Just wanted to thank our recent guest bloggers, Andrew Vierra and Nada Gligorov, for enriching this space!
Recently published on SSRN:
Anthony D. Wagner, et al.
Mind-Mappers to Help You Organize Your Thoughts, The New York Times
Against Willpower, Nautilus
“Smart Drugs” May Help Intelligent People to Become Deeper Thinkers, A Study Involving Chess Players Has Found, Quartz
Is AI a Threat to Christianity?, The Atlantic
Space to Grow? Neurological Risks of Moving to Mars, The Neuroethics Blog
"Treatment is the Result of Discovery", Johns Hopkins University & Medicine
Our Bots, Ourselves, The Atlantic
This Researcher Programmed the Perfect Poker-Playing Computer, Time Magazine
The Purpose of Sleep? To Forget, Scientists Say, The New York Times
10 Incredible Robots That Are Inspiring Us to Build the First Artificial Human, Gizmodo
A Dangerous Wait: Colleges Can’t Meet Soaring Student Needs for Mental Health Care, STAT
This Song Was Scientifically Designed to Make Babies Happy, Quartz
Neuroscience Explains Why We Get Hacked So Easily, MIT Technology Review
Air Pollution May Contribute to Dementia, The New York Times
Ultrastructural Evidence for Synaptic Scaling Across the Wake/Sleep Cycle, Science Magazine
Genetic Test to Predict Opioid Risk Lacks Proof, Experts Say, Philly.com
Women with a Thicker Brain Cortex Are More Likely to Have Autism, New Scientist
Particulate Air Pollutants, APOE Alleles and Their Contributions to Cognitive Impairment in Older Women and to Amyloidogenesis in Experimental Models, Translational Psychiatry
Everything in Moderation: Moderate Use of Screens Unassociated with Child Behavior Problems, Psychiatric Quarterly
A Molecular Census of Arcuate Hypothalamus and Median Eminence Cell Types, Nature Neuroscience
Cross-Cultural Regularities in the Cognitive Architecture of Pride, PNAS
Prophylactic Ketamine Attenuates Learned Fear, Neuropsychopharmacology
Motor-Enriched Learning Activities Can Improve Mathematical Performance in Preadolescent Children, Frontiers in Human Neuroscience
"Ethical Theories Used by Neurosurgery Residents to Make Decisions in Challenging Cases of Medical Ethics" by Sahar Sabhani, Anoosheh Ghasemian , Farshad Farzadfar, Hosein Mashhadinejad, and Bahram Hejrani has been published in the most recent issue of Neuroethics:
Neurosurgeons have an especially high rate of exposure to serious ethical challenges in their line of work. The aim of this study was to assess the type and frequency of ethical theories used by neurosurgery residents to make extra- ethical decisions in challenging situations and their relation with the level of residency, and curricular training about medical ethics. A total of 12 neurosurgery residents in Mashhad University of Medical Sciences (MUMS) were interviewed; all the participants were male and aged 29–40 years old. Of all, six were senior and six were junior. Using a systematic review of neurosurgery and medical ethics textbooks, five common cases were selected and a semi-structured, open-ended interview was developed. The interviews were digitally recorded and analyzed in two separate stages. Comparison of the results of the two stages led us to the final judgment about the dominant ethical theory used in each case. In all 60 cases, the decision-making process was compatible with either Deontology (30 cases) or Consequentialism (30 cases). Only in two cases, beside Deontology, the Virtue ethics was used as an alternative in special situations. The ethical theories were not consistent for all the 12 subjects and all the five questions. No statistically significant difference was found between senior and junior residents, neither for each question nor for the aggregate (Odds Ratio = 1.31, 95 % CI = 0.42-4.09, Relative Risk = 1.41, 95 % CI = 0.69-1.9, P-value > 0.20). Only one of the subjects had extracurricular training in medical ethics, consequently precluding further analysis. Although not intended to be evaluated by this study, similar heterogeneity was observed in final decisions. When faced with medical ethics challenges, neurosurgery residents did not follow a consistent ethical theory for making decisions. The type and frequency of theories did not seem to be changed during the residency period.
