Thursday, November 03, 2005

Blogging the ethics of neuroscience

Finally, there is a blog on neuroethics. And it seems that it is not only a buzzword blog: it is initiated by prof. Adam Kolber from the Un. of San Diego School of Law.

As Kolber writes about this blog; "The Neuroethics and Law Blog is an interdisciplinary forum for legal and ethical issues related to the brain and cognition. It is meant to be of interest to bioethicists, legal academics, lawyers, neuroscientists, neurologists, cognitive scientists, psychologists, psychiatrists, philosophers, criminologists, behavioral economists, and others."

So, does that not include the most of us academics dealing with humans? I would think that the top stories from this blog would also make "regular" people discuss.

So what are the latest developments in neuroethics? For formal publications, Martha Farah has just published an article called "Neuroethics: a guide for the perplexed". In here, she touches upon one of the most interesting views in my opinion: if a "naturalist" account of the mind, i.e. conscious and unconscious processes, is correct, it would have a tremendous impact on our self-awareness, and consequences for ethicsa and law.

Another recent development, although many years in the making, is the combination of genetics and neuroimaging techniques. This is indeed a hot topic in human brain mapping science. Of course, it has been known for a long time that genes are the "building blocks" of proteins that e.g. regulate uptake of a certain neurotransmitter. But the new idea is to demonstrate that certain genes that are polymorph, i.e. they have a "natural variation" in healthy individuals, have a significant impact on neural function. Several recent studies by Weinbeger, Hariri and colleagues demonstrate that even among normals, genes can explain different responses of the brain For example, they have shown that individual differences in the response of the amygdala to emotional pictures are explained by their "genetic makeup".

Should we think further from these findings, we might very well end up with people being gene tested for their potential for being cynical soliders, executive and effective business leaders, empathic caregivers ...(fill in your favourite).

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