Neuroethics in Mexico and Latin America: Towards the Inclusion of Diversity of Perspectives

 By Karen Herrera-Ferrá 

Image by geralt via Pixabay

The potential and expected improvement of human life with novel, innovative, and sophisticated neuroscience, neurotechnology (NS/T), and artificial intelligence (AI) has led to an accelerated use and increasing globalization of these tools. This cross-border movement includes low and middle-income countries (LMICs) and regions such as Mexico and Latin America, calling for an ever more needed awareness of contextual, cultural, and cognitive diversity.  This is of relevance as LMICs represent 68% of the global population, and therefore account for a significant percentage of contexts and cultures that are not fully contemplated in international and large-scale brain projects, initiatives, and alliances such as the ones from the European Union, United States, Canada, Australia, South Korea, Japan, and China (i.e., International Brain Initiative). 

Moreover, because perception is shaped according to specific contexts and cultures, a significant percentage of perspectives and attitudes regarding the development and use of NS/T, and AI (and their possible impact on “what it means to be human”) are not entirely known and this may have global safety, effectiveness, and validity implications. For instance, we should expect a diversity of perceptions, conceptualizations, understandings, meanings, concerns, and values given not only to NS/T, and some forms of AI, but also to some key issues related to the brain and mind (Nicolini et al., 2017; Herrera-Ferrá et al. 2019). Such key issues include mental health and mental well-being; emotions; cognitions; behaviors; consciousness; self; free will; autonomy; personal identity; empathy; morality and decision-making; among others. Consequently, one must be aware that some emergent medical, ethical, philosophical, legal, social, economic, political, cultural, and human rights concerns related to the brain and mind may not be universal (García-López et al., 2019; Herrera-Ferrá et al, 2019). 

On the other hand, in Mexico and Latin America (and other LMICs) many of these concerns might not be categorized under the ‘neuroethics label.’ Rather, neuroethical concerns – which have been constantly and increasingly present – are mainly identified and addressed as medical and/or bioethical issues, in part due to the poor or lack of knowledge and/or value given to neuroethics as a field (Leefman et al., 2016; Finns 2019)

Thus, as a response to the knowledge gap of (a) neuroethics as a field, and (b) the diverse contextual and cultural perceptions about the use of NS/T, and some forms of AI, the Asociación Mexicana de Neuroética (Mexican Association of Neuroethics) was formed in 2016. Since then, founders and members of the Association have been working on the development of the field of neuroethics by, for example, addressing local and regional needs and priorities (mainly in clinical mental health and criminal law (García-López et al., 2019; Herrera-Ferrá et al, 2019; Herrera-Ferrá 2020)) by means of activities such as academic sessions, working groups, etc.

These activities also offer, among others, (a) communication in a native speaking language (i.e., Spanish), (b) cultural and contextual competence between peers (i.e., Latin America – including Brazil – and Spain) and (c) shared concerns related to context and culture (e.g., members and invitees from other LMICs such as Turkey, India, etc.). As a result, there has been a growing receptiveness, interest, and eagerness from professionals from different disciplines and parts of the world to support and enrich the Association’s Mission, which is to “create an intellectual, interdisciplinary, and multicultural platform for collaboration and contribution — with special emphasis on Iberoamerica — to strengthen, develop, and complement global efforts pertaining to the ethical and responsible use of emerging brain technologies”. 

Image by Dawn Hudson via 
PublicDomainPictures

This platform has granted the possibility of discussing not only global concerns such as cognitive, emotional, and moral enhancement; manipulation and/or alteration of free will, personal identity and personality; crime liability; implications in children and adolescents, but also specific issues and perceptions related to context and culture such as indigenous medicine and beliefs; legal regulations and systems; and ethnocultural factors. And while many perceptions of common problems are similar to those reported in the international literature, we have indeed found (Cabrera and Herrera-Ferrá, 2019; García-López et al., 2019;  Herrera-Ferrá et al., 2019; Herrera-Ferrá et al., 2020; alternative perspectives on topics such as (a) neuroenhancement and the use of neuromodulatory techniques, (b) the need to develop regulatory frameworks for the development and use of NS/T, and some forms of AI, (c) human rights for the brain and mind, and (d) the use of NS/T in criminal law; among others.

