Today the Nuffield Council on Bioethics launches its consultation on novel neurotechnologies that intervene in the brain as part of its inquiry into the issues raised by these technologies.
The Nuffield Council on Bioethics is an independent body based in the UK that examines the ethical, social and legal issues raised by new developments in biological and medical research, and recently it has established a Working Party to consider the issues raised by novel neurotechnologies that intervene in the brain, such as neurostimulation, brain–computer interfaces and neural stem cell therapy. As you will be aware, these neurotechnologies are the focus of intense research for the development of new treatments for diseases such as dementia and conditions like severe brain injury. There is also significant ongoing research into the development of non-medical applications like computer gaming and human enhancement.
The Nuffield Council on Bioethics would very much like to hear your thoughts on these neurotechnologies. The consultation can be found here and the deadline for responses is 23 April 2012, 5pm. All responses will be considered and a report will be published during autumn 2013.
The Education and Training theme of The Canadian Dementia Knowledge Translation Network (CDKTN) project at UBC is seeking Visiting Scholars whose interests lie at the intersection of dementia and knowledge translation. The program funds 2-6 month fellowships for investigators, academic faculty and clinicians to conduct research, deliver other scholarly products such as case reviews and books, or produce innovative multimedia materials in dementia or knowledge translation research in Canada. This is an outstanding opportunity to participate in world class research in dementia KT and interact with high calibre scholars at the Neuroethics Core & the UBC Hospital Clinic for Alzheimer Disease and Related Disorders.
Applicants for these competitive fellowships must hold an MD and/or PhD degree. Scholars selected for the Vancouver-based program will receive both travel support and a monthly stipend. Openings are currently available and applications will be reviewed upon receipt.
There has been raucous furor over the decision of Kathleen Sibelius, the Secretary of Health and Human Services in the Obama administration, to overrule the FDA’s approval of the drug known as Plan B One-Step as an over-the-counter drug. It has never previously transpired that the FDA has been overruled on a matter that falls under its jurisdiction such as this, and FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg issued a carefully worded response which, given that Sibelius is her boss, was remarkable for its forthrightness: Continue reading
The Center for a New American Dream has just posted a great video by Tim Kasser entitled The High Price of Materialism. In the video, Tim points out the myriad ways in which consumer culture degrades the quality of our lives. Worth noticing are the myriad neuroethical issues that he raises, from the effects of advertising upon our brains to the education that we provide to our children.
For a list of references on the subject, visit here
The world’s first official trial for spinal cord injuries with embryonic stem cell-based products has been halted. Geron, the investigator company who received FDA approval for this study in 2009 and enrolled its first patient in 2010, announced on November 15 2011 that this trial would be discontinued with “immediate effect”.
Geron justified its decision on grounds of “capital scarcity and uncertain economic conditions” in its official press release. These concerns were reiterated in their webcast, which explained their steps along the lines of stakeholders’ interests: Geron had to keep the highest return for stakeholders in mind. The company suggested that the resources would now be used for advancing its in-house cancer trials (phase II).
Patient advocates were disappointed with the decision, particularly in relation to the motivations for the decision. Daniel Heumann was quoted by the Washington post as saying: “”I’m disgusted. It makes me sick. To get people’s hopes up and then do this for financial reasons is despicable. They’re treating us like lab rats.”” Continue reading
Personhood is in the news. Mississippi is considering a ballot initiative to define a fertilized egg as having personhood. This morning, the New York Times published an editorial on the matter, and the arguments were all framed in consequentialist terms:
“Besides outlawing all abortions, with no exceptions for rape or incest or when a woman’s life is in danger, and banning any contraception that may prevent implantation of a fertilized egg, including birth control pills, the amendment carries many implications, some quite serious.”
“It could curtail medical research involving embryos, shutter fertility clinics and put doctors in legal jeopardy for providing needed medical care that might endanger a pregnancy. Pregnant women also could become subject to criminal prosecution. A fertilized egg might be eligible to inherit money or be counted when drawing voting districts by population. Because a multitude of laws use the terms “person” or “people,” there would be no shortage of unintended consequences.”
It is a certainty that there would be consequences to such legislation, but what is interesting is that all of the parties involved in the debate skirt the fundamental issue: what do we mean by personhood anyway? Continue reading
The New York Times had done it again. You would have thought that they had learned their lesson after publishing a rather poorly designed study using fMRI to wax poetic on the various candidates in the 2008 presidential election on the op-ed page; a subsequent letter to the editor signed by 17 experts in brain imaging not only debunked the findings, but added that “the results reported in the article were apparently not peer-reviewed, nor was sufficient detail provided to evaluate the conclusions.” Blog posts galore (here and here and here) and online magazines (here and here) heaped on the scorn, with more than one commentator noting that the op-ed piece seemed more like a thinly veiled advertisement for the private company involved than proper investigation.
But did they learn? Apparently not.
In today’s New York Times, Martin Lindstrom has a high-profile op-ed piece in which he concludes that the relationship between individuals and their iPhones is more like love than it is like addiction. The conclusion may or may not be true, but the methods he uses to arrive at that conclusion – fMRI experiments with 8 men and 8 women, conducted by a neuromarketing firm – are no more robust or thoughtfully examined than the above-cited Iacobini et al. flim-flam that the New York Times previously published on politics. Mr. Lindstrom, who touts himself as both consumer advocate and branding guru but appears to have no academic credentials to warrant his interpretations of fMRI experiments.
Is nobody home at the New York Times?
Update: Tal Yarkoni has a detailed and thoughtful critique up about the Lindstrom article