In a recent article in Neuroethics, Owen Flanagan (2016) argues that the debate about whether addiction is a disease is “much ado about nothing” because what matters isn’t what we call it, but what it is, i.e., an “unquestionably destructive” condition. I am not planning to focus on Flanagan’s main point, which is that addiction isn’t real and that the term designates a number of different disorders. What I will focus on is his claim that ‘disease’ is a folk term. Additionally, I will tackle Flanagan’s distinction between words we use to designate a phenomenon and that phenomenon’s nature. He uses this distinction to diminish disputes about terms--for example whether we call something a ‘disease,’ a ‘disorder,’ or a ‘problem’--as mere semantics.
It is not always clear how certain words are identified as folk terms, but one way to do that is to concentrate on words employed in everyday parlance. Lewis (1972) proposes a way to circumscribe the boundaries of folk psychology by collecting all the platitudes that feature mental terms, such as ‘pain,’ ‘belief,’ ‘desire,’ etc. These platitudes include things we say to predict and explain each other’s behavior. For example, “Maria is crying because she is in pain” or “Fred opened the fridge because he thinks that the cake is in there.” Folk-psychological platitudes also include classifications of particular psychological states, e.g., arachnophobia, as a type of mental state, say fear.
The collected platitudes specify the role psychological states play in mediating between our environment and our behavior, and, in this way, form a theory about those states. Additionally, the functional roles specified by the platitudes implicitly define the terms employed by our folk psychology. Thus, a term is a folk term when it is featured in a theory specified by our everyday parlance. A similar methodology could be employed to define other purportedly folk terms, including ‘disease,’ ‘malady,’ or ‘disorder.’ If one sticks with Lewis’s approach, however, the meaning of a term is not separate from the nature of the phenomenon it designates, because the term ‘disease,’ for example, is functionally defined by what a disease does. Think of all the ways in which we speak about disease in everyday life: we refer to how it affects behavior, or quality of life, or the way in which one’s having a disease impacts loved ones. Based on this approach, the meaning of a word is not independent from the theory within which it is embedded, and disputes about which words to use are debates about the most accurate way to characterize a phenomenon.
In addition, our everyday parlance changes over time and has been steadily influenced by science, which undermines the characterization of certain theories and terms as folk terms and theories. A reason to suspect that our notion of disease has been influenced by science is that it is colloquially used to designate conditions with a biological etiology. Healthcare professionals will often categorize certain psychological or psychiatric conditions, including addiction, as a disease, in order to alleviate the stigma associated with having a condition without an identified biological origin. Psychological conditions are sometimes blamed on weakness of the will in ways that biological conditions are not, and claiming that depression or addiction are diseases is to take advantage of the connotation that a disease is a biological condition.
"Closing Gaps: Strength-Based Approaches to Research with Aboriginal Children with Neurodevelopmental Disorders" by Nina Di Pietro and Judy Illes has been published in the most recent issue of Neuroethics:
There is substantial literature on fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD) research involving Aboriginal children, but little related literature on other common neurodevelopmental conditions such as autism spectrum disorder (ASD) or cerebral palsy (CP) for this population. As part of our work in cross-cultural neuroethics, we examined this phenomenon as a case study in Canada. We conducted semi-structured interviews with health researchers working on the frontline with First Nation communities to obtain perspectives about: (1) reasons for the lack of ASD and CP research within the Aboriginal context, (2) the potential ethical and social implications of this disparity, and (3) recommendations for change. Participants reported that the major barriers to engage in ASD or CP research are under-reporting and under-diagnosis of these conditions in Aboriginal communities, difficulties in establishing trust between community members and researchers, challenges in accessing children living under the care of child welfare services, and lack of support from universities and funding agencies to encourage community partnerships. They further perceived threats to justice as the population is denied the benefits of ASD and CP research, and stigma related to the possible over-representation of FASD in the population. The adoption of strength- and community-based practices to improve engagement and address disparities, and to create health databases with prevalence rates that are representative of all forms of disability in both Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal populations are critical steps to close these gaps.
