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. 

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Neuroethics as Outreach

By Adina Roskies

Adina Roskies is The Helman Family Distinguished Professor of Philosophy and chair of the Cognitive Science Program at Dartmouth College. She received a Ph.D from the University of California, San Diego in Neuroscience and Cognitive Science in 1995, a Ph.D. from MIT in philosophy in 2004, and an M.S.L. from Yale Law School in 2014. Prior to her work in philosophy she held a postdoctoral fellowship in cognitive neuroimaging at Washington University with Steven Petersen and Marcus Raichle from 1995-1997, and from 1997-1999 was Senior Editor of the neuroscience journal Neuron. Dr. Roskies’ philosophical research interests lie at the intersection of philosophy and neuroscience, and include philosophy of mind, philosophy of science, and ethics. She has coauthored a book with Stephen Morse, A Primer on Criminal Law and Neuroscience

As I write this, I am thinking more broadly about ethics and neuroscience than I usually do, pushed by political necessity. The topic of my concern is science education, construed generally. In this era in which “alternative facts” are allowed to bear that name, rather than their true name -- which is “lies and misinformation” -- and in which science is ignored, deemed irrelevant, or actively suppressed, I see a growing need for people in all the sciences and in ethics to speak out and to educate, wherever possible.

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

The Neuroethics Blog Series on Black Mirror: White Bear

By Kristie Garza

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 of the 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 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.