, and the concept of ‘hardwiring’ sneaking into popular parlance as a brain-based explanation for all kinds of gender gaps. But the field is littered with many problems. Some are the product of ill-informed popular science writing ( neurotrash) based on the misunderstanding or misrepresentation of what brain imaging can tell us. Some, unfortunately involve poor science, with scientists using outdated and disproved stereotypes to design and interpret their research (neurosexism). These problems obscure or ignore the ‘neuronews’, the breakthroughs in our understanding of how plastic and permeable our brains are, and how the concept of ‘hard-wiring’ should be condemned to the dustbin of neurohistory. This talk aims to offer ways of rooting out the neurotrash, stamping out the neurosexism and making way for neuronews.


Gina Rippon is Professor of Cognitive Neuroimaging at Aston University. Her research involves the application of brain imaging techniques, particularly electroencephalography,(EEG) and magnetoencephalography (MEG), to studies of normal and abnormal cognitive processes.


Samira Ahmed presents Newswatch on BBC1 and the BBC News channel. On radio she presents Front Row  and  Something Understood on Radio 4 and R3 and R4 documentaries about anything from David Bowie and Oliver Cromwell’s wife to Westerns and HG Wells and the Atomic bomb. You can hear her as an occasional panellist on The News Quiz and a presenter on The Forum (BBC World Service) I presented the ethics discussion show Sunday Morning Live on BBC1 till 2013. 

Her freelance work as a journalist and presenter includes investigating the Rotherham child abuse scandal, the training of British imams to tackle radicalisation and reporting for BBC TV’s General Election 2015 programme. She has presented BBC Radio 4 News and Current Affairs and Arts programmes The World Tonight, The World This WeekendPM, Sunday and Profile, the R4 interview strand One To One and Woman’s Hour. She was a regular presenter of the World Service daily arts show The Strand. She has been a panellist on Have I Got News for You and The Review Show.


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