The Mathematics Education and Neurosciences project is an interdisciplinary research program that bridges mathematics education research with neuroscientific research. The bidirectional collaboration will provide greater insight into young children's (aged four to six years) mathematical abilities. Specifically, by combining qualitative ‘design research’ with quantitative ‘experimental research’, we aim to come to a more thorough understanding of prerequisites that are involved in the development of early spatial and number sense. The mathematics education researchers are concerned with kindergartner's spatial structuring ability, (...) while the neuroscientists are studying kindergartner's automatic quantity processing and its effect on mathematical development. The outcomes of these investigations should contribute to practical ways of fostering and supporting young children's mathematical thinking and learning. (shrink)
Beauchamp and Childress have performed a great service by strengthening the principle of respect for the patient's autonomy against the paternalism that dominated medicine until at least the 1970s. Nevertheless, we think that the concept of autonomy should be elaborated further. We suggest such an elaboration built on recent developments within the neurosciences and the free will debate. The reason for this suggestion is at least twofold: First, Beauchamp and Childress neglect some important elements of autonomy. Second, neuroscience itself (...) needs a conceptual apparatus to deal with the neural basis of autonomy for diagnostic purposes. This desideratum is actually increasing because modern therapy options can considerably influence the neural basis of autonomy itself.Sabine MNeuroScienceAndNorms: Ethical and Legal Aspects of Norms in Neuroimaging at Bonn University Hospital, Germany. Her main research interests are in neuroethics. She is coauthor of three German books about neuroethics and bioethics.Henrik Walter, M.D., Ph.D., is Full Professor of Medical Psychology at the University of Bonn, Germany, and vice-director of the Department of Psychiatry and Psychotherapy at the University Clinic of Bonn. He is author of Neurophilosophy of Free Will and editor of the book From Neuroethics to Neurolaw?. His research fields are biological psychiatry, cognitive neuroscience, neuroimaging, neurophilosophy, and neuroethics. (shrink)
Let me first state that I like Antti Revonsuo’s discussion of the various methodological and interpretational problems in neuroscience. It shows how careful and methodologically reflected scientists have to proceed in this fascinating field of research. I have nothing to add here. Furthermore, I am very sympathetic towards Revonsuo’s general proposal to call for a Philosophy of Neuroscience that stresses foundational issues, but also focuses on methodological and explanatory strategies.2 In a footnote of his paper, Revonsuo complains – as many (...) others do today – about what is sometimes called “physics imperialism”. This is the view that physics dominates the philosophy of science. I am not sure if this is still the case nowadays, but it is certainly historically correct that almost all work in the field of methodology centered around cases from physics. Although this has been changing, there are still plenty of special sciences philosophers did not worry about much. Admittedly, I am myself a trained physicist and not a neuroscientist and will therefore probably be biased negatively. As it is, I will discuss some examples from physics in order to illustrate my points. (shrink)
I propose a cautionary assessment of the recent debate concerning the impact of the dynamical approach on philosophical accounts of scientific explanation in the cognitive sciences and, particularly, the cognitive neurosciences. I criticize the dominant mechanistic philosophy of explanation, pointing out a number of its negative consequences: In particular, that it doesn’t do justice to the field’s diversity and stage of development, and that it fosters misguided interpretations of dynamical models’ contribution. In order to support these arguments, I analyze (...) a case study in computational neuroethology and show why it should not be understood through a mechanistic lens; I specially focus on Zednik’s mechanistic interpretation of the case study. In addition, I argue for a greater appreciation of the relation between explanation and other epistemic goals in the field, as well as an increased sensitivity towards the associated contextual factors. (shrink)
In Joseph Butler, we have an account of human beings as moral beings that is, as this essay demonstrates, being supported by the recently emerging findings of the neurosciences. This applies particularly to Butler's portrayal of our empathic emotions. Butler discovered their moral significance for motivating and guiding moral decisions and actions before the neurosciences did. Butler has, in essence, added a sixth sense to our five senses: this is the moral sense by means of which we perceive (...) what we ought or ought not do. The moral sense yields relatively reliable moral perceptions when we love our neighbors as ourselves, and when our love for ourselves is genuine. Accurate moral perceptions will be thwarted by self-deceit—that is, by a self-partiality devoid of neighbor love, a condition that thwarts genuine self-love. This essay explores the parallels between Butler's understanding of self-deceit and Robert J. Lifton's understanding of "doubling.". (shrink)
