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Brain Imaging

Edited by L. Syd M Johnson (Michigan Technological University)
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Summary There is broad philosophical interest in the implications and applications of brain imaging, with concerns that cross the disciplinary boundaries of ethics, metaphysics, and law. Clinical applications of brain imaging for diagnosis and detection of consciousness in brain injured patients have bioethical and neuroethical implications, but also give rise to issues in philosophy of mind, about the nature of consciousness, the problem of other minds, the existence of neural correlates of mental states, etc. The use of brain imaging in criminal law (e.g. as a "lie detector," or to predict criminal behavior or "read" the mind) raises questions about moral and legal responsibility, as well as concerns about neuroessentialist, reductive and/or eliminative materialistic explanations of human behavior, mental disorders, and the mind. 
Key works Owen's work on functional neuroimaging in disorders of consciousness (Owen et al 2007) opens up a can of philosophical worms with respect to questions about functionally defining consciousness, using brain imaging to detect brain "behaviors," and the neural correlates of consciousness (Block 2001Block 1998).  Several philosophers have considered the uses and limits of functional neuroimaging in the law, e.g.: Tovino 2007; Glannon 2005Vincent 2009.  Glannon argues against neuroessentialism and the view that we are no more than our brains in Glannon 2009.
Introductions Illes & Sahakian 2011
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  1. Sergio Bagnato, Cristina Boccagni, Antonino Sant'Angelo, Alexander A. Fingelkurts, Andrew A. Fingelkurts & Giuseppe Galardi (2013). Emerging From an Unresponsive Wakefulness Syndrome: Brain Plasticity has to Cross a Threshold Level. Neuroscience and Biobehavioral Reviews 37 (10):2721-2736.
    Unresponsive wakefulness syndrome (UWS, previously known as vegetative state) occurs after patients survive a severe brain injury. Patients suffering from UWS have lost awareness of themselves and of the external environment and do not retain any trace of their subjective experience. Current data demonstrate that neuronal functions subtending consciousness are not completely reset in UWS; however, they are reduced below the threshold required to experience consciousness. The critical factor that determines whether patients will recover consciousness is the distance of their (...)
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  2. D. A. Baker, N. J. Schweitzer & Evan F. Risko (2014). Perceived Access to Self-Relevant Information Mediates Judgments of Privacy Violations in Neuromonitoring and Other Monitoring Technologies. Neuroethics 7 (1):43-50.
    Advances in technology are bringing greater insight into the mind, raising a host of privacy concerns. However, the basic psychological mechanisms underlying the perception of privacy violations are poorly understood. Here, we explore the relation between the perception of privacy violations and access to information related to one’s “self.” In two studies using demographically diverse samples, we find that privacy violations resulting from various monitoring technologies are mediated by the extent to which the monitoring is thought to provide access to (...)
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  3. Alison C. Boyce (2009). Neuroimaging in Psychiatry: Evaluating the Ethical Consequences for Patient Care. Bioethics 23 (6):349-359.
    According to many researchers, it is inevitable and obvious that psychiatric illnesses are biological in nature, and that this is the rationale behind the numerous neuroimaging studies of individuals diagnosed with mental disorders. Scholars looking at the history of psychiatry have pointed out that in the past, the origins and motivations behind the search for biological causes, correlates, and cures for mental disorders are thoroughly social and historically rooted, particularly when the diagnostic category in question is the subject of controversy (...)
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  4. Vanessa Carbonell (2013). Interactive Capacity, Decisional Capacity, and a Dilemma for Surrogates. AJOB Neuroscience 4 (4):36-37.
  5. Richard Dean (2010). Does Neuroscience Undermine Deontological Theory? Neuroethics 3 (1):43-60.
    Joshua Greene has argued that several lines of empirical research, including his own fMRI studies of brain activity during moral decision-making, comprise strong evidence against the legitimacy of deontology as a moral theory. This is because, Greene maintains, the empirical studies establish that “characteristically deontological” moral thinking is driven by prepotent emotional reactions which are not a sound basis for morality in the contemporary world, while “characteristically consequentialist” thinking is a more reliable moral guide because it is characterized by greater (...)
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  6. A. Demertzi, E. Racine, M.-A. Bruno, D. Ledoux, O. Gosseries, A. Vanhaudenhuyse, M. Thonnard, A. Soddu, G. Moonen & S. Laureys (2013). Pain Perception in Disorders of Consciousness: Neuroscience, Clinical Care, and Ethics in Dialogue. [REVIEW] Neuroethics 6 (1):37-50.
