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Intervention in the Brain

Intervention in the Brain: Politics, Policy, and Ethics

Robert H. Blank
Series: Basic Bioethics
Copyright Date: 2013
Published by: MIT Press
Pages: 384
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  • Book Info
    Intervention in the Brain
    Book Description:

    New findings in neuroscience have given us unprecedented knowledge about the workings of the brain. Innovative research -- much of it based on neuroimaging results -- suggests not only treatments for neural disorders but also the possibility of increasingly precise and effective ways to predict, modify, and control behavior. In this book, Robert Blank examines the complex ethical and policy issues raised by our new capabilities of intervention in the brain. After surveying current knowledge about the brain and describing a wide range of experimental and clinical interventions -- from behavior-modifying drugs to neural implants to virtual reality -- Blank discusses the political and philosophical implications of these scientific advances. If human individuality is simply a product of a network of manipulable nerve cell connections, and if aggressive behavior is a treatable biochemical condition, what happens to our conceptions of individual responsibility, autonomy, and free will? In light of new neuroscientific possibilities, Blank considers such topics as informed consent, addiction, criminal justice, racism, commercial and military applications of neuroscience research, new ways to define death, and political ideology and partisanship. Our political and social institutions have not kept pace with the rapid advances in neuroscience. This book shows why the political issues surrounding the application of this new research should be debated before interventions in the brain become routine.

    eISBN: 978-0-262-31373-5
    Subjects: Health Sciences, Political Science

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Series Foreword
    (pp. vii-viii)
    Arthur Caplan, Joseph J. Fins, Rosamond Rhodes, Nadia N. Sawicki and Jan Helge Solbakk

    Glenn McGee and I developed the Basic Bioethics series and collaborated as series coeditors from 1998 to 2008. In fall 2008 and spring 2009 the series was reconstituted, with a new editorial board, under my sole editorship. I am pleased to present the thirty-sixth book in the series.

    The Basic Bioethics series makes innovative works in bioethics available to a broad audience and introduces seminal scholarly manuscripts, state-of-the-art reference works, and textbooks. Topics engaged include the philosophy of medicine, advancing genetics and biotechnology, end-of-life care, health and social policy, and the empirical study of biomedical life. Interdisciplinary work is encouraged....

  4. 1 The Human Brain: An Introduction
    (pp. 1-24)

    Like genetics and stem cell research, neuroscience¹ promises to be a highly controversial political issue. However, while the political ramifications of genetic research have been well documented and widely analyzed, less systematic scrutiny has been given to the political implications of neuroscience. The array of techniques and strategies for intervening in and imaging of the brain is expanding rapidly, and these techniques will be joined in the future by even more extraordinary capabilities. In addition to their use in treating neural diseases and disorders, these innovations promise increasingly precise and effective means of predicting, modifying, and controlling behavior. The advent...

  5. 2 Brain Intervention: State of the Art
    (pp. 25-64)

    This chapter describes the state of the art of a wide range of brain interventions and discusses the policy implications they raise. Most dramatic is direct brain intervention, including electroconvulsive therapy, electronic and magnetic stimulation of the brain, stereotaxic surgery, and neural implants that electrically stimulate, block, or record impulses from single neurons or groups of neurons. Similarly, drugs to modulate or enhance specific behavioral traits have proliferated and new generations of antipsychotic, anti-anxiety, and, especially, antidepressant drugs that inhibit serotonin reuptake are now among the most widely used pharmaceuticals. Moreover, nootropics for neuroenhancement are becoming more widely used and...

  6. 3 Neuroethics and Neuropolicy
    (pp. 65-88)

    This chapter first summarizes the range of ethical and related policy issues that accompany various forms of brain intervention. It then examines in more detail the movement of neuroethics issues to the policy domain and discusses how this complicates the context by bringing to the fore political considerations and divisions that place the dialogue and resolution of these issues in the milieu of interest-group politics. Because of the huge economic, social, and personal stakes surrounding neuroscience, this is unavoidable. As noted in chapter 2, historically, experimental and clinical interventions in the brain have elicited intense debate from many directions. Although...

