The Neuroethics of Advertising

When you hear the term “neuromarketing,” do you envision corporate mind control directing you to purchase products? You are not alone. The good news is, no mind-controlling “buy button” exists. The bad news is, as neuroscience areas such as decision-making and reward processing advance, and our personal data accumulates online, there’s no guarantee it will never exist in the future. But this is exactly why it’s important to discuss topics such as this now in an ethical context.

High interest during INS annual meeting public lecture.

At the International Neuroethics Society (INS) annual meeting public program in San Diego Thursday night, neuroscientists employed by the marketplace and academia spoke about neuromarketing, or consumer neuroscience, as it stands, how it may evolve, and the ethical implications that need to be considered alongside this emerging field.

Panelist Carl Marci, chief neuroscientist of Nielsen Consumer Neuroscience at Nielsen Company, the largest market research company in the world, quickly dismissed the notion that market research can override free will through manipulation. What it does do, he said, is offer tools to help companies better understand how to engage consumers with marketing that emotionally affects them and sticks in their memory. Continue reading

Does DBS Cause Changes in Personality?

Since 2002, deep brain stimulation (DBS), the surgical implantation of a pacemaker-like device that sends electrical impulses to targeted parts of the brain, has been used as a treatment for motor symptoms of Parkinson’s disease (PD). But are patients trading part of their sense of self in exchange for improved mobility?

Packed house for INS annual meeting talk on DBS.

In the last decade, a growing number of published articles have raised the concern of personality changes in PD patients as a result of DBS, and tried to discern if the concern is real or overblown. At Thursday’s International Neuroethics Society (INS) meeting discussion “DBS: Continuity of Self,” panelists aimed to add clarity to the debate. “Speculation shouldn’t be divorced from clinical reality,” said panel moderator and ethicist Hannah Maslen, who introduced the session.

The speakers, philosopher and neuroethicist Frederic Gilbert, neuropsychologist Cynthia Kubu, behavioral neurologist Winston Chiong, and ethics researcher Jonathan Pugh, offered a range of perspectives. They largely focused on the state of the evidence and why it’s so difficult to assess personality changes in patients.

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