Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Nobody Ever Believes This Story: Slam Poetry as a Palimpsestic Space for Mental Illness Identity

By Chandler Batchelor

Chandler Batchelor is a graduate student in the Literature, Medicine, and Culture MA program at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.  She is interested in alternative and holistic approaches to mental healthcare, doctor-patient relationships in mental healthcare, and mental health advocacy.

Typically, descriptions of mental illness provided by medical professionals are often taken more seriously than descriptions given by the diagnosed themselves. Biomedicine has a particular way of talking about mental abnormalities, describing mental experiences with symptoms. It uses words like “depression,” “flat affect,” and “grandiose sense of self” to depict concrete outward signs of internal dysfunction. In our culture, this biomedical rhetoric is upheld as the definitive, most correct and objective way of describing mental illness. But while biomedicine is an excellent tool for describing diseases, it often fails to capture the subjective nuances of the illness experience. By looking at how the diagnosed talk about their subjective experiences, we can gain new insights that could not be gleaned from a biomedical understanding alone (Estroff, 2003; Kleinman, 1988).

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

The plague at our doorstep: ethical issues presented by the Zika virus outbreak

By Ryan Purcell

Image courtesy of Flickr user Day Donaldson
“Never before in history has there been a situation when a bite from a mosquito can result in such a devastating scenario.” So says Tom Frieden, director of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The Zika virus has captured headlines since late 2015, when word spread north from Brazil that a virus, new to the Americas, may be silently causing alarming neurodevelopmental disorders in newborns. Now, the southern United States is preparing to confront the mosquito-borne illness, which “may become the first great plague of the 21st century.” As public health officials continue to work to mitigate the impact of what the World Health Organization has declared a “Global Health Emergency”, there are several important ethical issues that must be considered. These include a women’s reproductive rights, disability rights concerning those most affected, and the growing realization that poverty-stricken regions and neighborhoods will bear a disproportional burden from this disease. Each of these concerns deserves much more attention than could be provided here. My current aim is merely to point out key issues to stimulate discussion.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Consumer Neurotechnology: New Products, More Regulatory Complexity

By Anna Wexler

Anna Wexler is a PhD candidate in the HASTS (History, Anthropology, Science, Technology and Society) at MIT and a 2015-2016 visiting scholar at the Center for Neuroscience and Society at the University of Pennsylvania. Her dissertation focuses on the ethical, legal and social implications of emerging neuroscience technology, with a particular focus on the home use of noninvasive brain stimulation.

Just when it seemed like the consumer neurotechnology market couldn’t get any stranger—after all, who would’ve expected that a sleek white triangle could be placed on the forehead for “calm” or “energy” vibes—two new products recently hit the market that further complicate the challenges of regulating this emerging market. Halo Sport is a brain stimulator marketed for athletic enhancement that utilizes technology similar to transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS), while Nervana, which began taking pre-orders in March, is the first noninvasive vagus nerve stimulation (VNS) device to be sold directly to the public in the United States.

Halo Neuroscience, the manufacturer of Halo Sport, advertises that its product “accelerates gains in strength, explosiveness, and dexterity.” In many ways, Halo Sport overcomes obstacles that have plagued other direct-to-consumer brain stimulation products. Because Halo Sport only claims to stimulate the motor cortex—which, conveniently for the company, lies beneath the area of the head where a pair of headphones might sit—the product does not utilize stray wires or a futuristic headset, but instead takes the recognizable shape of headphones. The beneficial effect of a familiar design should not be underestimated: many potentially useful technology tools have failed in no small part due to their unusual “look.”

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Submit your Abstract for the 2016 International Neuroethics Society Meeting in San Diego!

Mark your calendars now for the 2016 International Neuroethics Society Annual Meeting taking place in San Diego, CA on November 11th and November 12th. This year the conference will feature 2 days of talks, networking opportunities, and poster presentations.

Highlights from the meeting include Plenary Talks by Dr. Steve Hyman of the Stanley Center for Psychiatric Research and Dr. Walter J. Koroshetz from the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS), while the two featured sessions on the 12th are entitled “Mind-Brain and the Competing Identities of Neuroethics” and “Deconstructing Therapeutic Neurotechnology ‘Narratives’: A Case Study of DBS for Depression.”

Moderated by Dr. Eric Racine from the Institut de recherches cliniques de Montréal, “Mind-Brain and the Competing Identities of Neuroethics” will discuss three perspectives of neuroscience: empirical, speculative, and pragmatic, and these three views will be presented by Dr. Paul Applebaum, Dr. Tom Buller, Dr. Jennifer Chandler, and Dr. Saskia Nagel. “Deconstructing Therapeutic Neurotechnology ‘Narratives’: A Case Study of DBS for Depression” will also highlight three different viewpoints; neuroscientist Dr. Helen Mayberg, philosopher Dr. Sara Goering, and journalist Mo Costandi will explore how to interpret DBS patient narratives. The panel will be moderated by Emory University’s Dr. Karen Rommelfanger.

Thursday’s events will take place in the San Diego Central Library
The 2016 INS Meeting will also kick-off the International Ambassador Program with a 2-hour session on international neuroethics. While the 1st hour will focus on discussions from leading international figures, the 2nd hour will involve breakout group sessions that include topic such as career opportunities from national neuroscience initiatives, how exchange programs can encourage communication, and how oversight groups will differ among national agencies.

There is still time to participate in the 2016 Meeting! Important deadlines to consider are listed below. 

• The abstract deadline for a poster presentation has been extended to June 15th
The 3rd Annual Student/Postdoc Essay Contest deadline has been extended to June 30th 
• Logo Contest submissions are due June 30th