In this sense, LMICs should be considered not only as consumers of novel and sophisticated tools and techniques for the brain, but also as contexts with unique perceptions and needs. Furthermore, some of these countries have reactive, proactive, and responsive academic communities whose efforts could foster and enrich the global discourse towards (a) the ethical development and use of emerging brain technologies, (b) the inclusion of cognitive and cultural diversity, (c) the implementation of public policies and legislation, (d) respect for human rights, and (e) the professional training of neuroethicists.

Of course, the development of neuroethics as a field in Mexico, Latin America, and other countries and regions, as a global and multi-cultural endeavor, is a work in progress towards a genuine international inclusiveness of diverse perspectives and concerns on the development and use of NS/T, and AI. 

At the Asociación Mexicana de Neuroética, founders and members are committed to be part of this task, and we welcome scholars and organizations around the world to participate and collaborate with us.


References 

  1. Cabrera, Laura Y., and Karen Herrera-Ferrá. (2019). ¿Neuroensanchamiento?: Concepts and Perspectives About Neuroenhancement in the Hispanic Literature. Journal of Cognitive Enhancement. 4(1), 82-93. doi.org/10.1007/s41465-019-00131-w
  2. Fins JJ. (2019). Once and Future Clinical Neuroethics: A History of What Was and What Might Be. J Clin Ethics. 30(1), 27-34. PMID: 30896441.
  3. García-López, Eric, Ezequiel Mercurio, Alicia Nijdam-Jones, Luz Anyela Morales, and Barry Rosenfeld. (2019). Neurolaw in Latin America: Current Status and Challenges. International Journal of Forensic Mental Health. 18(3), 260–80. doi.org/10.1080/14999013.2018.1552634
  4. Herrera-Ferrá, Karen, Garbiñe Saruwatari Zavala, Humberto Nicolini Sánchez, and Héctor Pinedo Rivas. (2019). “Neuroética En México: Reflexiones Médicas, Legales y Socioculturales. Bioethics Update. 5(2), 89–106. doi.org/10.1016/j.bioet.2019.05.001
  5. Herrera-Ferrá, Karen. (2020). Global Mental Health and the Treatment Gap: A Human Rights and Neuroethics Concern. In Dan Stein and Ilina Singh (Eds.), Global Mental Health and Neuroethics (pp. 133–43). Elseiver. doi.org/10.1016/b978-0-12-815063-4.00009-5 
  6. Herrera-Ferrá, Karen, Humberto Nicolini, and James Giordano. (2020). Professional Attitudes Toward the Use of Neuromodulatory Technologies in Mexico: Insight for Neuroethical Considerations of Cultural Diversity. CNS Spectrums. 1–3. doi.org/10.1017/s1092852920002151
  7. Leefmann J, Levallois C, Hildt E. (2016). Neuroethics 1995-2012. A Bibliometric Analysis of the Guiding Themes of an Emerging Research Field. Front Hum Neurosci. 1(10), 336  doi: 10.3389/fnhum.2016.00336. PMID: 27445772; PMCID: PMC4929847.
  8. Nicolini, Humberto, Rafael Salin-Pascual, Brenda Cabrera, and Nuria Lanzagorta. (2017). Influence of Culture in Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder and Its Treatment. Current Psychiatry Reviews. 13(4), 285-92. doi.org/10.2174/2211556007666180115105935


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Karen Herrera-Ferrá, MD, PhD is the Founder and President of the Asociación Mexicana de Neuroética. Her research focuses on ethical, legal, social and cultural aspects of the development, use and globalization of neuroscience, neurotechnology and artificial intelligence; regulation and human rights regarding the brain and mind and; cognitive diversity.




Want to cite this post?

Herrera-Ferrá, K. (2021). Neuroethics in Mexico and Latin America: Towards the Inclusion of Diversity of Perspectives. The Neuroethics Blog. Retrieved on , from http://www.theneuroethicsblog.com/2021/08/neuroethics-in-mexico-and-latin-america.html

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