Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Neuroprosthetics for Speech and Challenges in Informed Consent

Hannah Maslen is the Deputy Director of the Oxford Uehiro Centre for Practical Ethics, University of Oxford. She works on a wide range of topics in applied philosophy and ethics, from neuroethics to moral emotions and criminal justice. Hannah is Co-PI on BrainCom, a 5-year European project working towards the development of neural speech prostheses. Here, she leads the work package on ‘Ethics, Implants and Society’.  

Scientists across Europe are combining their expertise to work towards the development of neuroprosthetic devices that will restore or substitute speech in patients with severe communication impairments. The most ambitious application will be in patients with locked-in syndrome who have completely lost the ability to speak. Locked-in syndrome is a condition in which the patient is awake and retains mental capacity but cannot express himself or herself due to the paralysis of afferent motor pathways, preventing speech and limb movements (except for some form of voluntary eye movement, usually up and down) (1).

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Downloading Happiness

By Sorab Arora

Sorab Arora is currently a Master’s in Public Health student at Emory University, specializing in Healthcare Management and Policy. He has researched health technology design and strategy focused on behavioral medicine, most recently at Northwestern University’s Center for Behavioral Intervention Technologies. Arora is a graduate of both the University of Chicago (Summer Business Scholar – 2017) and Grinnell College (2016), where he has bridged social entrepreneurship with mobile technologies and medical innovation. 

With median adult smartphone ownership rising to nearly 70% in advanced markets, individuals ranging from wealthy millennials to homeless youth have unprecedented access to mobile technologies (Poushter, 2016; Ben-Zeev et al., 2013). From “swiping” potential soulmates to ordering prescription glasses to one’s door, the proliferation of opportunities for immediate gratification through mobile applications only continues to grow. In what economists have now termed the “Fourth Industrial Revolution,” this period of integrated consumer technologies focuses on human-centered design and improved efficiency across global sectors (Schwab, 2017). In healthcare especially, mobile health (mHealth) platforms offer an innovative new element to how medicine can be conceptualized, delivered, and implemented. 

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

The Brain In Context

By Sarah W. Denton

Sarah W. Denton is a research assistant with the Science and Technology Innovation Program at the Wilson Center. Denton is also a research assistant with the Institute for Philosophy and Public Policy at George Mason University. Her research primarily focuses on ethical and governance implications for emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence, neurotechnology, gene-editing technology, and pharmaceuticals. 

Tim Brown, University of Washington PhD student and research assistant with the Center for Sensorimotor Neural Engineering’s (CSNE) Neuroethics Thrust, introduced the session titled, “The Brain in Context,” at the International Neuroethics Society’s 2017 Annual Meeting moderated by Husseini Manji, Janssen Global Therapeutic Neuroscience Area Head. This session provided a multidisciplinary view of the challenges we face today in understanding the context of lived experiences and how our brains impact our environments. Getting at the heart of the context in which our brains develop and grow may help us to reduce stigma by increasing our understanding of how our environments impact our brains in a myriad of ways.

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Practical and Ethical Considerations in Consciousness Restoration

By Tabitha Moses

Tabitha Moses is a second year MD/PhD (Translational Neuro-science) Candidate at Wayne State University School of Medicine. She earned a BA in Cognitive Science and Philosophy and an MS in Biotechnology from The Johns Hopkins University. Her research focuses on substance use, mental illness, and emerging neurotechnologies. Her current interests in neuroethics include the concepts of treatment and enhancement and how these relate to our use of new technologies as well as how we define disability.

What does it mean to be conscious? In Arthur Caplan’s plenary session at the 2017 International Neuroethics Society annual meeting (Neuromodulation of the Dead, Persistent Vegetative State, and Minimally Conscious), he explored this question and how the answers may impact research and medicine. 

Thursday, March 1, 2018

Black Mirror in the Rear-View Mirror: An Interview with the Authors

Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.
The Neuroethics Blog hosted a special series on Black Mirror over the past year, originally coinciding with the release of its third season on Netflix. Black Mirror is noted for its telling of profoundly human stories in worlds shaped by current or future technologies. Somnath Das, now a medical student at Thomas Jefferson University, founded the Blog’s series on Black Mirror. Previous posts covered "Be Right Back", "The Entire History of You""Playtest", "San Junipero", "Men Against Fire", "White Bear", and "White Christmas". With Season 4 released at the end of December 2017, Somnath reconvened with contributing authors Nathan Ahlgrim, Sunidhi Ramesh, Hale Soloff, and Yunmiao Wang to review the new episodes and discuss the common neuroethical threads that pervade Black Mirror.
The discussion has been edited for clarity and conciseness. 

*SPOILER ALERT* - The following contains plot spoilers for the Netflix television series Black Mirror.