Spanish culture has recently shown interest about Neuroethics, a new line of research and reflection. It can be said that two general, and somewhat opposing, perspectives are currently being developed in Spain about neuroethics-related topics. One originates from the neuroscientific field and the other from the philosophical field. We will see, throughout this article, that the Spanish authors, who I am going to select here, deal with very diverse neuroethical topics and that they analyse them from different intellectual (...) assumptions. However, I consider that there is one constant concern, which emerges extensively or briefly in each one of the books that I am going to present. I am referring to the problem of freedom. Spanish neuroscientists, in general, stress and accept the new determinism that emanates from recent research about the brain, whilst those who engage in the study of philosophy usually point in their texts to the limitations of empirical research that purport to "demonstrate" the new neurological determinism. I will dedicate the last section, which is more extensive in length, to the work that I consider the most valuable, at least until the present day, and whose title is Neuroética y Neuropolítica (Tecnos, Madrid, 2011). Professor Adela Cortina (chair of Moral Philosophy at Valencia University and member of the Spanish Royal Academy of Moral and Political Science) is its author. But, firstly, I am going to refer to the works written by neuroscientists, and then to those written by philosophers. This will enable us to obtain a global view of the neuroethics models that are being constructed in Spain. (shrink)
Using a metaphorical reminiscence upon holiday toys - and the hopes, challenges and possibilities they presented - this essay addresses the ways that the heuristics, outcomes and products of neuroscience have effected change in the human condition, predicament, and being. A note of caution is offered to pragmatically assess what can be done with neurotechnology, what can't, and what should and shouldn't - based upon the capacities and limitations of both the science, and our collective ability to handle knowledge, power (...) and the unknown. This is not an appeal to impede brain research. To the contrary, it is a call to engage neuroethics as a discipline and set of practices 1) to allow a deeper, more finely-grained understanding of brains and their functions in ecological dynamics (that we define as morality and ethics), and 2) to intuit how to engage neuroscientific research and its applications in the social sphere (inclusive of medicine, public life and national agenda), to more accurately perceive how neuroscience is changing human society and the human being, and to instantiate more relevant ethics and laws that are in step with advancing epistemological capital and technological capability. (shrink)
According to Adina Roskies, the neuroscience of ethics is concerned with a neuroscientific understanding of the brain processes that underpin moral judgment and behavior. The ethics of neuroscience, on the other hand, includes the potential impact advances in neuroscience may have on social, moral and philosophical ideas and institutions, as well as the ethical principles that should guide brain research, treatment of brain disease, and cognitive enhancement. This entry discusses these different aspects of neuroethics, with a special focus on (...) the way in which neuroscience might impact our sense of self and personal responsibility, a concern that cuts across these categories. For example, I discuss whether advancing knowledge of brain states or processes undermine common notions of free will and responsibility. I also examine whether certain treatments of brain abnormality are ethical (is it acceptable to irreversibly ‘cure’ pedophilia or obsessive/compulsive disorder?), a discussion that falls squarely under the category of the ethics of neuroscience. Finally, I discuss whether the neuroscience of ethics can provide insight into who should be deemed criminally responsible via a neuroscientific analysis of intentional action. (shrink)
We are unlikely to stop seeking pleasure, as this would prejudice our health and well-being. Yet many psychoactive substances providing pleasure are outlawed as illicit recreational drugs, despite the fact that only some of them are addictive to some people. Efforts to redress their prohibition, or to reform legislation so that penalties are proportionate to harm have largely failed. Yet, if choices over seeking pleasure are ethical insofar as they avoid harm to oneself or others, public health strategies should foster (...) ethical choice by moving beyond current risk management practices embodied in the harm reduction movement. The neuroscience of pleasure has much to offer neuroethics and public health strategies. Distinguishing between ‘wanting’ and ‘liking’ fosters new understandings of addiction. These hold promise for directing the search for pharmacotherapies which prevent addiction and relapse or disrupt associated neuromechanisms. They could inform new research into creating lawful psychoactive substances which give us pleasure without provoking addiction. As the health and well being of human and other animals rests upon the experience of pleasure, this would be an ethical objective within public health strategy. Were ethical and neurobiological obstacles to ending addiction to be overcome, problems associated with excessive consumption, the lure of unlawful psychoactive substances and the paucity of lawful means to achieve pleasurable altered states would remain. Non-addictive designer drugs, which reliably provided lawful access to pleasures and altered states, would ameliorate these public health concerns insofar as they fostered citizens’ informed, ethical choices according to a neurobiological taxonomy of pleasures. (shrink)