Neuroscientists are increasingly put into situations which demand critical reflection about the ethical and appropriate use of research tools and scientific knowledge. Students or trainees also have to know how to navigate the ethical domains of this context. At a time when neuroscience is expected to advance policy and practice outcomes, in the face of academic pressures and complex environments, the importance of scientific integrity comes into focus and with it the need for training at the graduate level in the (...) responsible conduct of research . I describe my experience teaching RCR in a graduate neuroscience program and identify three personal reflections where further dialogue could be warranted: mobilizing a common set of competencies and virtues standing for professionalism in the neurosciences; tailoring RCR for the neurosciences and empowering students through the active engagement of mentors; soliciting shared responsibility for RCR training between disciplines, institutions and governmental or funding agencies. (shrink)
Objective: Caloric vestibular stimulation has traditionally been used as a tool for neurological diagnosis. More recently, however, it has been applied to a range of phenomena within the cognitive neurosciences. Here, we provide an overview of such studies and review our work using CVS to investigate the neural mechanisms of a visual phenomenon - binocular rivalry. We outline the interhemispheric switch model of rivalry supported by this work and its extension to a metarivalry model of interocular-grouping phenomena. In addition, (...) studies showing a slow rate of binocular rivalry in bipolar disorder are discussed, and the relationship between this finding and the interhemispheric switch model is described. We also review the effects of CVS in various clinical contexts, explain how the technique is performed and discuss methodological issues in its application. Methods: A review of CVS and related literature was conducted. Results: Despite CVS being employed with surprising effect in a wide variety of cognitive and clinical contexts, it has been a largely underutilized brain stimulation method for both exploratory and therapeutic purposes. This is particularly so given that it is well tolerated, safe, inexpensive and easy to administer. Conclusion: CVS can be used to investigate various cognitive phenomena including perceptual rivalry, attention and mood, as well as somatosensory representation, belief, hemispheric laterality and pain. The technique can also be used to investigate clinical conditions related to these phenomena and may indeed have therapeutic utility, especially with respect to postlesional disorders, mania, depression and chronic pain states. Furthermore, we propose that based on existing reports of the phenomenological effects of CVS and the brain regions it is known to activate, the technique could be used to investigate and potentially treat a range of other clinical disorders. Finally, the effects of CVS on several phenomena of interest to philosophy suggest that it is also likely to become a useful tool in experimental neurophilosophy. (shrink)
The impact of current developments in the neurosciences on the concept of psychiatric diseases Content Type Journal Article DOI 10.1007/s10202-008-0054-2 Authors Felix Thiele, Europäische Akademie zur Erforschung von Folgen wissenschaftlich-technischer Entwicklungen Bad Neuenahr-Ahrweiler GmbH Bad Neuenahr-Ahrweiler Germany Barbara Hawellek, Universität Bonn Klinik für Psychiatrie und Psychotherapie Bonn Germany Journal Poiesis & Praxis: International Journal of Technology Assessment and Ethics of Science Online ISSN 1615-6617 Print ISSN 1615-6609 Journal Volume Volume 6 Journal Issue Volume 6, Numbers 1-2.
The neurosciences are generating new findings regarding genetic and neurobiological aspects of the pathophysiology of mental disorders. Especially, certain genetic risk factors like neuregulin-1 seem to predispose individuals to a psychotic phenotype beyond the limits of traditional classificatory boundaries between organic psychoses in Alzheimerâs disease, bipolar affective disorder and schizophrenia. Little, however, is known about how such genetic risk factors actually confer an increased risk for psychosis in an individual patient. A gap between neuroscientific findings and psychopathological phenomena exists. (...) The main hypothesis how this gap may be bridged is that mental disorders arise as a consequence of dysfunctions of normal mental functions. Modularity may provide a useful conceptual framework in that temporally and/or spatially stable neural circuits subserve certain physiological functions of the human brain, which become the target of pathophysiological effectors. The idea of a modular construction of the human brain is based on neurobiological evidence regarding the columnar architecture of the cerebral cortex, which provides certain elementary analytical functions. Modular dysfunctions may be assessed with methods of experimental psychopathology, in which subsystems of brain functions are tested with standardized experimental psychological techniques (functional psychopathology). The main questions here are how to define a module, and whether the classical neuroscientific definitions can be used to characterize higher integrative functions of the human brain. (shrink)
Freud's legacy deriving from his work The project for a scientific psychology (1895) could give a new impetus to the dialogue between psychoanalysis and neurosciences. A rapproachment phase is warrented. Based on the work of psychoanalysts who are themselves neuroscientists (such as Mauro Mancia, Martha Koukkou and Harold Shevrin) or have a long term dialogue with neuroscientists (Arnold Modell), three points of epistemological congruence are described: dualism is no longer a satisfactory solutioncautions for the centrality of interpretation (hermeneutics)the self-criticism (...) of neuroscientists. (shrink)
