Overview of Neuroethics

Abstract

Neuroethics is a subfield of bioethics, and examines the intersection of neuroscience, ethics, philosophy, social science, and law. Neuroethics largely deals with (1) the ethical and social challenges raised by new discoveries and inventions in neuroscience and neurotechnology and (2) the implications of neuroscientific discoveries for our conceptions of topics such as free will, consciousness, religious experience, and morality, among others. As neuroscientists continue to expand our understanding of the human brain, and as neurotechnologies allow us to manipulate or alter cognitive and affective functioning, it is important to continue the neuroethical discussion of whether to allow certain interventions, how to apply our neuroscientific knowledge and technology, and what these new discoveries mean for the human condition and human flourishing.

Key Concepts

  • Neuroethics is a growing field that examines the ethics of neuroscience and the intersection of neuroscience, philosophy, and society.
  • Neuroscience is increasingly crossing over into law and society, creating a need to understand the societal implications of neuroscientific progress.
  • Neuroethicists also study the neuroscience of ethics and morality.
  • Neuroethicists evaluate both practical, technological issues and more conceptual or philosophical issues.
  • The study of the brain presents a unique set of issues and challenges compared with other bodily organs.

Keywords: neuroethics; enhancement; deep‐brain stimulation; neurotechnology; brain implants; neuroscience and the law

References

Appel, JM (2008) When the boss turns pusher: a proposal for employee protections in the age of cosmetic neurology. Journal of Medical Ethics, 34 (8): 616–618. http://doi.org/10.1136/jme.2007.022723

Beaulieu, A (2002) Images are not the (only) truth: brain mapping, visual knowledge, and iconoclasm. Science, Technology and Human Values, 27 (1): 53–86. http://doi.org/10.1177/016224390202700103

Bell, E, Mathieu, G, and Racine, E (2009) Preparing the ethical future of deep brain stimulation. Surgical Neurology, 72 (6): 577–586. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19608246

Berlin, L (2014) Neuroimaging, expert witnesses, and ethics: convergence and conflict in the courtroom. AJOB Neuroscience, 5 (2): 3–8. http://doi.org/10.1080/21507740.2014.880089

Bickart, KC, Wright, CI, Dautoff, RJ, Dickerson, BC, and Barrett, LF (2011) Amygdala volume and social network size in humans. Nature Neuroscience, 14 (2): 163–164. http://doi.org/10.1038/nn.2724

Chancellor, B, and Chatterjee, A (2011) Brain branding: when neuroscience and commerce collide. AJOB Neuroscience, 2 (4): 18–27. http://doi.org/10.1080/21507740.2011.611123

Churchland P (2002) Brain Wise: Studies in Neurophilosophy. Cambridge, MA: Bradford Books.

Coyne JA (2012) You don't have free will. The Chronicle of Higher Education 58 (29): B6.

Damasio A (2007) Neuroscience and ethics: intersections. The American Journal of Bioethics 7 (1): 3–7.

Damasio H, Grabowski T, Frank R, Galaburda AM and Damasio AR (1994) The return of Phineas Gage: clues about the brain from the skull of a famous patient. Science 264: 1102–1105.

Dennett D (1984) Elbow Room: The Varieties of Free Will worth Wanting. Cambridge, MA: Bradford Books.

Frone, MR (2006) Prevalence and distribution of illicit drug use in the workforce and in the workplace: findings and implications from a U.S. national survey. The Journal of Applied Psychology, 91 (4): 856–869. http://doi.org/10.1037/0021‐9010.91.4.856

Gardini, S, Cloninger, CR, and Venneri, A (2009) Individual differences in personality traits reflect structural variance in specific brain regions. Brain Research Bulletin, 79 (5): 265–270. http://doi.org/10.1016/j.brainresbull.2009.03.005

Giacino JT, Ashwal S, Childs N, et al. (2002) The minimally conscious state. Neurology 58 (3): 349–353.

Greely, H, Sahakian, B, Harris, J, Kessler, RC, Gazzaniga, M, Campbell, P, and Farah, MJ (2008) Towards responsible use of cognitive‐enhancing drugs by the healthy. Nature, 456 (7223): 702–705. http://doi.org/10.1038/456702a

Greenberg, BD, Malone, DA, Friehs, GM, Rezai, AR, Kubu, CS, Malloy, PF, Salloway SP, Okun MS, Goodman WK Rasmussen, SA (2006) Three‐year outcomes in deep brain stimulation for highly resistant obsessive‐compulsive disorder. Neuropsychopharmacology, 31 (11): 2384–2393. http://doi.org/10.1038/sj.npp.1301165

Greene, JD (2001) An fMRI investigation of emotional engagement in moral judgment. Science, 293 (5537): 2105–2108. http://doi.org/10.1126/science.1062872

Hamilton, R, Messing, S, and Chatterjee, A (2011) Rethinking the thinking cap: ethics of neural enhancement using noninvasive brain stimulation. Neurology, 76 (2): 187–193. http://doi.org/10.1212/WNL.0b013e318205d50d