Neuroscience, together with a broadened concept of “mind” has instigated pragmatic and ethical concerns about the experience and treatment of pain. If pain medicine is to be authentic, it requires knowledge of the brain-mind, pain, and the relative and appropriate “goodness” of potential interventions that can and/or should be provided. This speaks to the need for an ethics that reflects and is relevant to the contemporary neuroscience of pain, acknowledgment and appreciation of the sentient being in pain, effects of environment (...) and value(s), and the nature of healing. It may be that neuroethics provides this viable meta-ethic for pain care. This essay describes how an integrative neuroethics of pain care allows, if not obligates, alignment of facts, values, and moral attitudes as a continuing process of re-investigation, analysis, and revision of what we know (and don’t know) about brains, minds, selves, and how we regard and treat the painient. (shrink)
In recent years, two distinct trajectories of bioethical inquiry have emerged: neuroethics and nanoethics. The former deals with issues in neuroscience, whereas the latter deals with issues in nanoscience and nanotechnology. In both cases, the ethical inquiries have coalesced in response to rapidly increasing scientific and engineering developments in each field. Both also present major issues for contemplation in bioethics. However, the questions are (1) how different are the ethical issues raised, and (2) is it beneficial for neuroethics (...) and nanoethics inquiries to proceed on often-divergent trajectories by ethicists who otherwise might never interact? If, for example, ethical inquiry occurs only within the disciplinary confines of their predominant area(s) of science (which now seems to be the case) or by overlooking prior discussions in other scientific realms (like genetics), then the opportunity for a richer, more comprehensive discourse may be lost. I argue that this (1) is a disservice to bioethics, (2) is antithetical to some of the aims of bioethical inquiry, and (3) encourages the reductionism bioethicists’ claim that is counterproductive. (shrink)
This paper examines how the new field of neuroethics is responding to the old problem of difference, particularly to those ideas of biological difference emerging from neuroimaging research that purports to further delineate our understanding of sex and/or gender differences in the brain. As the field develops, it is important to ask what is new about neuroethics compared to bioethics in this regard, and whether the concept of difference is being problematized within broader contexts of power and representation. (...) As a feminist science studies scholar trained in the neurosciences, it seems logical to me that, as a growing field, neuroethics should reach out to the rich bodies of scholarship on the history of medicine, feminist theory and feminist bioethics while attempting to approach discussions of sex, gender and sexuality differences in the brain. What is also clear to me is that feminist scholars need to learn how to engage with neuroimaging studies on sex, gender and sexuality not just to critique, but also to productively contribute to neuroscientific research. The field of neuroethics can potentially provide the appropriate forum for this interdisciplinary engagement and create opportunities for shared perplexity. I suggest three possible points of departure for creating this shared perplexity, namely (i) is difference being measured in the study for the purpose of understanding difference in and of itself, or for the purpose of division?; (ii) is there an appreciation for biological complexity?; and (iii) is it assumed that structural differences can be conveniently translated into functional differences? (shrink)
Michael S. Gazzaniga, a pioneer and world leader in cognitive neuroscience, has made an initial attempt to develop neuroethics into a brain-based philosophy of life that he hopes will replace the irrational religious and political belief-systems that still partly govern modern societies. This article critically examines Gazzaniga’s proposal and shows that his actual moral arguments have little to do with neuroscience. Instead, they are based on unexamined political, cultural and moral conceptions, narratives and values. A more promising way of (...) interpreting the belief-forming system of the brain is to say that we cannot avoid thinking in terms of wider frameworks and narratives that are socially embedded and historically developed; consequently, any moral discussion has to be in terms of these frameworks and narratives. (shrink)
Neuroethics is a rapidly growing subfield, straddling applied ethics, moral psychology and philosophy of mind. It has clear affinities to bioethics, inasmuch as both are responses to new developments in science and technology, but its scope is far broader and more ambitious because neuroethics is as much concerned with how the sciences of the mind illuminate traditional philosophical questions as it is with questions concerning the permissibility of using technologies stemming from these sciences. In this article, I sketch (...) the two branches of neuroethics, the applied and the philosophical, and illustrate how they interact. I also consider representative themes from each: the ethics of dampening memory and of cognitive enhancement, on the one hand, and the attack upon the reliability of deontological intuitions and upon free will, on the other. (shrink)
