Tuesday, January 30, 2018

The International Roots of Future Neuroethics

By Denis Larrivee 

Denis Larrivee is a Visiting Scholar at the Neiswanger Bioethics Institute
Loyola University Chicago and a member of the International Neuroethics Society 
communication committee. He also serves on the editorial board for the journal Neurology and Neurological Sciences, where he is the section head for neuroscience. He is currently the editor of a text on Brain Computer Interfacing and Brain Dynamics. 

The reappearance in 2017 of the Ambassador Session at the International Neuroethics Soci-ety’s annual meeting underlines both the rapid upswing of global investment in neuroscience and the internationally perceived need for ethical deliberation about its interpretive significance, distinctive cultural manifestations, and evolution of complementary policy and juridical structures best serving global versus regional interests. The 2017 session juxtaposed the more mature organizational approaches of the American and European neuroethical programs against recent undertakings in Asia, a juxtaposition that helped to clarify how neuroethics progress is conditioned by local neuroscience research priorities and how more established programs assist in cross-cultural transmission to shape budding, national efforts. 

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Neuroethics Women to Watch

By Judy Illes, CM, PHD,
Immediate Past President, International Neuroethics Society (INS)

Dr. Illes is Professor of Neurology and Canada Research Chair in Neuroethics at the University of British Columbia. Her research, teaching and service focus on ethical, legal, social and policy challenges specifically at the intersection of the brain sciences and biomedical ethics. Her latest book, Neuroethics: Anticipating the Future (Oxford University Press) was released in July 2017. Dr. Illes hold many prestigious awards for her work both in neuroethics and on behalf of women in science. She was appointed to the Order of Canada, the country’s highest civilian award, in December 2017. 

During the two years that I was President of the INS, and really since 2002 overall when we first set the modern neuroethics vision in motion, one of my greatest joys has been to work with outstanding people in our field. I have relentlessly sought to create opportunities for leadership especially among early career neuroethicists who seek to contribute, sometimes in the footsteps of more senior people and sometimes along a completely separate path that they set of their own. My focus has been on the women and men of our field alike and, during my term as President specifically, these opportunities unfolded in different forms. Working with remarkable staff led by Karen Graham (INS Executive Director) since the birth of the INS and Elaine Snell (Chief Operating Officer), and the INS Board, I created an Emerging Issues Task Force, for example, a Rising Star Lecture (Kreitmair, 2017), and many podium opportunities at our annual meetings. 

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Neurodevelopmental Disability on TV: Neuroethics and Season 1 of ABC’s Speechless

By John Aspler and Ariel Cascio

John Aspler, a doctoral candidate in Neuroscience at McGill University and the Neuroethics Research Unit, focuses on the experiences of key stakeholders affected by fetal alcohol spectrum disorder, the way they are represented and discussed in Canadian media, and the potential stigmatization they face given related disability stereotypes. 

Ariel Cascio, a postdoctoral researcher at the Neuroethics Research Unit of the Institut de recherches cliniques de Montréal, focuses primarily on autism spectrum conditions, identity, subjectivity, and biopolitics. 


Television can be an important medium through which to explore cultural conceptions of complex topics like disability – a topic tackled by Speechless, a single-camera family sitcom. Speechless tells the story of JJ DiMeo, a young man with cerebral palsy (CP) portrayed by Micah Fowler, who himself has CP. The show focuses on JJ’s daily life as well as the experiences of his parents and siblings. JJ’s aide, an African-American man named Kenneth, voices for JJ, as the latter uses a head-mounted laser pointer to indicate words and letters on a communication board (explaining the show’s title).

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Dog Days: Has neuroscience revealed the inner lives of animals?

By Ryan Purcell

Image courtesy of Pexels.
On a sunny, late fall day with the semester winding down, Emory neuroscientist Dr. Gregory Berns gave a seminar in the Neuroethics and Neuroscience in the News series on campus. Berns has become relatively famous for his ambitious and fascinating work on what he calls “the dog project”, an eminently relatable and intriguing study that has taken aim at uncovering how the canine mind works using functional imaging technology.

The seminar was based on some of the ideas in his latest book, What It’s Like to Be a Dog (and other adventures in Animal Neuroscience). In it, Berns responds to philosopher Thomas Nagel’s influential anti-reductionist essay “What Is It Like to Be a Bat?” and recounts his journey to perform the world’s first functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) session on an awake, unrestrained dog. Like so many seemingly impossible tasks, when broken down into many small, discrete steps, getting a dog to step into an fMRI machine and remain still during scanning became achievable (see training video here).