Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Check out our 8.4 Special Issue on head transplantation!

Image courtesy of Flickr user ellajphillips.
AJOBN is proud to announce that our 8.4 Special Issue on head transplantation is live. This issue features posts from Dr. Paul Root Wolpe (“Ahead of Our Time: Why Head Transplantation is Ethically Unsupportable”) and Dr. Sergio Canavero and Ren Xiaoping (“HEAVEN IN THE MAKING BETWEEN THE ROCK (the Academe) AND A HARD CASE (a Head Transplant)”). This issue is being published amongst a flurry of news coverage surrounding head transplantation. Though Dr. Canavero has been planning and promoting his idea for a head transplantation surgery for the last several years (watch his 2015 TedTalk entitled, “Head Transplantation: The Future Is Now”), the actual transplant is scheduled to occur by the end of this year. In fact, just a few days ago Canavero announced that he has successfully completed a head transplant surgery on a human corpse. Karen Rommelfanger and Paul Boshears wrote the editorial piece for the 8.4 issue and also recently released a Newsweek article discussing Canavero’s upcoming head transplant surgery on a live patient.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Summary of what you (may have) missed at last week’s International Neuroethics Society meeting!

Image courtesy of Gillian Hue.
The AJOBN Editorial team recently returned from the 11th annual International Neuroethics Society (INS) meeting, which took place on November 9-10th in Washington, DC. The theme for the meeting was Honoring our History, Forging our Future, and it brought together scientists, philosophers, professionals, and scholars from over 10 countries to both summarize the first 15 years of the neuroethics field and to discuss our prospective future. The day and a half conference included plenary lectures, a public forum, panel discussions, and a poster session, and addressed topics ranging from the development of lying in children to the neuroethical considerations that accompany the use of transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS).

In case you didn't get the chance to attend the conference this year, here is a brief summary of what you missed (a full program recap can be found here).

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

International governance of Neuroscience and Neurotechnology: Whom to trust with the assessment of future pathways?

By Nina María Frahm

Nina María Frahm is a research fellow and PhD candidate at the Munich Center for Technology in Society, Technical University Munich. Previously, she obtained a BA in European Studies and an MSc in Science and Technology Studies at Maastricht University, and was a research fellow at the Technical University of Berlin, where she investigated heterogeneous cultures of cooperation in collaborative forms of research and development of emerging technologies. Her interest in the crossroads of science, technology, and public policy was fueled during a junior research position at University of Quilmes, Buenos Aires, where she conducted a project on technologies for social inclusion. Her current interest in neuroethics focuses on different cultures of responsible knowledge-making in emerging brain science, and the limits and opportunities these cultures represent for transnational neuroscience. 

There is a growing consensus about the need to better align neuroscience and neurotechnology (NS/NT) with societal needs, values, and expectations. In particular, researchers and policy-makers are increasingly calling for better international coordination of neuroscientific research and neuroethical consultation.

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

The Neuroethics Blog Series on Black Mirror: Men Against Fire

By Sunidhi Ramesh

Image courtesy of Pexels.
Humans in the 21st century have an intimate relationship with technology. Much of our lives are spent being informed and entertained by screens. Technological advancements in science and medicine have helped and healed in ways we previously couldn’t dream of. But what unanticipated consequences may be lurking behind our rapid expansion into new technological territory? This question is continually being explored in the British sci-fi TV series Black Mirror, which provides a glimpse into the not-so-distant future and warns us to be mindful of how we treat our technology and how it can affect us in return. This piece is part of a series of posts that will discuss ethical issues surrounding neuro-technologies featured in the show and will compare how similar technologies are impacting us in the real world. 

SPOILER ALERT: The following contains plot spoilers for the Netflix television series, Black Mirror

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Too far or not far enough: The ethics and future of neuroscience and law

By Jonah Queen

Image courtesy of Pixabay.
As neurotechnology advances and our understanding of the brain increases, there is a growing debate about if, and how, neuroscience can play a role in the legal system. In particular, some are asking if these technologies could ever be used to accomplish things that humans have so far not been able to, such as performing accurate lie detection and predicting future behavior.

For September’s Neuroethics and Neuroscience in the News event, Dr. Eyal Aharoni of Georgia State University spoke about his research on whether biomarkers might improve our ability to predict the risk of recidivism in criminal offenders. The results were published in a 2013 paper titled “Neuroprediction of future rearrest1," which was reported in the media with headlines such as “Can we predict recidivism with a brain scan?” The study reports evidence that brain scans could potentially improve offender risk assessment. At the event, Dr. Aharoni led a discussion of the legal and ethical issues that follow from such scientific findings. He asked: “When, if ever, should neural markers be used in offender risk assessment?”