The extended mind thesis is the claim that mental states extend beyond the skulls of the agents whose states they are. This seemingly obscure and bizarre claim has far-reaching implications for neuroethics, I argue. In the first half of this article, I sketch the extended mind thesis and defend it against criticisms. In the second half, I turn to its neuroethical implications. I argue that the extended mind thesis entails the falsity of the claim that interventions into the brain (...) are especially problematic just because they are internal interventions, but that many objections to such interventions rely, at least in part, on this claim. Further, I argue that the thesis alters the focus of neuroethics, away from the question of whether we ought to allow interventions into the mind, and toward the question of which interventions we ought to allow and under what conditions. The extended mind thesis dramatically expands the scope of neuroethics: because interventions into the environment of agents can count as interventions into their minds, decisions concerning such interventions become questions for neuroethics. (shrink)
To aid neuroscientists in determining the ethical limits of their work and its applications, neuroethical problems need to be identified, catalogued, and analyzed from the standpoint of an ethical framework. Many hospitals have already established either autonomy or welfare-centered theories as their adopted ethical framework. Unfortunately, the choice of an ethical framework resists resolution: each of these two moral theories claims priority at the exclusion of the other, but for patients with neurological pathologies, concerns about the patient’s welfare are treated (...) as meaningless without consideration of the patient’s expressed wishes, and vice versa. Ethicists have long fought over whether suffering or autonomy should be our primary concern, but in neuroethics a resolution of this question is essential to determine the treatment of patients in medical and legal limbo. I propose a solution to this problem in the form of ethical dualism. My paper deviates from this text in many ways, but especially in the inclusion of autonomy and happiness as part of ethical theories, rather than guiding principles. This is a conservative measure in that it retains both sides of the debate: both happiness and autonomy have intrinsic value. However, this move is often met with resistance because of its more complex nature—it is more difficult to make a decision when there are two parallel sets of values that must be considered than when there is just one such set. The monist theories, though, do not provide enough explanatory power: namely, I will present two recently publicized cases where it is clear that neither ethical value on its own (neither welfare nor autonomy) can fully account for how a vegetative patient should be treated. From the neuroethical cases of Terri Schiavo and Lauren Richardson, I will argue that a dualist framework is superior to its monist predecessors, and I will describe the main features of such an account. (shrink)
Our ethical obligations to another being depend at least in part on that being’s capacity for a mental life. Our usual approach to inferring the mental state of another is to reason by analogy: If another being behaves as I do in a circumstance that engenders a certain mental state in me, I conclude that it has engendered the same mental state in him or her. Unfortunately, as philosophers have long noted, this analogy is fallible because behavior and mental states (...) are only contingently related. If the other person is acting, for example, we could draw the wrong conclusion about his or her mental state. In this article I consider another type of analogy that can be drawn between oneself and another to infer the mental state of the other, substituting brain activity for behavior. According to most current views of the mind–body problem, mental states and brain states are non-contingently related, and hence inferences drawn with the new analogy are not susceptible to the alternative interpretations that plague the behavioral analogy. The implications of this approach are explored in two cases for which behavior is particularly unhelpful as a guide to mental status: severely brain–damaged patients who are incapable of intentional communicative behavior, and nonhuman animals whose behavioral repertoires are different from ours and who lack language. (shrink)
The aim of this article is to argue, by example, for neuroethics as a new way of doing ethics. Rather than simply giving us a new subject matter—the ethical issues arising from neuroscience—to attend to, neuroethics offers us the opportunity to refine the tools we use. Ethicists often need to appeal to the intuitions provoked by consideration of cases to evaluate the permissibility of types of actions; data from the sciences of the mind give us reason to believe (...) that some of these intuitions are less reliable than others. I focus on the doctrine of double effect to illustrate my case, arguing that experimental results suggest that appeal to it might be question-begging. The doctrine of double effect is supposed to show that there is a moral difference between effects that are brought about intentionally and those that are merely foreseen; I argue that the data suggest that we regard some effects as merely foreseen only because we regard bringing them about as permissible. Appeal to the doctrine of double effect therefore cannot establish that there are such moral differences. (shrink)