    Pain, suffering and positive emotions in patients in vegetative state/unresponsive wakefulness syndrome (VS/UWS) and minimally conscious states (MCS) pose clinical and ethical challenges. Clinically, we evaluate behavioural responses after painful stimulation and also emotionally-contingent behaviours (e.g., smiling). Using stimuli with emotional valence, neuroimaging and electrophysiology technologies can detect subclinical remnants of preserved capacities for pain which might influence decisions about treatment limitation. To date, no data exist as to how healthcare providers think about end-of-life options (e.g., withdrawal of artificial nutrition (...)
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  7. Peggy DesAutels (2010). Sex Differences and Neuroethics. Philosophical Psychology 23 (1):95-111.
    Discussions in neuroethics to date have ignored an ever-increasing neuroscientific lilterature on sex differences in brains. If, indeed, there are significant differences in the brains of men versus women and in the brains of boys versus girls, the ethical and social implications loom very large. I argue that recent neuroscientific findings on sex-based brain differences have significant implications for theories of morality and for our understandings of the neuroscience of moral cognition and behavior.
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  8. Jon B. Eisenberg (2008). Schiavo on the Cutting Edge: Functional Brain Imaging and its Impact on Surrogate End-of-Life Decision-Making. Neuroethics 1 (2):75-83.
    The article addresses the potential impact of functional brain imaging (functional magnetic resonance imaging and positron-emission tomography) on surrogate end-of-life decision-making in light of varying state-law definitions of consciousness, some of which define awareness behaviorally and others functionally. The article concludes that, in light of admonitions by neuroscientists that functional brain imaging cannot yet replace behavioral evaluation to determine the existence of consciousness, state legislatures, courts and drafters of written advance healthcare directives should consider treating behavior, not function, as the (...)
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  9. Cordelia Fine (2013). Is There Neurosexism in Functional Neuroimaging Investigations of Sex Differences? Neuroethics 6 (2):369-409.
    The neuroscientific investigation of sex differences has an unsavoury past, in which scientific claims reinforced and legitimated gender roles in ways that were not scientifically justified. Feminist critics have recently argued that the current use of functional neuroimaging technology in sex differences research largely follows that tradition. These charges of ‘neurosexism’ have been countered with arguments that the research being done is informative and valuable and that an over-emphasis on the perils, rather than the promise, of such research threatens to (...)
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  10. Andrew A. Fingelkurts, Alexander A. Fingelkurts, Sergio Bagnato, Cristina Boccagni & Giuseppe Galardi (2012). DMN Operational Synchrony Relates to Self-Consciousness: Evidence From Patients in Vegetative and Minimally Conscious States. Open Neuroimaging Journal 6:55-68.
    The default mode network (DMN) has been consistently activated across a wide variety of self-related tasks, leading to a proposal of the DMN’s role in self-related processing. Indeed, there is limited fMRI evidence that the functional connectivity within the DMN may underlie a phenomenon referred to as self-awareness. At the same time, none of the known studies have explicitly investigated neuronal functional interactions among brain areas that comprise the DMN as a function of self-consciousness loss. To fill this gap, EEG (...)
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  11. Joseph J. Fins (2008). Neuroethics and Neuroimaging: Moving Toward Transparency. American Journal of Bioethics 8 (9):46 – 52.
    Without exaggeration, it could be said that we are entering a golden age of neuroscience. Informed by recent developments in neuroimaging that allow us to peer into the working brain at both a structural and functional level, neuroscientists are beginning to untangle mechanisms of recovery after brain injury and grapple with age-old questions about brain and mind and their correlates neural mechanisms and consciousness. Neuroimaging, coupled with new diagnostic categories and assessment scales are helping us develop a new diagnostic nosology (...)
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  12. Joseph J. Fins (2006). Clinical Pragmatism and the Care of Brain Damaged Patients: Towards a Palliative Neuroethics for Disorders of Consciousness. In Steven Laureys (ed.), Boundaries of Consciousness. Elsevier.
  13. Joseph J. Fins, Judy Illes, James L. Bernat, Joy Hirsch, Steven Laureys & Emily Murphy (2008). Neuroimaging and Disorders of Consciousness: Envisioning an Ethical Research Agenda. American Journal of Bioethics 8 (9):3 – 12.
    The application of neuroimaging technology to the study of the injured brain has transformed how neuroscientists understand disorders of consciousness, such as the vegetative and minimally conscious states, and deepened our understanding of mechanisms of recovery. This scientific progress, and its potential clinical translation, provides an opportunity for ethical reflection. It was against this scientific backdrop that we convened a conference of leading investigators in neuroimaging, disorders of consciousness and neuroethics. Our goal was to develop an ethical frame to move (...)
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  14. Joseph J. Fins, Nicholas D. Schiff & Kathleen M. Foley (2007). Late Recovery From the Minimally Conscious State: Ethical and Policy Implications. Neurology 68 (4):304-307.
  15. Ruth L. Fischbach & Gerald D. Fischbach (2008). Neuroethicists Needed Now More Than Ever. American Journal of Bioethics 8 (1):47 – 48.