Huber, CG, and Huber, J (2009) Epistemological considerations on neuroimaging–a crucial prerequisite for neuroethics. Bioethics, 23 (6): 340–348. http://doi.org/10.1111/j.1467‐8519.2009.01728.x

Ilieva, I, Boland, J, and Farah, MJ (2013) Objective and subjective cognitive enhancing effects of mixed amphetamine salts in healthy people. Neuropharmacology, 64, 496–505. http://doi.org/10.1016/j.neuropharm.2012.07.021

Irle, E, Ruhleder, M, Lange, C, Seidler‐Brandler, U, Salzer, S, Dechent, P, Weniger G, Leibing E Leichsenring, F (2010) Reduced amygdalar and hippocampal size in adults with generalized social phobia. Journal of Psychiatry and Neuroscience, 35 (2): 126–131. http://doi.org/10.1503/jpn.090041

Jarrett C (2014) Read This Before Zapping Your Brain. Wired Magazine http://www.wired.com/2014/01/read‐zapping‐brain/ (accessed on January 20, 2014)

Judson, R, and Langdon, SW (2009) Illicit use of prescription stimulants among college students: prescription status, motives, theory of planned behaviour, knowledge and self‐diagnostic tendencies. Psychology, Health and Medicine, 14 (1): 97–104. http://doi.org/10.1080/13548500802126723

Kjærsgaard, T (2015) Enhancing motivation by use of prescription stimulants: the ethics of motivation enhancement. AJOB Neuroscience, 6 (1): 4–10. http://doi.org/10.1080/21507740.2014.990543

Kraemer, F (2010) Authenticity anyone? The enhancement of emotions via neuro‐psychopharmacology. Neuroethics, 4 (1): 51–64. http://doi.org/10.1007/s12152‐010‐9075‐3

Kraemer, F (2011) Me, myself and my brain implant: deep brain stimulation raises questions of personal authenticity and alienation. Neuroethics, 6 (3): 483–497. http://doi.org/10.1007/s12152‐011‐9115‐7

Kramer PD (1993) Listening to Prozac. New York: Viking.

Lacy, JW, and Stark, CEL (2013) The neuroscience of memory: implications for the courtroom. Nature Reviews. Neuroscience, 14 (9): 649–658. http://doi.org/10.1038/nrn3563

Lavazza, A, and De Caro, M (2010) Not so fast. On some bold neuroscientific claims concerning human agency. Neuroethics, 3, 23–41. http://doi.org/10.1007/s12152‐009‐9053‐9

Levy, N (2011) Neuroethics: a new way of doing ethics. AJOB Neuroscience, 2 (2): 3–9. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3272467/

Libet B, Gleason CA, Wright EW and Pearl DK (1983) Time of conscious intention to act in relation to onset of cerebral activity (readiness‐potential). Brain 106 (3): 623–642.

Majdandžić, J, Bauer, H, Windischberger, C, Moser, E, Engl, E, and Lamm, C (2012) The human factor: behavioral and neural correlates of humanized perception in moral decision making. PLoS One, 7 (10): e47698. http://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0047698

Mathews, DJH, Rabins, PV, and Greenberg, BD (2011) Deep brain stimulation for treatment‐resistant neuropsychiatric disorders. In J Illes and BJ Sahakian (Eds.), The Oxford Handbook of Neuroethics. Oxford University Press, Oxford (pp. 441–453).

Mayberg, HS, Lozano, AM, Voon, V, McNeely, HE, Seminowicz, D, Hamani, C, Schwalb JM, Kennedy, SH (2005) Deep brain stimulation for treatment‐resistant depression. Neuron, 45 (5): 651–660. http://doi.org/10.1016/j.neuron.2005.02.014

Mobbs, D, Lau, HC, Jones, OD, and Frith, CD (2007) Law, responsibility, and the brain. PLoS Biology, 5 (4): e103. http://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pbio.0050103

Moffitt, TE, Ross, S, and Raine, A (2011) Crime and biology. In Crime and Public Policy, JQ Wilson, J Petersilia, Oxford, Oxford University Press (pp. 53–87).

Morse SJ (2006) Brain overclaim syndrome and criminal responsibility: a diagnostic note. Ohio State Journal of Criminal Law 3: 397–412.

Müller, CP, and Schumann, G (2011) Drugs as instruments: a new framework for non‐addictive psychoactive drug use. Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 34 (06): 293–310. http://doi.org/10.1017/S0140525X11000057

Müller, S, and Christen, M (2011) Deep brain stimulation in Parkinsonian patients—ethical evaluation of cognitive, affective, and behavioral sequelae. AJOB Neuroscience, 2 (1): 3–13. http://www.bioethics.net/articles/deep‐brain‐stimulation‐in‐parkinsonian‐patients‐ethical‐evaluation‐of‐cognitive‐affective‐and‐behavioral‐sequelae/

Murphy, E, Illes, J, and Reiner, PB (2008) Neuroethics of neuromarketing. Journal of Consumer Behaviour, 7 (4–5): 293–302. http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/cb.252/abstract

Murphy, MD, Guggenmos, DJ, Bundy, DT, and Nudo, RJ (2015) Current challenges facing the translation of brain computer interfaces from preclinical trials to use in human patients. Frontiers in Cellular Neuroscience, 9, 1–14. http://doi.org/10.3389/fncel.2015.00497