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 involved, especially when experiments are designed to answer questions pertaining to broad concepts like the self, empathy or moral intentions. Interdisciplinary theoretical frameworks are needed to integrate findings from the life sciences and the humanities and to translate between them. While these epistemological issues are not specific for neuroimaging, there are some reasons why they are of special importance in this context: Due to their inferential proximity, 'neuro-images' seem to be self-evident, suggesting directness of observation and objectivity. This has to be critically discussed to prevent overinterpretation. Additionally, there is a high level of attention to neuroimaging, leading to a high frequency of presentation of neuroimaging data and making the critical examination of their epistemological properties even more pressing. Conclusions: Epistemological considerations are an important prerequisite for neuroethics. The presentation and communication of the results of neuroimaging studies, the potential generation of new phenomena and new 'dysfunctions' through neuroimaging, and the influence on central concepts at the foundations of ethics will be important future topics for this discipline. (shrink)
Neuroethics, in its modern form, investigates the impact of brain science in four basic dimensions: the self, social policy, practice and discourse. In this study, we analyzed a set of 461 peer-reviewed articles with neuroethics content, published by authors from 32 countries. We analyzed the data for: (1) trends in the development of international neuroethics over time, and (2) how challenges at the intersection of ethics and neuroscience are viewed in countries that are considered developed by International (...) Monetary Fund (IMF) standards, and in those that are developing. Our results demonstrate a steady increase in global participation in neuroethics from 1989 to 2005, characterized by an increase in numbers of articles published specifically on neuroethics, journals publishing these articles, and countries contributing to the literature. The focus from all countries was on the practice of brain science and the amelioration of neurological disease. Indicators of technology creation and diffusion in developing countries were specifically correlated with increases in publications concerning policy implications of brain science. Neuroethics is an international endeavor and, as such, should be sensitive to the impact that context has on acceptance and use of technological innovation. (shrink)
The Neuroethics Affinity Group of the American Society for Bioethics and Humanities (ASBH) met for the third time in October 2007 to review progress in the field of neuroethics and consider high-impact priorities for the future. Closely aligned with ASBH's own goals of recruiting junior scholars to bioethics and mentoring them to successful careers, the Neuroethics Affinity Group placed a call for new ideas to be presented at the Group meeting, specifically by junior attendees. One group responded (...) with the idea to probe a new direction for neuroethics focused on the neuroscience of gender differences. In the spirit of full disclosure, two of the authors are a student (Chalfin) and fellow (Murphy) of the program I formerly directed at Stanford University. The third (Karkazis) is junior faculty there. The intellectual ownership of the ideas in the report below, however, are entirely theirs. Like lit torches in a juggling act, there are many directions this project can go. The report is a snapshot of these authors' first iteration of the concept of women's neuroethics. Many thanks are extended to participants of the ASBH Neuroethics Affinity Group meeting whose enthusiasm and feedback was immensely helpful in shaping the concept and moving it ahead. - Judy Illes, Editor AJOB-Neuroscience. (shrink)
The popularization of neuroscientific ideas about learning—sometimes legitimate, sometimes merely commercial—poses a real challenge for classroom teachers who want to understand how children learn. Until teacher preparation programs are reconceived to incorporate relevant research from the neuro- and cognitive sciences, teachers need translation and guidance to effectively use information about the brain and cognition. Absent such guidance, teachers, schools, and school districts may waste time and money pursuing so called brain-based interventions that lack a firm basis in research. Meanwhile, the (...) success of our schools will continue to be narrowly defined by achievement standards that ignore knowledge of the neural and cognitive processes of learning. To achieve the goals of neuroeducation, its proponents must address unique ethical issues that neuroeducation raises for five different groups of individuals: a) practicing teachers, b) neuroscience researchers whose work could inform education, c) publishers and the popular media, d) educational policy-makers, and e) university-level teacher educators. We suggest ways in which these ethical challenges can be met and provide a model for teacher preparation that will enable teachers themselves to translate findings from the neuro-and cognitive sciences and use legitimate research to inform how they design and deliver effective instruction. (shrink)
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.