_Cognitive Neuroscience is an interdisciplinary area of research that combines measurement of brain activity (mostly by means of neuroimaging) with a simultaneous performance of cognitive tasks by human subjects. These investigations have been successful in the task of connecting the sciences of the brain (Neurosciences) and the sciences of the mind (Cognitive Sciences). Advances on this kind of research provide a map of localization of cognitive functions in the human brain. Do these results help us to understand how mind (...) relates to the brain? In my view, the results obtained by the Cognitive Neurosciences lead to new investigations in the domain of Molecular Neurobiology, aimed at discovering biophysical mechanisms that generate the activity measured by neuroimaging instruments. In this context, I argue that the understanding of how ionic/molecular processes support cognition and consciousness cannot be made by means of the standard reductionist explanations. Knowledge of ionic/molecular mechanisms can contribute to our understanding of the human mind as long as we assume an alternative form of explanation, based on psycho-physical similarities, together with an ontological view of mentality and spirituality as embedded in physical nature (and not outside nature, as frequently assumed in western culture)._. (shrink)
Psychiatry is a discipline on the border between the biomedical sciences on the one hand and the humanities and social sciences (most notably psychology and anthropology) on the other. This unique position undoubtedly contributes to the attractiveness of psychiatry as a medical specialism for many young doctors, but it also causes significant problems. Unlike other medical disciplines, in which the definitions of diseases are based on objective, measurable pathophysiological underpinnings, psychiatric diagnosis and classification has been based on descriptions of inherently (...) subjective mental and behavioral symptoms that are supposed to be deviant from "normal" psychology or behavior, as reflected in the current .. (shrink)
This paper focuses on the make-up of different cultures in experimental neurology, neuroanatomy, and clinical psychiatry. These cultures served as important research bases for early regenerative concepts and projects in the area of neurology and psychiatry at the beginning of the 20th century. Nevertheless, the developments in brain research and clinical neurology cannot be regarded to be isolated from broader societal developments, as the discourses on social de- and regeneration, neurasthenia, nerve-weakness and experiences of the brain-injured after WWI show. Societal (...) and cultural developments directly influenced researchers’ conceptualisation, scientific ideas, and even their experimental and clinical orientation. They directly reflect which scientific problems the neuroscientists felt inclined to address and what areas they began to leave aside. Using the concept of socio-technical experiments, it is demonstrated that research methodologies in neuronal de- and regeneration studies were not simply a product of recent advances in the scientific differentiation of somatic neurology or brain-psychiatry. Moreover, they resulted in important interdisciplinary attempts which emerged from great collaborative work including neuroscientists from various areas of investigation in both basic and clinical contexts. (shrink)
Recent neuroscience and psychology of behavior have suggested that conscious decisions may have no causal role in the etiology of intentional action. Such results pose a threat to traditional philosophical analyses of action. On such views beliefs, desires and conscious willing are part of the causal structure of intentional action. But if the suggestions from neuroscience/psychology are correct, analyses of this kind are wrong. Conscious antecedents of action are epiphenomenal. This essay explores this consequence. It also notes that the traditional (...) alternative to causal analyses of intentional action is not threatened by the putative scientific findings. This, in turn, is ironic in that defenders of the noncausal accounts of action were thought to be in opposition to the natural sciences of action whereas the analyses in the causal style were "on the side of physicalism." This result is also assessed in what follows. (shrink)
A historical understanding of the virtue of consolation, as contrasted to empathy, compassion, or sympathy, is developed. Recent findings from neuroscience are presented which support and affirm this understanding. These findings are related to palliative care and its current practice in bioethics.
The heuristic value of Pylyshyn's cognitive impenetrability theory is questioned in this commentary, mainly because, as it stands, the key argument cannot be challenged empirically. Pylyshyn requires unambiguous evidence for an effect of cognitive states on early perceptual mechanisms, which is impossible to provide because we can only infer what might happen at these earlier levels of processing on the basis of evidence collected at the post-perceptual stage. Furthermore, the theory that early visual processes cannot be modified by cognitive states (...) implies that it is totally pointless to try to investigate interactions between consciousness and neurosensory processes. (shrink)