Neuroethics and Philosophy

 

Welcome to the HBP's neuroethics and philosophy work package

 

Why neuroethics and philosophy in the HBP?

Neuroscientific research and emerging neurotechnologies afford several conceptual, social, ethical, and regulatory issues, from potential privacy threats to understanding consciousness and the meaning of human and personal identity. Neuroethics focuses on those issues. The field can be understood as an interface between the empirical brain sciences, philosophy of mind, moral philosophy, ethics, psychology, and the social sciences. Philosophical reflection plays a key role in neuroethical reflection a) it contributes to a conceptual level of interpretation of the scientific evidence that allows for a legitimate connection between scientific evidence and philosophical concepts; b) it allows critical distance; and c) it stifles unrealistic expectations regarding neuroscientific advances.

Is neuroethics like bioethics?

Not necessarily. In our research, we have identified three main neuroethical approaches: “neurobioethics,” (which mirrors bioethics) applies ethical theory and reasoning to address the practical issues raised by brain research, its clinical applications, and communication;  “empirical neuroethics” uses empirical data to inform theoretical (e.g. what is moral reasoning) and practical issues (e.g. who is really a moral agent), and “conceptual neuroethics” uses conceptual analysis to address topics such as how neuroscientific knowledge is constructed and why or how empirical knowledge of the brain can be relevant to philosophical, social, and ethical concerns.

Why the emphasis on conceptual analysis?

The field of neuroscience itself already includes some type of conceptual examination. However, the kind of conceptual analysis provided by neuroethics and philosophy importantly complements neuroscience by focusing on issues such as how neuroscientific knowledge is constructed and why or how empirical knowledge of the brain can be relevant to philosophical, social, and ethical concerns.

 

Learn more about neuroethics and the mind

 

Our primary research areas


Disorders of Consciousness. Among other things, this line of inquiry aims at reviewing and conceptually analysing the recent development in the scientific explanations and descriptions of consciousness, particularly focusing on disorders of consciousness (DOCs) and exploring the potential and actual clinical applications of neuro-technology for diagnosing and assessing DOCs.


Unconsciousness: Resignation Syndrome (RS). This clinical condition affects psychologically traumatised children undergoing migration and is characterised by failure to respond even to painful stimuli leaving the patients seemingly unconscious. This line of research focuses on the sociocultural and neurophysiological factors underlying this disorder. The goal is to provide an analysis that merges contextual and neurobiological aspects in a brain model of culture-bound syndromes.


Human Identity. As neuroscience provides more knowledge of the structures and functions of the nervous system, it is expected that it will further our understanding of what makes us human and will promote the development and application of neuro-technologies to modify the brain. This might have a significant impact on human and personal identity. This research project seeks to provide an analysis of the relevant issues, starting with the notion of human identity, its meaning and value, and its relation to the debate on human nature, and to examine related theoretical and practical concerns.


Neuronal Epigenesis. The brain develops in a natural and cultural context that profoundly influences its functional architecture. Lived developmental trajectories, interactions, and social environments impact synaptic connectivity and contribute to the formation of patterns of neural activity. Synaptic epigenesis theories of cultural and social imprinting on our brain architecture suggest that it is thus possible to culturally influence our neural predispositions. This research project examines the relationships between genotype and brain phenotype: the paradox of non-linear evolution between genome and brain complexity; the selection of cultural circuits in the brain during development; and the genesis and epigenetic transmission of cultural imprints.

 

Dual Use. This research line focuses on the concept of dual use, with explicit emphasis upon both the definition of dual uses of brain science within the HBP and more broadly, the examination of the neuroethical, legal, and social issues arising in and from such research and its applications. Specific attention is given to dual uses of neuroscientific research for military, national security and warfare operations, and direct-to-consumer and do-it-yourself applications of brain research science for lifestyle optimisation that may pose risks to public safety.

Learn more about these topics at: http://www.crb.uu.se/research/neuroethics/


 

Key Links

Publications

Research Ethics Blog

 

Neuroethics and Philosophy team

Kathinka Evers, Work package and Subproject leader

Jean-Pierre Changeux, Research collaborator

James Giordano, Research collaborator

Arleen Salles, Research collaborator

Michele Farisco, PhD student

Karl Sallin, PhD student

Manuel Guerrero Antequera, Post-doc

Pär Segerdahl, Research Blog Editor

 

Recent Events

EITN Workshop: Consciousness in humans, animals & robots I: concepts, theories, and neural mechanisms, March 9-10 2017 .

Uppsala University, International Symposium. From Neuroscience to the Classroom, April 5-6 2017 .

Our neuroethics team presented a poster at 2017 Neuroethics Network in Paris.

Global Brain Projects: Goals and inherent ethical questions intially identified: Global Neuroethics Summit, Daegu, South Korea, October 17-18 2017.

International Neuroethics Society Meeting. November 10-11, 2017, Washington DC. Poster presentation and in the Ambassador’s Session.

Would you like to get in touch with us?  Please visit our website: www.crb.uu.se.