Neuroethics is a relatively novel field of investigation. Applied to mental health practice and research, neuroethics would seem to enlighten many traditional ethical connundra. This editorial introduces this symposium on neuroethics in the Journal of Bioethical Inquiry.
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 carefully and properly interpreting the relationship between brain findings and our own self-concept is unprecedented. Therefore, while the ethics of genetics provides a legitimate starting point - even a backbone - for tackling ethical issues in neuroimaging, they do not suffice. Drawing on recent neuroimaging findings and their plausible real-world applications, we argue that interpretation of neuroimaging data is a key epistemological and ethical challenge. This challenge is two-fold. First, at the scientific level, the sheer complexity of neuroscience research poses challenges for integration of knowledge and meaningful interpretation of data. Second, at the social and cultural level, we find that interpretations of imaging studies are bound by cultural and anthropological frameworks. In particular, the introduction of concepts of self and personhood in neuroimaging illustrates the interaction of interpretation levels and is a major reason why ethical reflection on genetics will only partially help settle neuroethical issues. Indeed, ethical interpretation of such findings will necessitate not only traditional bioethical input but also a wider perspective on the construction of scientific knowledge. (shrink)
Recent advances in the brain sciences have dramatically improved our understanding of brain function. As we find out more and more about what makes us tick, we must stop and consider the ethical implications of this new found knowledge. Will having a new biology of the brain through imaging make us less responsible for our behavior and lose our free will? Should certain brain scan studies be disallowed on the basis of moral grounds? Why is the media so interested in (...) reporting results of brain imaging studies? What ethical lessons from the past can best inform the future of brain imaging? -/- These compelling questions and many more are tackled by a distinguished group of contributors to this volume on neuroethics. The wide range of disciplinary backgrounds that the authors represent, from neuroscience, bioethics and philosophy, to law, social and health care policy, education, religion and film, allow for profoundly insightful and provocative answers to these questions, and open up the door to a host of new ones. The contributions highlight the timeliness of modern neuroethics today, and assure the longevity and importance of neuroethics for generations to come. (shrink)
This paper examines the claims in the debate on cognitive enhancement in neuroethics that society wide pressure to enhance can be expected in the near future. The author uses rational choice modeling to test these claims and proceeds with the analysis of proposed types of solutions. The discourage use, laissez-faire and prohibition types of policy are scrutinized for effectiveness, legitimacy and associated costs. Special attention is given to the moderately liberal discourage use policy (and the gate-keeper and taxation approaches (...) within this framework), as many authors presuppose that this type of policy would best serve public interest. Different more or less articulated models in the taxation approach (Tobacco regulation analogy, Coffee-shop system, Regulatory Authority for Cognitive Enhancements and Economic Disincentives Model) are analyzed from the point of view of justificatory liberalism. The author concludes that prohibition and laissez-faire types of policy would neither be effective nor justified. A moderately liberal public policy shows more promise, but not all approaches within this type of policy would be legitimate and effective. The “gate-keeper” approach and related models could not be justified whereas approach based on taxation with suitable models might be legitimate and effective. (shrink)
One of the ethical issues that has been raised recently regarding emerging neurotherapies is that people will be coerced explicitly or implicitly in the workplace or in schools to take cognitive enhancing drugs. This article builds on this discussion by showing how the law may pressure people to adopt emerging neurotherapies. It focuses on a range of private law doctrines that, unlike the criminal law, do not come up very often in neuroethical discussions. Three doctrines—the doctrine of mitigation, the standard (...) of care in negligence, and child custody determinations in family law—are addressed to show how the law may pressure people to consent to treatment by offering a choice between accepting medical treatment and suffering a legal disadvantage. The doctrines considered in this article apply indirect pressure to submit to treatment, unlike court-ordered medical treatment, which applies direct pressure and is not addressed here. The outcome of this discussion is to show that there is a greater range of social pressures that may encourage the uptake of novel neurotherapies than one might initially think. Once treatments that were developed and offered with therapeutic benefits in mind become available, their existence gives rise to unintended legal consequences. This certainly does not mean we should cease developing new therapies that may be of tremendous benefit to patients, but it does raise some questions for physicians and for legal policy-makers. How should physicians, who are required by medical ethical principles to obtain valid consent to treatment, react to a patient’s reluctant consent that is driven by legal pressure? From the legal policy perspective, are our legal doctrines satisfactory or should they be changed because, for example, they unduly promote the collective interest over individual freedom to reject medical treatment or because they channel us toward economically efficient treatments to the detriment of more costly but potentially superior approaches of dealing with behavioural problems? (shrink)
