Neuroethics and neuroimaging: Moving toward transparency

American Journal of Bioethics 8 (9):46 – 52 (2008)
Abstract
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 about disorders of consciousness which will likely improve prognostication and suggest therapeutic advances. Historically such diagnostic refinement has yield therapeutic advances in medicine and there is no reason to doubt that this will be the case for disorders of consciousness, perhaps bringing relief to a marginalized population now on the periphery of the therapeutic agenda. In spite of this promise, the translation of research findings into the clinical context will be difficult. As we move from descriptive categories about disorders of consciousness, like the vegetative or minimally conscious states, to ones further specified by integrating behavioral and neuroimaging findings, humility not hubris should be the virtue that guides the ethical conduct of research and practice.
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