Is neuroscience ethical?

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Background:

  • Neuroscientists & doctors can cause technology to look at neuroanatomy. 
  • Whether knowledge gained from neuroscience is always used ethically. 
  • Ethics resolved via costs vs benefits, if ethical benefits will outweigh the costs. It is unethical if benefits are not real or cause more difficulties to the individual or society. 
  • Neuroimaging is primarily diagnositic/predictive, non-intervional techniques can be used with interventional techniques. 
  • There have been recent developments in understanding/diagnosing disorders of consciousness with the development of mental imagery, trace conditioning and there are ethical debates for these new research methods. 
  • Neuroscience is the study of the brain and nervous system, the brain is the organ that enables us to adapt to our environment enabling us to learn. 
  • The brain is constantly changing and everything we do changes our brain. 'Plasticity' allows us to continuously take account of the environment and store memories to use in the future. 
  • We know that nature (genetics) and nurture (the environment) affect the learning brain but it is not understood exactly how genes influence the brains development and function. We know that genes can partially explain differences in reading ability, but there is no single gene that makes someone a good or bad reader. Genes can be turned on and off bu environmental factoes e.g. diet, chemicals, and social interactions ('epigenetics'). 
  • The brain continues to change in adults as skills e.g. music, juggling, and dance. These are all skills that are repeated and learned. 
  • 1 study showed that an area of the brain the hippocampus showed high areas of activity in taxi drivers who had spent years navigating the streets of London, compared with controls. When these drivers left their jobs, after a while the activity levels in these parts of the brain returned to normal. Neuroimaging is the process of securing images of the brain for conducting advanced medical diagnosis. 
  • Neuroethics comes from an evolving relationship between the bioethics and neuroscience where neuroimaging is crucial. 
  • There has always been a need to establish to 'brain' separate to the 'mind'. 
  • Neuroscientists believe that the brain is the vehicle and the mind is the driver. 
  • Several neuroimaging techniques seem to help establish this fact. 
  • Ethics has the potential to discriminate. There has to be a partnership between bioethics and the neuroscientists in order to deal with these issues and find a way to make good use of this technology. 

Why is studying neuroscience important?:

  • Increasing understanding of the brain and improved methods to study it helps enable scientists to develop treatments for neurological diseases such as Alzheimers and mental illnesses. 
  • Research also enables us to find out more about normal human behaviour and mental wellbeing. It can also help us develop artificial intelligence as well as treating illnesses, research could also lead to better understanding of how we learn, allowing us to optimise our intelligence. 
  • These developments are likely to provide significant benefits for our society and have implications for adverse range of public policy areas such as health, education, law and security. However, they will…

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