Though the vegetarian movement sparked by Peter Singer’s book Animal Liberation has achieved some success, there is more animal suffering caused today due to factory farming than there was when the book was originally written. In this paper, I argue that there may be a technological solution to the problem of animal suffering in intensive factory farming operations. In particular, I suggest that recent research indicates that we may be very close to, if not already at, the point where we (...) can genetically engineer factory-farmed livestock with a reduced or completely eliminated capacity to suffer. In as much as animal suffering is the principal concern that motivates the animal welfare movement, this development should be of central interest to its adherents. Moreover, I will argue that all people concerned with animal welfare should agree that we ought to replace the animals currently used in factory farming with animals whose ability to suffer is diminished if we are able to do so. (shrink)
ics. Each of these can be pursued independently to a large extent, but perhaps most intriguing is to contem- plate how progress in each will affect the other. The past several months have seen heightened interest
_The Ethics of Neuroscience_
in the intersection of ethics and neuroscience. In the The ethics of neuroscience can be roughly subdivided popular press, the topic grabbed headlines in a May.
Psychologists and philosophers use the term 'intuition' for a variety of different phenomena. In this paper, I try to provide a kind of a roadmap of the debates, point to some confusions and problems, and give a brief sketch of an empirically respectable philosophical approach.
Recent developments in the field of neurosurgery, specifically those dealing with the modification of mood and affect as part of psychiatric disease, have led some researchers to discuss the ethical implications of surgery to alter personality and personal identity. As knowledge and technology advance, discussions of surgery to alter undesirable traits, or possibly the enhancement of normal traits, will play an increasingly larger role in the ethical literature. So far, identity and enhancement have yet to be explored in a neurosurgical (...) context, despite the fact that 1) neurological disease and treatment both potentially alter identity, and 2) that neurosurgeons will likely be the purveyors of future enhancement implantable technology. Here, we use interviews with neurosurgical patients to shed light on the ethical issues and challenges that surround identity and enhancement in neurosurgery. The results provide insight into how patients approach their identity prior to potentially identity-altering procedures and what future ethical challenges lay ahead for clinicians and researchers in the field of neurotherapeutics. (shrink)
In Italy, a judge reduced the sentence of a defendant by 1 year in response to evidence for a genetic predisposition to violence. The best characterized of these genetic differences, those in the monoamine oxidase A (MAOA), were cited as especially relevant. Several months previously in the USA, MAOA data contributed to a jury reducing charges from 1st degree murder (a capital offence) to voluntary manslaughter. Is there a rational basis for this type of use of MAOA evidence in criminal (...) court? This paper will review in context recent work on the MAOA gene–environment interaction in predisposing individuals to violence and address the relevance of such findings to murder trials. Interestingly, the MAOA genetic variants impact future violence and aggression only when combined with the adverse environmental stimuli of childhood maltreatment. Thus nature and nurture interact to determine the individual’s risk. Based on current evidence, I argue there is a weak case for mitigation. But should future experiments confirm the hypothesis that individual differences in impulse control and response to provocation found in MAOA-L men (without abuse) are significantly magnified when combined with childhood maltreatment, the case could turn into a stronger one. (shrink)
In this article I flesh out support for observations that scientific accounts of social groups can influence the very groups and mental phenomena under investigation. The controversial hypothesis that there are hardwired differences between the brains of males and females that contribute to sex differences in gender-typed behaviour is common in both the scientific and popular media. Here I present evidence that such claims, quite independently of their scientific validity, have scope to sustain the very sex differences they seek to (...) explain. I argue that, while further research is required, such claims can have self-fulfilling effects via their influence on social perception, behaviour and attitudes. The real effects of the products of scientists’ research on our minds and society, together with the fact that all scientific hypotheses are subject to dispute and disconfirmation, point to a need for scientists to consider the ethical implications of their work. (shrink)