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  16. Hannah Fitsch (2012). (A)E(s)Th(Et)Ics of Brain Imaging. Visibilities and Sayabilities in Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging. Neuroethics 5 (3):275-283.
    Producing and interpreting functional brain data is part of the negotiation we imagine our brain. To take a closer look at the idea of brain imaging as a form of visual knowledge, it is necessary to put the research of today into a historical context. In my article I will point to a specific approach of functional imaging which depends on historical shifts entangled with the visual aspect of producing pictures of the brain. I will bring out the interaction of (...)
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  17. Frederic Gilbert & L. Syd M. Johnson (2011). The Impact of American Tackle Football-Related Concussion in Youth Athletes. AJOB Neuroscience 2 (4):48-59.
    Postmortem research on the brains of American tackle football players has revealed the presence of chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), a degenerative brain disease caused by repeated head trauma. Repeated concussion is a risk factor for CTE, raising ethical concerns about the long-term effects of concussion on athletes at risk for football-related concussion. Of equal concern is that youth athletes are at increased risk for lasting neurocognitive and developmental deficits that can result in behavioral disturbances and diminished academic performance. In this (...)
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  18. Frederic Gilbert & Bradley J. Partridge (2012). The Need to Tackle Concussion in Australian Football Codes. Medical Journal of Australia 196 (9):561-563.
    Postmortem evidence of chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) in the brains of American National Football League players who suffered concussions while playing have intensified concerns about the risks of concussion in sport.1 Concussions are frequently sustained by amateur and professional players of Australia’s three most popular football codes (Australian football, rugby league, and rugby union) and, to a lesser extent, other contact sports such as soccer. This raises major concerns about possible long-term neurological damage, cognitive impairment and mental health problems in (...)
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  19. Frederic Gilbert, Andrej Vranic & Samia Hurst (2013). Involuntary & Voluntary Invasive Brain Surgery: Ethical Issues Related to Acquired Aggressiveness. [REVIEW] Neuroethics 6 (1):115-128.
    Clinical cases of frontal lobe lesions have been significantly associated with acquired aggressive behaviour. Restoring neuronal and cognitive faculties of aggressive individuals through invasive brain intervention raises ethical questions in general. However, more questions have to be addressed in cases where individuals refuse surgical treatment. The ethical desirability and permissibility of using intrusive surgical brain interventions for involuntary or voluntary treatment of acquired aggressiveness is highly questionable. This article engages with the description of acquired aggressiveness in general, and presents a (...)
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  20. Walter Glannon (2006). Neuroethics. Bioethics 20 (1):37–52.
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  21. Bert Heinrichs (2011). A New Challenge for Research Ethics: Incidental Findings in Neuroimaging. [REVIEW] Journal of Bioethical Inquiry 8 (1):59-65.
    It has become evident that neuroimaging raises new normative questions that cannot be addressed adequately within the (in this regard unspecific) frameworks of existing research ethics. Questions that are especially troubling are, among others, provoked by incidental findings. Two questions are particularly intricate in view of incidental findings: (1) How can the research subject’s right not to know be guaranteed? And (2) should a diagnostic check of scans by a neuroradiologist become an obligatory part of neuroscientific research protocols? The present (...)
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  22. Christian G. Huber & Johannes Huber (2009). Epistemological Considerations on Neuroimaging – a Crucial Prerequisite for Neuroethics. Bioethics 23 (6):340-348.
    Purpose: Whereas ethical considerations on imaging techniques and interpretations of neuroimaging results flourish, there is not much work on their preconditions. In this paper, therefore, we discuss epistemological considerations on neuroimaging and their implications for neuroethics. Results: Neuroimaging uses indirect methods to generate data about surrogate parameters for mental processes, and there are many determinants influencing the results, including current hypotheses and the state of knowledge. This leads to an interdependence between hypotheses and data. Additionally, different levels of description are (...)
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  23. Judy Illes & Eric Racine (2005). Imaging or Imagining? A Neuroethics Challenge Informed by Genetics. American Journal of Bioethics 5 (2):5 – 18.
    From a twenty-first century partnership between bioethics and neuroscience, the modern field of neuroethics is emerging, and technologies enabling functional neuroimaging with unprecedented sensitivity have brought new ethical, social and legal issues to the forefront. Some issues, akin to those surrounding modern genetics, raise critical questions regarding prediction of disease, privacy and identity. However, with new and still-evolving insights into our neurobiology and previously unquantifiable features of profoundly personal behaviors such as social attitude, value and moral agency, the difficulty of (...)
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  24. L. Syd M. Johnson (2010). Implications of Recent Neuroscientific Findings in Patients with Disorders of Consciousness. Neuroethics 3 (2):185-196.
