Memetics in neurosurgery and neuroscience

Antonio Di Ieva*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)


Imitation is a powerful means of spreading culture teaching 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 and spreads information. The concepts of memes and the science of memetics were introduced by biologist Richard Dawkins in 1976. Since then, memes have been found everywhere, used to explain both social and scientific phenomena. Memes are ideas, tunes, fashions, and ways of saying things; they are also surgical techniques, because also these ones have the replicating power to jump from brain to brain via a process of imitation. Like general surgery, neurosurgery is a complex set of memes: 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 interconnecting individual elements of general network, in the same way as fashions or infections do. 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; studying memetics should be considered as important as studying genetics because both of them involve selfish replicators (memes and genes) whose co-evolution is fundamental in 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 social sciences that will lead to further insights into the science of the mind.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)182-193
Number of pages12
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2008
Externally publishedYes


  • Genes
  • Memes
  • Memetics
  • Neuroscience
  • Neurosurgery


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