  7. 4 Implications for Political Behavior: Addiction, Sex Differences, and Aggression
    (pp. 89-126)

    Neuroscience research and applications by their nature raise difficult political and policy issues and have wide-ranging implications for political behavior. Novel studies are reported almost daily in the media that raise questions about the role of the brain in explaining, among other things, altruism, love, truth telling, addiction, personality, political leanings, racial prejudice, moral reasoning, and individual responsibility (Davidson and Begley 2012). This chapter examines the ramifications of neuroscience findings for understanding political behavior in three disparate areas: addictive, risk-taking behaviors; sex differences and sexual orientation; and aggressive behavior. Each of these areas also produces distinctive, politically sensitive policy dilemmas...

  8. 5 Individual Responsibility and the Criminal Justice System
    (pp. 127-162)

    This chapter introduces emerging issues facing the criminal justice system that accompany new knowledge about human behavior from neuroscience research. After a short overview of the general issues, it examines the global issues regarding the implications of neuroscience for our notions of individual responsibility and the debate over free will and personal autonomy. The chapter then summarizes current neuroscience research into brain disorders and psychopathy and discusses the impact of this unfolding knowledge on the rules of evidence. This is followed by a more focused analysis of the growing pressures on the courts to countenance evidence based on brain imaging...

  9. 6 Implications for Social Behavior, Racism, and Conflict
    (pp. 163-198)

    This chapter discusses how emerging knowledge of the brain might help us better understand social relations, racism, ethnic conflict, and recurring wars. For example, there has been an increased interest in the conflict resolution literature regarding the impact of neuroscience findings on rational choice theory, and thus on the foundations of foreign policy. Likewise, there is considerable research on the neural foundations of bias and its ties to intergroup conflict. Imaging studies have found that even among seemingly unprejudiced people, racial category labels prime stereotypes and out-group cues such as faces activate negative evaluative terms. Moreover, research on the limbic...

  10. 7 The Media, Commercial and Military Applications, and Public Policy
    (pp. 199-228)

    This chapter shifts attention from the contributions of neuroscience to our understanding of social behavior, particularly as it relates to cultural differences and in- and out-groups, to the policy arena. As introduced in chapter 3, neuroscience raises a myriad of policy issues at many different levels. Some focus on research priorities and safety and efficacy concerns, some on individual applications, and others address the broader social implications. These latter issues are often the most difficult to engage because they take place in a complex societal environment with many countervailing forces. This chapter examines several of the major factors outside the...

  11. 8 Neuroscience and the Definition of Death
    (pp. 229-250)

    Many death-related policy issues, from treatment abatement to physician-assisted suicide, continue to elicit considerable public and professional debate. This is not surprising because they are among the most intensely emotional and ethically fraught issues. “The seemingly simple concept of death is subject to law and clouded by cultural, religious, and scientific beliefs” (Dinsmore and Garner 2009, 216). One of these social policy issues that will not subside is how we define the death of a human. There are two critical dimensions to this question. The first is the conceptual interpretation of what death means in the context of medical technology, since...

  12. 9 Politics and the Brain
    (pp. 251-278)

    This chapter directs attention to the political implications of neuroscience as manifested by groundbreaking work on decision making, political ideology, and voting behavior. It is argued that the issues raised in this book will not only be prominent in public policy discussions, they will also shape the way in which the dialogue itself is conducted. As noted by Friend and Thayer (2011), since the triumph of behavioralism in the 1950s political science has focused on locating causation anywhere but with the individual. Organizational approaches, the study of bureaucracy, and systemic analyses have almost forced studies of individuals and psychological approaches...

  13. References
    (pp. 279-326)
  14. Index
    (pp. 327-370)
  15. Back Matter
    (pp. 371-372)