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Hot Off the Presses: The Neuroethics Blog Reader and Issue 8.4

It is our pleasure to present you with two newly released publications: the second edition of The Neuroethics Blog reader and the 8.4 issue of the American Journal of Bioethics Neuroscience.

Image courtesy of Flickr user Leo Reynolds.

Monday, October 9, 2017

The Neuroethics Blog Series on Black Mirror: San Junipero

By Nathan Ahlgrim

Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.
Humans in the 21st century have an intimate relationship with technology. Much of our lives are spent being informed and entertained by screens. Technological advancements in science and medicine have helped and healed in ways we previously couldn’t dream of. But what unanticipated consequences may be lurking behind our rapid expansion into new technological territory? This question is continually being explored in the British sci-fi TV series Black Mirror, which provides a glimpse into the not-so-distant future and warns us to be mindful of how we treat our technology and how it can affect us in return. This piece is part of a series of posts that will discuss ethical issues surrounding neuro-technologies featured in the show and will compare how similar technologies are impacting us in the real world.

*SPOILER ALERT* - The following contains plot spoilers for the episode “San Junipero” of the Netflix television series Black Mirror.

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

“It is sometimes a sad life, and it is a long life:” Artificial intelligence and mind uploading in World of Tomorrow

By Jonah Queen

"The world of tomorrow" was the motto of the
1939 New York World's Fair
Image courtesy of Flickr user Joe Haupt
“One day, when you are old enough, you will be impregnated with a perfect clone of yourself. You will later upload all of your memories into this healthy new body. One day, long after that, you will repeat this process all over again. Through this cloning process, Emily, you will hope to live forever.”

These are some of the first lines of dialogue spoken in the 2015 animated short film, World of Tomorrow.* These lines provide an introduction to the technology and society that this science fiction film imagines might exist in our future. In response to a sequel, which was released last month, I am dedicating a post on this blog to discussing the film through a neuroethical lens.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Getting Out While the Getting's Good

By Dena Davis

Dr. Davis is currently at Lehigh University. She taught at Cleveland-Marshall College of Law (Cleveland State University) and Central Michigan University. She received her doctorate in religion from the University of Iowa and her J.D. from University of Virginia. Her specialty is bioethics, and her specific focus is on the ethics of genetic medicine and genetic research. Dr. Davis’ latest book is Genetic Dilemmas: Reproductive Technology, Parental Choices, and Children’s Futures (2nd Edition, University of Oxford Press, 2010). Dr. Davis has been a Fulbright scholar in India, Italy, Israel, Indonesia, and Sweden. Dr. Davis serves on the Central Institutional Review Board of the National Cancer Institute, and is a member of the NIH Embryonic Stem Cell Eligibility Working Group.

A number of times in the last two years I have been invited to speak about Alzheimer’s disease (AD). The venues have all been academic, but nonetheless have differed widely: South Carolina and New York City; bioethicists; physicians; undergraduates; hospital staff. I always begin by inviting people to participate in a thought experiment. I tell them that I am going to describe two people and then ask them which of the two they would prefer to be. (These people are actually my parents, but I don’t tell them that.) I first describe “M,” who remains cognitively intact and lives independently until his death from an aneurysm at 87. Then I describe “F,” who died at 99, after a ten year decline into Alzheimer’s disease. (I usually give a few details, such as when F was no longer able to live independently, when she became incontinent, when she no longer recognized family and friends.)

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

The Neuroethics of Brainprinting

By Anna Farrell 

Anna Farrell is a rising second year undergraduate student at Emory University. Early on in her Neuroscience major she became interested in Neuroscience’s interdisciplinary nature and continued on to declare a second major in English. 

As cyber espionage and hacking are on the rise (Watson, 2016), major corporations, governments, and financial systems have pushed for using biometrics as a more secure way to guard their data. Biometrics measures unique physical characteristics as a way of ascertaining someone’s identity. A wide range of physical characteristics are currently used in biometrics, including DNA, iris, retina, face, fingerprint, finger geometry, hand geometry, odor, vein, and voice identification (Types of Biometrics). Governmental uses for biometrics span border control, customs services, and online access to critical systems. However, fingerprint and iris identification results are becoming more replicable as hacker’s abilities advance (Watson, 2016), causing researchers to begin to look beyond the typical biometric features. One of the new methods being studied is electroencephalogram (EEG)-based neurological identification. However, using brain wave biometrics as a means of identification establishes a framework which, if underestimated, could put sensitive personal data in jeopardy.