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While it is true that the scientific literature is influenced by trends and biases, Poldrack fails to mention that a rare disease producing bilateral atrophy of the amygdala has never been associated with the inability to feel and recognize happiness, but it has been associated with the inability to feel and recognize fear.

Our op-ed is not careless or sensationalist. We did not discuss caveats and qualifications because of length constraints and considerations of style, medium, and audience. Our original op-ed was approximately twice as long as the printed one. The op-ed was heavily edited, and it still occupied a whole page of the New York Times (typically, three op-eds are printed in one page of the Times.) Considering that the New York Times receives approximately 800 op-ed submissions every day, and it typically publishes only three, our whole page op-ed with color figures (a first in New York Times op-eds) was impressive, not sensationalist. I believe this is why it produced strong negative reactions in a small group of colleagues.

When I talk about the brain to my sixth grade daughter, I do not use the same language I use with my graduate students. The style I used to write my new book “Mirroring People” is not the same style I use when I write papers I submit for peer-review. Am I misleading my daughter and the readers of my book? I don’t think so.

Do I think that Poldrack is misleading readers by definining our op-ed “flawed”, “sensationalist”, “careless”, even “astrology”? Yes I do.

Marco Iacoboni, MD PhD
Author, Mirroring People

Director, Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation Lab
Ahmanson-Lovelace Brain Mapping Center
David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA

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