"Mind Perception and the Willingness to Withdraw Life Support" by Jeffrey M. Rudski, Benjamin Herbsman, Eric D. Quitter, and Nicole Bilgram has been published in the most recent issue of Neuroethics:
Discussions of withdrawal of life support often revolve around a patient’s perceived level of suffering or lack of experience. Personhood, however, is often linked to personal agency (e.g., self-control, ability to plan). In the present study, 279 laypeople estimated the amount of agency and experience in hypothetical patients differing in degree of consciousness. Participants also indicated whether they would choose to maintain or terminate life support. Patients were more likely to terminate life support for a patient in a persistent vegetative state (PVS), followed by one with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and in a minimally conscious state (MCS). The decision to maintain life support was reliably predicted by perceptions of a patient’s agency but life support decisions were not significantly predicted by ratings of experience. In sum, decisions regarding maintaining life support are more influenced by perceptions of a patient’s ability to plan and act than by perceptions of a patient’s ability to feel or experience.
In this paper we reply to the most important objections to our advocacy of moral enhancement by biomedical means – moral bioenhancement – that John Harris advances in his new book How to be Good. These objections are to effect that such moral enhancement undercuts both moral reasoning and freedom. The latter objection is directed more specifically at what we have called the God Machine, a super-duper computer which predicts our decisions and prevents decisions to perpertrate morally atrocious acts. In reply, we argue first that effective moral bioenhancement presupposes moral reasoning rather than undermines it. Secondly, that the God Machine would leave us with extensive freedom and that the restrictions it imposes on it are morally justified by the prevention of harm to victims.
Changing the Way You Think, The Guardian
Why Time Seems to Fly – or Trickle – By, The Conversation
How Do Brain Cells Tell Us Where We’re Going?, Scientific American
Doppler Labs Wants to Put Two Extra Brains in Your Ears, Quartz
The Medicalization of Mental Illness in Gun Violence, The Neuroethics Blog
What Can fMRI Tell Us About Mental Illness?, Discover Magazine
Op, Op, Op. The Neuroscience of Gangnam Style?, Discover Magazine
Babies Remember Their Birth Language - Scientists, BBC News
Making AI Systems That See the World As Humans Do, Science Daily
The Case Against Empathy, Vox News
Toxic Brain Cells May Drive Many Neurodegenerative Disorders, Stanford Medicine
Brainwaves Could Act As Your Password – But Not if You’re Drunk, New Scientist
This AI Translates its Internal Monologue for Humans to Understand—And Plays Frogger, Quartz
The Myth of the Normal Brain: Embracing Neurodiversity, AMA Journal of Ethics
My Brain Made Me Moral: Moral Performance Enhancement for Realists, Neuroethics
Brain Connectivity Changes Occurring Following Cognitive Behavioural Therapy for Psychosis Predict Long-Term Recovery, Translational Psychiatry
Enhanced Predictive Signalling in Schizophrenia, Human Brain Mapping
Sleep Is for Forgetting, The Journal of Neuroscience
Heavy Alcohol Use in Adolescence is Associated with Altered Cortical Activity: A Combined TMS–EEG Study, Addiction Biology
" 'A Light Switch in the #Brain': Optogenetics on Social Media" by Julie M. Robillard , Cody Lo, Tanya L. Feng , and Craig A. Hennessey has been published to the most recent issue of Neuroethics:
Neuroscience communication is increasingly taking place on multidirectional social media platforms, creating new opportunities but also calling for critical ethical considerations. Twitter, one of the most popular social media applications in the world, is a leading platform for the dissemination of all information types, including emerging areas of neuroscience such as optogenetics, a technique aimed at the control of specific neurons. Since its discovery in 2005, optogenetics has been featured in the public eye and discussed extensively on social media, but little is known about how this new technique is portrayed and who the users participating in the conversation are. To address this gap, we conducted content analysis of a sample of 1000 tweets mentioning “optogenetics” over a one-year period between 2014 and 2015. We found that academic researchers are the largest group contributing to the conversation, that the tweets often contain links to third-party websites from news organizations and peer-reviewed journals, and that common thematic motifs include the applications of optogenetics specifically for the control of brain activity and the treatment of disease. We also found that the majority of the tweets are neutral in their tone regarding optogenetics. As Twitter serves as a current and dynamic forum for exchange about advances in neuroscience, the conversation about optogenetics on this engaging platform can inform socially-responsive knowledge dissemination efforts in this area.