Ethical Implications of the Neurotechnology Touchpoints
TouchPoints™ appears to be a helpful service to those who deal with extreme levels of stress, which is estimated to be around one-third of Americans, according to a 2007 nationwide survey (American Psychological Association, 2007). In addition, TouchPoints™ includes testimonials from users with Parkinson’s disease, Autism, and ADHD along with insomnia and general stress, suggesting that its use has helped alleviate some of their symptoms (although there are no clinical claims made by The TouchPoint Solution™).
|Image courtesy of Pixabay
Neuropsychologist Dr. Serin and Vicki Mayo claim that TouchPoints™ works by BLAST technology that alters the body’s fight-or-flight (F3) response to stress or anxiety, allowing you to think clearly. Many of the academic studies cited in the TouchPoints™ site found that bilateral stimulation of the prefrontal cortex and inferior temporal lobe of the brain does in fact enhance comfortable feelings and is a recognized and accepted form of psychotherapy for posttraumatic stress disorder, although the exact mechanism is still unclear (Amano & Toichi, 2016; Nieuwenhuis et al., 2012; Servan-Schreiber et al., 2006). Additionally, Nieuwenhuis et al. (2012) found that bilateral stimulation may have some effect on memory, which is not mentioned on the TouchPoints™ site. None of the peer-reviewed literature cited on the TouchPoints™ site extended the study population to those with Parkinson’s disease, Autism, or ADHD. While there are many case studies including testimonial from past TouchPoints™ users and in-house studies (which have undergone no clear peer-review process), these results must be taken with a sense of doubt since there is clear motivation and obvious bias in the studies Dr. Serin conducts to help market her own product.
|Image courtesy of Pixabay
Secondly, as this device becomes cheaper and wide-spread with time, a reliance on this technology may become embedded within society and could even change how we view fundamental features of the human condition. The human body currently has a typical stress response, which involves the release of many stress hormones (Koelsch et al., 2016); however, as time goes on and if this device is used in response to any sort of stress or anxiety, the body may adapt in such a way that it becomes reliant on TouchPoints™. From a neuroethical standpoint, TouchPoints™ has the potential to change a fundamental feature of the human condition mediated through a brain mechanism, although none of the studies on the TouchPoints™ website have addressed this directly. If future research shows the exact mechanism TouchPoints™ induces within the brain, and it differs greatly from the typical stress and anxiety response within the brain, then TouchPoints™ has the potential to alter some of the fundamental conditions of what it means to be human. In line with this, other neuroethical questions also arise: Would reliance on this technology change who you are and how you view yourself? Would diminishing your experience of stress keep you from positively adapting to that stress? Could it change the person you are becoming?
Janet Guo is a junior on the pre-medical track at Emory University majoring in Neuroscience and Behavioral Biology (NBB) with a minor in Chinese Studies. Her first professional exposure to neuroethics in an academic setting was in her NBB471 (Neuroethics) course during her study abroad experience in Paris, France and has remained extremely interested in the topic ever since.
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Guo, J. (2018). Ethical Implications of the Neurotechnology Touchpoints. The Neuroethics Blog. Retrieved on , from http://www.theneuroethicsblog.com/2018/09/ethical-implications-of-neurotechnology.html