    A pressing issue in neuroscience is the high rate of misdiagnosis of disorders of consciousness. As new research on patients with disorders of consciousness has revealed surprising and previously unknown cognitive capacities, the need to develop better and more reliable methods of diagnosing these disorders becomes more urgent. So too the need to expand our ethical and social frameworks for thinking about these patients, to accommodate new concerns that will accompany new revelations. A recent study on trace conditioning and learning (...)
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  25. Ralf J. Jox & Katja Kuehlmeyer (2013). Introduction: Reconsidering Disorders of Consciousness in Light of Neuroscientific Evidence. Neuroethics 6 (1):1-3.
    Disorders of consciousness pose a substantial ethical challenge to clinical decision making, especially regarding the use of life-sustaining medical treatment. For these decisions it is paramount to know whether the patient is aware or not. Recent brain research has been striving to assess awareness by using mainly functional magnetic resonance imaging. We review the neuroscientific evidence and summarize the potential and problems of the different approaches to prove awareness. Finally, we formulate the crucial ethical questions and outline the different articles (...)
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  26. Guy Kahane & Julian Savulescu (2009). Brain-Damaged Patients and the Moral Significance of Consciousness. Journal of Medicine and Philosophy 34 (1):6-26.
    Neuroimaging studies of brain-damaged patients diagnosed as in the vegetative state suggest that the patients might be conscious. This might seem to raise no new ethical questions given that in related disputes both sides agree that evidence for consciousness gives strong reason to preserve life. We question this assumption. We clarify the widely held but obscure principle that consciousness is morally significant. It is hard to apply this principle to difficult cases given that philosophers of mind distinguish between a range (...)
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  27. Neil Levy (2008). Going Beyond the Evidence. American Journal of Bioethics 8 (9):19 – 21.
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  28. Thomas Nadelhoffer (2011). Neural Lie Detection, Criterial Change, and OrdinaryLanguage. Neuroethics 4 (3):205-213.
    Michael Pardo and Dennis Patterson have recently put forward several provocative and stimulating criticisms that strike at the heart of much work that has been done at the crossroads of neuroscience and the law. My goal in this essay is to argue that their criticisms of the nascent but growing field of neurolaw are ultimately based on questionable assumptions concerning the nature of the ever evolving relationship between scientific discovery and ordinary language. For while the marriage between ordinary language and (...)
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  29. Thomas Nadelhoffer & Walter Sinnott-Armstrong (2012). Neurolaw and Neuroprediction: Potential Promises and Perils. Philosophy Compass 7 (9):631-642.
    Neuroscience has been proposed for use in the legal system for purposes of mind reading, assessment of responsibility, and prediction of misconduct. Each of these uses has both promises and perils, and each raises issues regarding the admissibility of neuroscientific evidence.
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  30. Juha Räikkä (2010). Brain Imaging and Privacy. Neuroethics 3 (1):5-12.
    I will argue that the fairly common assumption that brain imaging may compromise people’s privacy in an undesirable way only if moral crimes are committed is false. Sometimes persons’ privacy is compromised because of failures of privacy. A normal emotional reaction to failures of privacy is embarrassment and shame, not moral resentment like in the cases of violations of right to privacy. I will claim that if (1) neuroimaging will provide all kinds of information about persons’ inner life and not (...)
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  31. Adina L. Roskies (2008). Neuroimaging and Inferential Distance. Neuroethics 1 (1):19-30.
    Brain images are used both as scientific evidence and to illustrate the results of neuroimaging experiments. These images are apt to be viewed as photographs of brain activity, and in so viewing them people are prone to assume that they share the evidential characteristics of photographs. Photographs are epistemically compelling, and have a number of characteristics that underlie what I call their inferential proximity. Here I explore the aptness of the photography analogy, and argue that although neuroimaging does bear important (...)
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  32. Mark Sherer, Tessa Hart, John Whyte, Toad G. Nick & Stuart A. Yablon (2005). Neuroanatomic Basis of Impaired Self-Awareness After Traumatic Brain Injury: Findings From Early Computed Tomography. Journal of Head Trauma Rehabilitation. Special Issue 20 (4):287-300.
  33. Nicole A. Vincent, Pim Haselager & Gert-Jan Lokhorst (2011). “The Neuroscience of Responsibility”—Workshop Report. Neuroethics 4 (2):175-178.
    This is a report on the 3-day workshop “The Neuroscience of Responsibility” that was held in the Philosophy Department at Delft University of Technology in The Netherlands during February 11th–13th, 2010. The workshop had 25 participants from The Netherlands, Germany, Italy, UK, USA, Canada and Australia, with expertise in philosophy, neuroscience, psychology, psychiatry and law. Its aim was to identify current trends in neurolaw research related specifically to the topic of responsibility, and to foster international collaborative research on this topic. (...)
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