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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Technology and Addiction Take Center Stage at Neuroethics Meeting

Guest blog by Moheb Costandi.

ins horizontalRapid technological advances are improving not only our understanding of how the brain works, but also our ability to manipulate it and make inferences about peoples’ behavior.

Such advances should ultimately be of huge benefit to society. They also raise various concerns, regarding privacy and identity in particular; and in a month’s time, some of the world’s leading bioethicists will convene in San Diego for the Annual Meeting of the International Neuroethics Society (INS) to discuss these issues.

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William Safire Honored by Neuroethics Society

INS President Judy Illes, Steven Hyman, Dana Foundation Vice President Barbara Gill, Dana Foundation Chairman Ed Rover

Pulitzer Prize winner William Safire was widely credited with giving the word “neuroethics” its current meaning, defining it as “the examination of what is right and wrong, good and bad about the treatment of, perfection of, or unwelcome invasion of and worrisome manipulation of the human brain.” Safire was honored posthumously Friday morning with the Steven E. Hyman Award for Distinguished Service to the Field of Neuroethics at the annual meeting of the International Neuroethics Society (INS) in Washington, D.C.

A larger than life character, Safire was probably best known for his New York Times contributions, first as Op-Ed page columnist from 1972 to 2005 and then his Sunday “On Language” column in the New York Times Magazine. He also received the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian award, and was a senior White House speechwriter for President Nixon and author of 15 books. Author Eric Alterman, in his 1999 book Sound and Fury: The Making of the Punditocracy, called Safire an institution unto himself. “Few insiders doubt that William Safire is the most influential and respected pundit alive,” Alterman wrote. Continue reading

Neuroethics Society Meeting: Science Communication

Tali Sharot, Alan Leshner, Joseph Fins, and Ed Yong

Gone are the days when science communication mainly consisted of publishing in peer-reviewed journals. Instead, there’s a “hunger” among scientists, and particularly young scientists, to communicate their work to public, said Alan Leshner, CEO emeritus of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) and a member of the Dana Alliance for Brain Initiatives (DABI).

But just because the enthusiasm is there doesn’t mean that communicating science to a lay audience is an easy feat for scientists. “It’s not an innate skill, it’s an acquired skill,” Leshner said during a panel discussion at the International Neuroethics Society annual meeting yesterday in Washington, DC.   Continue reading

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