International Neuroethics Society Interviews: A Science that Opens Your Mind

As we look forward to the 2017 International Neuroethics Society (INS) Annual Meeting in Washington, DC, November 9-10, we’ll be bringing you a sneak peek of what to expect through a series of interviews with some of the meetings’ speakers. Registration for the meeting is now open, and an early bird discount is in effect until September 30.

First published in the INS Newsletter:

Quirion_RemiRémi Quirion, the first Chief Scientist of Québec, will give a plenary lecture at the 2017 Annual Meeting in Washington, D.C. His research lies in the field of neuropharmacology, specifically in relation to aging and neurological diseases such as dementia and Alzheimer’s.

How did you become interested in or involved with this type of research?

My research lab was based in a mental health hospital. There I was surrounded by many people suffering from various types of mental illnesses and neurological disease, so it familiarized me with different issues related to mental health and exposed me to the line between neuroscience and ethics, which I sought to understand more and more in the treatment of mental illnesses.

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World Science Festival: Computational Creativity

Interest in artificial intelligence (AI) seems like it’s at an all-time high, with people both wary and intrigued about how machine learning systems will change, and hopefully improve, our lives. Past discussions we’ve covered have delved into the ethical sphere: Can autonomous robots that (currently) lack consciousness and emotions serve us well as future healthcare aides and soldiers? Can robots be moral? But last week’s World Science Festival in New York City looked at a different side of AI, with a panel discussion on “Computational Creativity: The Art of Ingenuity.”

Focused on the creation of art, music, and culinary arts, the panel was tasked with answering such questions as: Can a robot truly imagine an original masterpiece or just replicate known styles? Is computational creativity a collaborator or a competitor?

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From the Archives: DARPA and Neuroethics

moreno-blog-100In an essay for Cerebrum in 2004, neuroethicist Jonathan Moreno described how the US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) was supporting projects aimed at using neuroscience to improve US military prospects. This month, Moreno, a professor at University of Pennsylvania and a member of the former US bioethics commission, wrote for The Neuroethics Blog on “neurosecurity”—its history and current strategy and the need for neuroethicists to weigh in on it.

In 2004’s “DARPA on Your Mind” he stepped through a series of research areas, spelling out some of the ethical questions attached to tinkering with the brain:

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Neuroethics and the BRAIN Initiative

brain-initiative-neuroethicsNeuroscience “is the science that is going to change the way people live, die, and think about themselves,” said Stanford Law professor Hank Greely during the third annual BRAIN Initiative investigators meeting, held in Bethesda, Md., last week. Research into the workings of the brain raises many ethical questions, some common to bioethics and others—such as questions of agency, consciousness, and identity—that are unique to the brain and central nervous system.

Neuroethics has been mentioned from the first public announcement of the Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies (BRAIN) Initiative in 2013; a BRAINI workgroup is devoted to the topic. It is one of nine BRAIN Initiative priority funding areas for the coming fiscal year (grant info). At this meeting, a regular session was devoted to the topic, featuring five of the members of the workgroup, and it also came up in other sessions.

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Ethics in Practice: DBS for Depression

new-ins-logo“When I am depressed, everything—standing, stepping, speaking, moving, pursuing a train of thought—gets hung up on that loop…that ends up feeling like paralysis. I can’t. I want to. I can’t. If I finally do break free, my sense of self gets left behind. It’s as if momentum comes at the cost of identity.”

Neuroscientist Helen Mayberg gave this quote, from an anonymous patient trying to describe what life was like before her depression was treated with deep brain stimulation (DBS), at the final session of the 2016 International Neuroethics Society (INS) meeting, in San Diego on Friday. Mayberg was one of three panelists offering the audience different perspectives of using the experimental and invasive implantation (it requires surgery deep into the brain) for depression. Philosopher Sarah Goering spoke about the ethical concerns from patients who utilize DBS devices, and neuroscience writer Mo Costandi discussed how DBS is represented in mass media.

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