The Neuroethics Journal Club videos are now available on YouTube. Watch each discussion to learn about a variety of neuroethics issues, from treatments for pedophilia to neural plasticity in mice. For each video, one presenter introduced the journal topic and opened discussion to the audience.
Neuroethics Journal Club: The Sexed Brain
The Sexed Brain: Between Science and Ideology
Catherine Vidal, Neuroethics, 2012
Abstract: Despite tremendous advances in neuroscience, the topic “brain, sex and gender” remains a matter of misleading interpretations, that go well beyond the bounds of science. In the 19th century, the difference in brain sizes was a major argument to explain the hierarchy between men and women, and was supposed to reflect innate differences in mental capacity. Nowadays, our understanding of the human brain has progressed dramatically with the demonstration of cerebral plasticity. The new brain imaging techniques have revealed the role of the environment in continually re-shaping our brain all along our lifetimes as it goes through new experiences and acquires new knowledge. However, the idea that biology is a major determining factor for cognition and behavioral gender differentiation, is still very much alive. The media are far from being the only guilty party. Some scientific circles actively promote the idea of an innate origin of a gender difference in mental capacities. Experimental data from brain imaging, cognitive tests or genetics are often distorted to serve deterministic ideas. Such abuse of “scientific discourses” have to be counteracted by effective communication of clear and unbiased information to the citizens. This paper presents a critical analysis of selected examples which emphasize sex differences in three fields e.g. skills in language and mathematics, testosterone and financial risk-taking behavior, moral cognition. To shed light on the data and the methods used in some papers, we can now—with today’s knowledge on cerebral plasticity—challenge even more strongly, many false interpretations. Our goal here is double: we want to provide evidence against archaic beliefs about the biological determinism of sex differences but also promote a positive image of scientific research.
Neuroethics Journal Club: Pedophilia
Real-time functional magnetic imaging—brain–computer interface and virtual reality: Promising tools for the treatment of pedophilia
Renaud et al, 2011
Abstract: This chapter proposes a prospective view on using a real-time functional magnetic imaging (rt-fMRI) brain-computer interface (BCI) application as a new treatment for pedophilia. Neurofeedback mediated by interactive virtual stimuli is presented as the key process in this new BCI application. Results on the diagnostic discriminant power of virtual characters depicting sexual stimuli relevant to pedophilia are given. Finally, practical and ethical implications are briefly addressed.
Neuroethics Journal Club: Social Pain
The pain of social disconnection: examining the shared neural underpinnings of physical and social pain
Nature Reviews Neuroscience
Abstract: Experiences of social rejection, exclusion or loss are generally considered to be some of the most 'painful' experiences that we endure. Indeed, many of us go to great lengths to avoid situations that may engender these experiences (such as public speaking). Why is it that these negative social experiences have such a profound effect on our emotional well-being? Emerging evidence suggests that experiences of social pain--the painful feelings associated with social disconnection--rely on some of the same neurobiological substrates that underlie experiences of physical pain. Understanding the ways in which physical and social pain overlap may provide new insights into the surprising relationship between these two types of experiences.
Neuroethics Journal Club: Plasticity and Learning
Forebrain Engraftment by Human Glial Progenitor Cells Enhances Synaptic Plasticity and Learning in Adult Mice
Han et al, 2013 Cell Stem Cell
Abstract: Human astrocytes are larger and more complex than those of infraprimate mammals, suggesting that their role in neural processing has expanded with evolution. To assess the cell-autonomous and species-selective properties of human glia, we engrafted human glial progenitor cells (GPCs) into neonatal immunodeficient mice. Upon maturation, the recipient brains exhibited large numbers and high proportions of both human glial progenitors and astrocytes. The engrafted human glia were gap-junction-coupled to host astroglia, yet retained the size and pleomorphism of hominid astroglia, and propagated Ca2+ signals 3-fold faster than their hosts. Long-term potentiation (LTP) was sharply enhanced in the human glial chimeric mice, as was their learning, as assessed by Barnes maze navigation, object-location memory, and both contextual and tone fear conditioning. Mice allografted with murine GPCs showed no enhancement of either LTP or learning. These findings indicate that human glia differentially enhance both activity-dependent plasticity and learning in mice.