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. (shrink)
Effective treatment of personality disorder (PD) presents a clinical conundrum. Many of the behaviours constitutive of PD cause harm to self and others. Encouraging service users to take responsibility for this behaviour is central to treatment. Blame, in contrast, is detrimental. How is it possible to hold service users responsible for harm to self and others without blaming them? A solution to this problem is part conceptual, part practical. I offer a conceptual framework that clearly distinguishes between ideas of responsibility, (...) blameworthiness, and blame. Within this framework, I distinguish two sorts of blame, which I call ‘detached’ and ‘affective’. Affective, not detached, blame is detrimental to effective treatment. I suggest that the practical demand to avoid affective blame is largely achieved through attention to PD service users’ past history. Past history does not eliminate responsibility and blameworthiness. Instead, it directly evokes compassion and empathy, which compete with affective blame. (shrink)
The current neurosciences contribute to the construction of gender/sex to a high degree. Moreover, the subject of gender/sex differences in cognitive abilities attracts an immense public interest. At the same time, the entanglement of gender and science has been shown in many theoretical and empirical analyses. Although the body of literature is very extensive and differentiated with regards to the dimensions of ‘neuroscience of gender’ and ‘gender in neuroscience’, the feeding back of these findings into the field of neuroscience remains (...) a desideratum. Especially, the question of how gender knowledge, i.e. insights from feminist theory on gender/sex and from gender and science studies on knowledge production, may be integrated and applied within the neurosciences has been strongly neglected. Presumably due to their epistemic culture and epistemological presuppositions, these critical engagements are conceived as externalist by critical scholars and neuroscientists alike. In this context, the question arises of how substantiated gender knowledge may be accounted for in neuroscientific research practice? The article outlines methodological considerations for a critical research agenda in the cognitive neurosciences. I present thoughts on how insights and expertise from gender and science studies can be taken into account in the neuroscientific practice of knowledge production. Starting from the assumption that changes in neuroscientific research practices are possible, my aim is to point out possibilities of integrating gender knowledge into the neurosciences. (shrink)
In the care of patients with disorders of consciousness (DOC), some ethical difficulties stem from the challenges of accurate diagnosis and the uncertainty of prognosis. Current neuroimaging research on these disorders could eventually improve the accuracy of diagnoses and prognoses and therefore change the context of end-of-life decision making. However, the perspective of healthcare professionals on these disorders remains poorly understood and may constitute an obstacle to the integration of research. We conducted a qualitative study involving healthcare professionals from an (...) acute care university medical center. A short questionnaire captured demographic data as well as the experience of participants with DOC patients. A semi-structured interview was used to explore attitudes toward ethical issues identified in a previous literature review. Qualitative content analysis of interviews was conducted with the NVivo software. Accurate diagnosis among DOC is often regarded as a challenge, but this was generally not the case for our participants because most reported high confidence in DOC diagnoses. However, participants reported struggling with prognosis, especially because of its essential role for end-of-life decision making and communication with families. Variability of opinion between healthcare professionals was reported and identified by some as a minor issue while others stressed how families struggle with different medical opinions. End-of-life decision making encompassed a large proportion of ethical challenges in these patients, and the removal of artificial nutrition and hydration created significant discomfort in a minority of participants. The concept of futility was subject to wide-ranging understandings with both favorable and unfavorable opinions. Our data suggest that to ensure the incorporation of new evidence-based advances, attention should be directed to the real-world practices and challenges of accurate diagnosis and prognosis. Given pervasive challenges in end-of-life care, we recommend improved training of healthcare professionals in the care of patients with DOC, particularly in end-of life care, understanding the context of decision making, and determining how to optimally integrate new neuroscience research on the care of patients with DOC. (shrink)
