Neuroethics Seminar Series: Seeing Consciousness

shutterstock_221470261How is new technology helping us gain a better understanding of consciousness in patients with severe brain damage? If a patient is unable to communicate or even blink, does that mean he or she is completely unaware? At what point should the intentions stated in a living will be determined by the patient’s family or surrogate?

These questions were among the issues discussed at Harvard Medical School’s most recent neuroethics seminar, titled “Seeing Consciousness: The Promise and Perils of Brain Imaging in Disorders of Consciousness.” The school’s  Center for Bioethics invited Joseph Giacino, Ph.D., director of Rehabilitation Neuropsychology at Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital; Joseph Fins, M.D., chief of the Division of Medical Ethics at Weill Cornell Medical College; and James Bernat, M.D., Louis and Ruth Frank Professor of Neuroscience at The Dartmouth Institute to share the stage and give a brief talk for its Neuroethics Seminar Series.

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National Recovery Month: Drug and Alcohol Addiction

OBrien_Charles_featThe month of September is dedicated to raising awareness about recovery from drug and alcohol addiction. This month, we interviewed Dana Alliance member Charles O’Brien, M.D., Ph.D., who founded the University of Pennsylvania’s Center for Addiction Treatment. For more than thirty years, O’Brien has worked to improve addiction treatment and has made many breakthroughs regarding the clinical aspects of addiction and the neurobiology of relapse.

In your opinion, what is the most common misconception about drug and alcohol addiction?

Most physicians learn very little about addictive disorders in medical school or residency. Rather than being considered a disease of the brain, most see it as bad behavior. They don’t know that there are FDA approved medications and that patients do respond to treatment, even though “cures” are rare.

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NIMH Director Thomas Insel Moves to Google Life Sciences

guest post by Kayt Sukel

800px-Thomas_Insel_NIMH_2011Earlier this week, the neuroscience community learned that Dr. Thomas Insel, director of the National Institutes of Mental Health (NIMH), member of the Dana Alliance’s Executive Committee, and longtime champion of brain research, was leaving his post to take a new position at Google Life Sciences (GLS). Many reacted to Insel’s move with surprise, even shock. How could such an innovative researcher move to the private sector—and to a technology company at that?  But Insel says that technology players are going to play an increasingly important role in our understanding—and management—of mental health disorders. He spoke with the Dana Foundation about why understanding the brain has to be a team effort, the potential power of data analytics, and how all the players can work together to further our goals regarding mental health.

Many were surprised by the news that you are heading to GLS, as opposed to back to academia or to another government position. What drew you to the technology sector?

Insel:  Historically, we’ve seen pharmaceutical companies and biotechnology companies work in this space. But now, technology companies like IBM, Apple, GE, and Google are coming to the table with their own strengths. And that’s a good thing. The fact is, we’re all focused on the same ultimate goal:  What will it take to make a big difference for people with schizophrenia, autism, depression, Alzheimer’s, and other mental health disorders?  We haven’t been able to bend the curve, so far, with the kind of research we’ve historically done. So it became clear to me that we’re going to have to do something very different to make that difference. I can understand that some people get anxious when they see someone from NIH leave to join a tech company. But I’m excited about going to GLS, a place where they are very interested in trying something very different.

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September 30 Event: Mental Illness Across the Ages

The American Association for the Advancement of Science and the Dana Foundation invite you to the third event of the 2015 Neuroscience & Society series, “Mental Illness Across the Ages: From Children, to Adolescents, to Middle Age and the Elderly.”

Held in DC at the AAAS auditorium on September 30, the event will focus on what we know about the causes, effects, and treatments of mental illness, from young children, to adolescents, to middle-age and elderly patients.

September 30, 2015 5:30 p.m.
Reception to follow
AAAS Auditorium
1200 New York Ave, NW
Washington, DC
Register here


  • Anne Marie Albano, Ph.D., ABPP Professor of Medical Psychology in Psychiatry, Columbia University Medical Center
  • Colleen L. Barry PhD, MPP Associate Professor Department of Health Policy and Management Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health
  • Nelson B. Freimer, M.D. Maggie G. Gilbert Professor of Psychiatry and Biobehavioral Sciences and Director, UCLA Center for Neurobehavioral Genetics

We hope to see you there!

Dana Launches Expert Videos for the Public

The Dana Foundation is happy to announce a new resource available on its YouTube channel–a compilation of brain science videos featuring Dana Alliance for Brain Initiatives (DABI) neuroscientists on their fields of expertise.

DABI members are prominent neuroscientists from around the world, who have pledged their commitment to advancing public awareness and education about the progress and promise of brain research. With over 350 Alliance members, it can be hard to keep track of the latest in their areas of research. This collection of videos will make the information more accessible to the public.

In this series, there are 87 playlists dedicated to a diverse range of topics in neuroscience (i.e. dementia, stress, neural plasticity, etc.), and each is populated with videos featuring DABI members. The videos are dated from 2010 to the present day, and new content will be posted as it becomes available.

In addition to being a comprehensive resource for brain science information, this series serves as a celebration of the work done by neuroscientists around the world.


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