DOI: 10.14704/nq.2008.6.2.173

Memetics in Neurosurgery and Neuroscience

Antonio Di Ieva


Imitation is a powerful means of spreading culture that teaches people to speak languages, children to play, and surgeons to operate. The basic unit of imitation is a replicator called meme which, like genes, carries information and spreads it. The concepts of memes and the science of memetics were introduced by the biologist Richard Dawkins in 1976 and, since then, memes have been found everywhere, and used to explain both social and scientific phenomena. Memes are ideas, tunes, fashions, and ways of saying things; they are also surgical techniques, because these too have the replicating power to jump from brain to brain via the process of imitation. Like surgery in general, neurosurgery is a complex set of memes: the neuroscientific concepts and surgical techniques shared by neuroscientists and neurosurgeons by means of congresses, articles and the imitation of others’ actions in operating theatres. The spread of neural memes is guaranteed by bridges that interconnect the individual elements of the general network, in the same way as fashions or infections.
Over the last few decades, neurophysiological discoveries such as mirror neurons have revealed the presence of a neural network that is very important in the process of imitation, and studying memetics should be considered as important as studying genetics because both involve selfish replicators (memes and genes) whose co-evolution is fundamental to understanding the evolution of mankind and culture.
The study of memetics and its applications in the fields of neurosurgery and neuroscience can offer a new perspective for understanding the mechanisms of both neural and social networks, thus providing a holistic view of neuroscience and the social sciences that will lead to further insights into the science of the mind.


Memetics, meme, culture, neuroscience, neurosurgery, neuromemetics

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