The Brain / Pharmaceutical Ads

If anyone is most guilty of brain abuse, it is likely a college student. Overworking, staying up too late, distractions, head injuries from sports, head injuries from being careless, drinking too much, head injuries from said drinking. Misuse of the brain is a common young adult hobby.

Now, I’m no angel. I get roughly six hours of sleep at night on a weekday. I’ve never had concussions, but I have had a number of bad falls and periodic migraines within the past month or so. I try to look out for “number one” most of the time, but I can’t always be sure that I’m taking care of myself at the same time. I read books in dim rooms, don’t sleep until I feel that I have to.

When studying for this post, I recalled a bit of what I already knew about the human brain. My mother made a great effort when I was young to make a point about taking great care to not damage your brain. As a young adult, who has yet to reach the age of 25, I am still in an “at-risk” age range for brain damage. The websites I visited gave me some deeper insight into that aspect. According to Healthline, “The frontal lobe of the brain is responsible for the “important cognitive skills in humans, such as emotional expression, problem solving, memory, language, judgment, and sexual behaviors.”

From what I recall, the young adult brain does not truly finish development until the age of 25. As far as I know, poor habits, addictions, and other forms of minor brain damage can have a more damaging effect at or around this age. This was the point that my mother really tried to drive home. Effectively, this point boils down to the idea that “you’re not thinking with your whole brain, you’re still developing your ability to think critically.”

I don’t believe the brain simulations did much to change my attitude about mental health. My opinions are already set from years of my parents and teachers telling me about how my brain develops and the proper attitudes to “take care of yourself.” I’m not overworked or at risk of severe brain damage. Stressed out? Yes. Do I make bad health decisions? Constantly. Will I change how I live my life as a result of these simulations? Doubtful, not unless I begin to experience side effects that prove to me that what I’m doing is harmful.

Of the two simulations, I preferred the “g2conline” version more. Its descriptions and details were more in-depth and made more sense to me as I explored the simulations.


For my second part of the assignment, I decided to examine this Concerta advertisement. While I am unfamiliar with the product, I gather that this advertisement is intended to combat Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder.

“Interpellation” is the ability of a medium to assign agency and identity to its viewer. This branch of visual theory was introduced to me by the studies of Louis Althusser, a Marxist theorist who expanded on the ideas of previous philosophers like Barthes and Gramsci. While Althusser’s view of “interpellation” referred to the mechanics of Marxist theory, like class, identity, and ideology. In this sense, I believe that the advertisement is attempting to assign an identity to its viewers. This is achieved by a slightly manipulative tactic of guilt and direct marketing.

While this advertisement does not have a “checklist” like other pharmaceutical advertisements, it has a “map” of events that interpellates the viewer. The progression begins at the top-left corner, and branches from there. One path travels downward, detailing a hypothetical day that the subject, Alex, might have without taking his medication. The second path continues steadily towards the right, highlighted with gold stars, and details a “good day”, a day where Alex takes his medication.

These branches assign identity to the child in the picture, and are likely designed to appeal to a parent’s senses of protectiveness, desire for their children to success, and pride. All the benefits of the drug demonstrate that Alex is capable and Concerta is enabling him achieve these successes. The advertisement, in effect, preys on the sense of failure that parents feel that their children experience. In my opinion, this is a scummy tactic, but it works very well when you consider how immensely unpleasant the feeling of guilt is.

Among the side effects of this drug are “abnormal thoughts” and “hallucinations.” As well, it also is evident that the medication may cause more anxiety and aggression. Further capping this off, is the small-print declaration that Concerta is intended to be used in conjunction with other therapies, indicating that Concerta is not going to be solely responsible for the improvements in you or your child’s attitudes and behaviors. The entire bottom half of the advertisement is marketing copy, and FDA-mandated pharmaceutical safety content.

The ad does not “promise” anything, but simply implies that Concerta will help “get [your child] on the path to success.” The “timeline” in the top left corner reinforces this claim. In all, this advertisement preys on the feelings of failure that might be present in parents who raise children with ADHD.


One thought on “The Brain / Pharmaceutical Ads

  1. PASS — excellent!… “preys on the feelings of failure that might be present in parents who raise children with ADHD” or who are just normal children who daydream or are full of energy. All in society’s desire to have things orderly and controlled… Somatized (Brave New World)


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