Phelps, EA, O'Connor, KJ, Cunningham, WA, Funayama, ES, Gatenby, JC, Gore, JC, and Banaji, MR (2000) Performance on indirect measures of race evaluation predicts amygdala activation. Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, 12 (5): 729–738. http://doi.org/10.1162/089892900562552

Purcell RH (2014) Lumosity: a “personal trainer for your brain”? The Neuroethics Blog, http://www.theneuroethicsblog.com/2014/03/lumosity‐personal‐trainer‐for‐your‐brain_4.html (accessed on March 4, 2014)

Purcell, RH, and Rommelfanger, KS (2015) Internet‐based brain training games, citizen scientists, and big data: ethical issues in unprecedented virtual territories. Neuron, 86 (2): 356–359. http://doi.org/10.1016/j.neuron.2015.03.044

Ruigrok, ANV, Salimi‐Khorshidi, G, Lai, M‐C, Baron‐Cohen, S, Lombardo, MV, Tait, RJ, and Suckling, J (2014) A meta‐analysis of sex differences in human brain structure. Neuroscience and Biobehavioral Reviews, 39, 34–50. http://doi.org/10.1016/j.neubiorev.2013.12.004

Schacter, D, Verfaellie, M, and Pradere, D (1996) The neuropsychology of memory illusions: false recall and recognition in amnesic patients. Journal of Memory and Language, 35 (2): 319–334. http://doi.org/10.1006/jmla.1996.0018

Schreiber, D, Fonzo, G, Simmons, AN, Dawes, CT, Flagan, T, Fowler, JH, and Paulus, MP (2013) Red brain, blue brain: evaluative processes differ in democrats and republicans. PLoS One, 8 (2): e52970. http://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0052970

Talan J (2014) DARPA: on the hunt for neuroprosthetics to enhance memory. Neurology Today 14: 8–10.

Tovino, SA (2005) The confidentiality and privacy implications of functional magnetic resonance imaging. The Journal of Law, Medicine and Ethics, 33 (4): 844–850. http://doi.org/10.1111/j.1748‐720X.2005.tb00550.x

Trimper, J, Wolpe, PR and Rommelfanger, KS (2014) When “I” becomes “We”: ethical implications of emerging brain‐to‐brain interfacing technologies. Frontiers in Neuroengineering, 7, 4. http://doi.org/10.3389/fneng.2014.00004

Vrecko, S (2013) Just how cognitive is “cognitive enhancement”? On the significance of emotions in university students' experiences with study drugs. AJOB Neuroscience, 4 (1): 4–12. http://doi.org/10.1080/21507740.2012.740141

Weniger, G, Lange, C, and Irle, E (2006) Abnormal size of the amygdala predicts impaired emotional memory in major depressive disorder. Journal of Affective Disorders, 94 (1–3): 219–229. http://doi.org/10.1016/j.jad.2006.04.017

Westermeyer, J (2005) Historical and social context of psychoactive substance use disorders. Clinical textbook of addictive disorders, Frances RJ; Miller SI; Mack AH 3rd (16–34), New York: The Guilford Press. Retrieved from http://search.ebscohost.com.proxy‐ub.rug.nl/login.aspx?direct=true&db=psyh&AN=2005‐08060‐002&site=ehost‐live&scope=site

Wolpe, PR (2002) Treatment, enhancement, and the ethics of neurotherapeutics. Brain and Cognition, 50 (3): 387–395. Retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12480485

Wolpe, PR (2006) Religious responses to neuroscientific questions. In J Illes (Ed.), Neuroethics: Defining the Issues in Theory, Practice, and Policy (pp. 289–296). Oxford Oxford University Press.

Wolpe PR, Ford PJ and Harhay M (2007) Ethical issues in deep brain stimulation. In: Baltuch G and Stern M (eds) Deep Brain Stiumlation for Parkinsons Diseases: Neurological Disease and Therapy, pp. 323–338. New York: CRC Press/Taylor and Francis.

Wolpe PR and Langleben DD (2008) Lies, damn lies, and lie detectors. Harvard Business Review 86 (2): 25.

Wolpe, PR (2010) Is my mind mine? Neuroethics and brain imaging. In The Penn Center Guide to Bioethics, Ravitsky V, Fiester A, Caplan AL (pp. 85–94). New York, Springer.

Further Reading

Churchland PS (2013) Touching a Nerve: Our Brains, Our Selves. New York: WW Norton and Company.

Farah MJ (2005) Neuroethics: the practical and the philosophical. Trends in Cognitive Sciences 9 (1): 34–40.

Gazzaniga MS (2005) The Ethical Brain. New York: Dana Press.

Glannon W (2007) Bioethics and the Brain. New York: Oxford University Press.

Contact Editor close
Submit a note to the editor about this article by filling in the form below.

* Required Field

How to Cite close
Purcell, Ryan H, and Wolpe, Paul R(Jul 2016) Overview of Neuroethics. In: eLS. John Wiley & Sons Ltd, Chichester. http://www.els.net [doi: 10.1002/9780470015902.a0026498]