Daniel Kolak’s theory of synchronic consciousness according to which the entire range of dissociative phenomena, from pathologies such as MPD and schizophrenia to normal dream states, are best explained in terms of consciousness becoming simultaneously identified as many selves, has revolutionary therapeutic implications for neurology and psychiatry. All these selves, according to Kolak—even the purely imaginary ones that exist as such only in our dreams—are not just conscious but also self-conscious, with beliefs, intentions, living lives informed by memories (confabulatory, in (...) the case of the fictional ones) and personal histories. Kolak’s derivation of psychiatrically relevant aspects of his theory—a neurological rendition of a Kantian transcendental argument—can be given a straightforward neurological, and therefore open to scientific scrutiny, interpretation that would then more easily lend itself to the clinical setting in which these perplexing phenomena, along with their purveyors, must live and cope. This will be the main focus of this paper. (shrink)
This article begins by revisiting the current model of values education (moral education) which has recently been set up in Australian schools. This article problematizes the pedagogical model of teaching values in the direct transmission mode from the perspective of the continuity of experience as central to the philosophies of John Dewey and Charles S. Peirce. In this context experience is to be understood as a collective (going beyond the realm of private) and continuous (importantly, non-atomistic) space. As such, human (...) behavior and decision-making are embedded in a broad range of possibilities that may become actualities in the process of responding intelligently to what is perceived in the environment. This article also brings into the conversation some contemporary discourse in bioethics and neuroscience that appears to have an uncanny affinity to Peirce's and Dewey's much earlier conceptualizations. Human intelligence proper arises in the interactions between mind, body, and the environing world: we learn from experience that necessarily has a value-element embedded in this triadic matrix. (shrink)
Recent research in computational neuroscience has demonstrated that we now possess the ability to simulate neural systems in significant detail and on a large scale. Simulations on the scale of a human brain have recently been reported. The ability to simulate entire brains (or significant portions thereof) would be a revolutionary scientific advance, with substantial benefits for brain science. However, the prospect of whole-brain simulation comes with a set of new and unique ethical questions. In the present paper, we briefly (...) outline certain of those problems and emphasize the need to begin considering the ethical aspects of computational neuroscience. (shrink)
Brain machine interface (BMI) technology makes direct communication between the brain and a machine possible by means of electrodes. This paper reviews the existing and emerging technologies in this field and offers a systematic inquiry into the relevant ethical problems that are likely to emerge in the following decades.
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 (...) self-relevant information, and generally neuromonitoring did not rate among the more invasive monitoring types. However, brain monitoring was judged to be more of a privacy violation when described as providing access to self-relevant information than when no such access was possible, and control participants did not judge the invasiveness of neuromonitoring any differently than those told it provided no access to self-relevant information. (shrink)
Developments in the field of neuroscience, according to its proponents, offer the prospect of an enhanced understanding and treatment of addicted persons. Consequently, its advocates consider that improving public understanding of addiction neuroscience is a desirable aim. Those critical of neuroscientific approaches, however, charge that it is a totalising, reductive perspective–one that ignores other known causes in favour of neurobiological explanations. Sociologist Nikolas Rose has argued that neuroscience, and its associated technologies, are coming to dominate cultural models to the extent (...) that 'we' increasingly understand ourselves as 'neurochemical selves'. Drawing on 55 qualitative interviews conducted with members of the Australian public residing in the Greater Brisbane area, we challenge both the 'expectational discourses' of neuroscientists and the criticisms of its detractors. Members of the public accepted multiple perspectives on the causes of addiction, including some elements of neurobiological explanations. Their discussions of addiction drew upon a broad range of philosophical, sociological, anthropological, psychological and neurobiological vocabularies, suggesting that they synthesised newer technical understandings, such as that offered by neuroscience, with older ones. Holding conceptual models that acknowledge the complexity of addiction aetiology into which new information is incorporated suggests that the impact of neuroscientific discourse in directing the public's beliefs about addiction is likely to be more limited than proponents or opponents of neuroscience expect. (shrink)