Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Is football safe for brains?

by Dr. L. Syd M Johnson

Dr. Johnson is Assistant Professor of Philosophy & Bioethics in the Department of Humanities at Michigan Technological University. Her work in neuroethics focuses on disorders of consciousness and sport-related neurotrauma. She has published several articles on concussions in youth football and hockey, as well as on the ethics of return-to-play protocols in youth and professional football.

This post is the first of several that will recap and offer perspectives on the conversations and debates that took place at the recent 2015 International Neuroethics Society meeting.

At the International Neuroethics Society annual meeting in Chicago this month, Nita Farahany and a panel from the Football Players Health Study at Harvard University (FHPS) headlined the public talk “Is professional football safe? Can it be made safer?” The panel declined to provide direct answers to these important questions, but the short answers are “No,” and “Not by much,” respectively.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Technologies of the extended mind: Implications for privacy of thought

by Peter Reiner, PhD

Dr. Reiner is Professor and co-founder of the National Core for Neuroethics, at the University of British Columbia. Dr. Reiner began his academic career studying the cellular and molecular physiology of the brain, and in 1998, Dr. Reiner became President and CEO of Active Pass Pharmaceuticals, a drug discovery company that he founded to tackle the scourge of Alzheimer's disease. Upon returning to academic life in 2004, Dr. Reiner refocused his scholarly work in the area of neuroethics. He is also an AJOB Neuroscience board member.

Louis Brandeis in his law office, 1890.
In 1890, Samuel Warren and his law partner Louis Brandeis 
published what has become one of the most influential essays in the history of US law. Entitled The Right to Privacy [1], the article is notable for outlining the legal principles that protect privacy of thought. But it is not just their suggestions about privacy that are illuminating – it is their insight into the ways that law has changed over historical time scales that makes the paper such a classic. In very early times, they write, “the law gave a remedy only for physical interference with life and property…[and] liberty meant freedom from actual restraint.” Over time, as society began to recognize the value of the inner life of individuals, the right to life came to mean the right to enjoy life; protection of corporeal property expanded to include the products of the mind, such as literature and art, trademarks and copyrights. In a passage that resonates remarkably well with the modern experience, they point out that the time was nigh for the law to respond to changes in technology.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

The Neuroethics Blog Reader hot off the presses!

It is my pleasure to present you with our first edition of The Neuroethics Blog reader. This reader includes some of the most popular posts on the site and highlights our junior talent.

While the blog showcases cutting-edge debates in neuroethics, it also serves as a mechanism for mentoring junior scholars and students and providing them with exciting opportunities to have their pieces featured alongside established scholars in the field. In addition, the blog allows for community building, inviting scholars from multiple disciplines to participate. Our contributors have included individuals at various levels of education from fields such as law, neuroscience, engineering, psychology, English, medicine, philosophy, women’s studies, and religion, to name a few. Each blog post is a collaborative process, read and edited numerous times by the editorial leadership in partnership with the author.

We aim to continue to mentor and deliver quality posts that serve to cultivate not only our neuroethics academic community, but also members of the public who may be cultivating their own interests in neuroethics. Whether for direct applications in your profession or simply to understand the world in which we live, we hope the blog will help you navigate the implications of new neurotechnologies and explore what is knowable about the human brain.

At this time, I’d like to thank our amazing editorial team including Lindsey Grubbs (Managing Editor), Carlie Hoffman (Editor of this reader), Ryan Purcell, and Katie Strong. I’d also like to highlight our previous Managing Editors Dr. Julia Haas and Julia Marshall who have since graduated and are continuing their scholarship in neuroethics, as well as Jonah Queen who was there from the very beginning. Stay tuned for more great things from this group along with all of our talented contributors.

Thank you for taking the time to embark on this journey with us and please enjoy this reader!

P.S. If you are lucky enough to find yourself at the International Neuroethics Society conference this Oct 15-16, we will have limited printed copies available. Just look for folks wearing the “Ask Me About AJOB Neuroscience” buttons.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Your Brain on Movies: Implications for National Security

by Lindsey Grubbs

An intellectually diverse and opinionated crowd gathered recently for the most recent Neuroethics and Neuroscience in the News journal club at Emory University—“Your brain on movies: Implications for national security.” The discussion was one of the liveliest I've seen in the years I've been attending these events, which is perhaps not surprising: the talk touched on high-profile issues like neuromarketing (which is controversial enough that it has been banned in France since 2011) and military funding for neuroscience.

The seminar was led by Dr. Eric Schumacher, Associate Professor of Psychology at Georgia Tech, director of the Georgia State University/Georgia Tech Center for Advanced Brain Imaging, and principle investigator of CoNTRoL—Cognitive Neuroscience at Tech Research Laboratory. Currently, the lab investigates task-oriented cognition, as well as the relationship between film narratives and “transportation” (colloquially, the sense of “getting lost” in a story), which is a complex cognitive puzzle involving attention, memory, and emotion.

Cary Grant chased by an airplane in North by Northwest,
courtesy of Flickr user Insomnia Cured Here.
Schumacher presented his recent article, “Neural evidence that suspense narrows attentional focus,” published in Neuroscience. Subjects in the study were placed in an MRI scanner and shown film clips of suspenseful films including Alien, Blood Simple, License to Kill, and three Hitchcock films: North by Northwest, Marnie, and The Man Who Knew Too Much (I think I enrolled in the wrong studies to pay for college). The scanner revealed when suspense in the film increased, people's gaze was focused on the film.