We Need Neuroethicists Present Before the Holy Shit Moments in Neuroscience
|Image courtesy of Nick Saltmarsh on Flickr
In a recent Vox article reporting on the Nature paper from Dr. Nenad Sestan’s lab at Yale University, “Restoration of brain circulation and cellular functions hours post-mortem,” the title summarizes the encounter between the scientist and ethicist as follows, Scientists: We kept pig brains alive 10 hours after death. Bioethicists [upon reading the article]: “Holy shit.”
for today’s bioethicist should be to “Get out of the way.”
societal dilemmas presented by today’s most cutting-edge research.
|Image courtesy of NIH on Flickr
One neuroscience effort that is poised to bring us to the very precipice of our understanding of the brain is the NIH Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies (BRAIN) Initiative. This is the same mechanism that funded the work of Dr. Sestan. The most ambitious American neuroscience project to date, it focuses on transforming our understanding of how the brain works by developing cutting edge tools and technologies to decode brain circuit function. New technologies are enabling researchers to map, monitor, and modulate brain circuits in humans and animal models with unprecedented precision in time and space, which hopefully will lead to new therapeutic approaches in humans.
end-user concerns as the technology develops.
before the paper was published in April 2019. This allowed the Sestan team to consider the ethical implications of their work along the way. For example, should BrainEx be used on the pig brain in the absence of neural activity blockers? The researchers opted to not attempt this, given ethical concerns and as their goal was not to restore any sort of higher order function in the brain.
|Image courtesy of Pixabay
This is but one example of cutting-edge neuroscience and there will only be more. The scientist of today and tomorrow needs to be able to recognize ethical issues and to address them as part of the science not in spite of it. And any discussion of neuroscience will require skill at carefully analyzing and presenting these finding to the public. This responsibility starts with the scientists as stewards of their work, but should not be left to them alone. University press offices, academic journals, and institutions should incentivize good ethical inquiry rather than reward ethics hype.
neuroscience. As such she edits the largest international online neuroethics discussion forum The Neuroethics Blog and she is a frequent contributor and commentator in popular media such as The New York Times, USA Today and The Huffington Post.
Want to cite this post?
Rommelfanger, K. (2019). We Need Neuroethicists Present Before the Holy Shit Moments in Neuroscience. The Neuroethics Blog. Retrieved on , from http://www.theneuroethicsblog.com/2019/08/we-need-neuroethicists-present-before.html