Tag: cochlear implants

Bioethics Blogs

The Impossibility of Regret: Implications for Medical Decision Making Disability Ethics

by J.S. Blumenthal-Barby, Ph.D.

In his recent book, “The View From Here: On Affirmation, Attachment and the Limits of Regret,” philosopher R. Jay Wallace enters interesting philosophical territory that has significant implications for bioethics topics such as medical decision making and disability ethics. Wallace begins his book by introducing the example of a young girl who becomes pregnant as a teenager, has the child, and is now an adult “looking back.” Wallace holds that it is impossible for the now woman to regret the decision she made to have a child so young because of the attachment she now has to the child, despite the fact that she recognizes that this was, objectively, a “bad” or unjustified decision. The main phenomenon that Wallace focuses on in the book is what he calls the “attitude of affirmation” which refers to the tendency people have to abjure regrets for earlier events we look back on (i.e., we say we would make the same choice over again). This tendency is conditioned by our attachments resulting from that decision. And Wallace points out that there is often a divergence between our attitudes of retrospective affirmation and our evaluative assessment about justification (i.e., we admit that it may not have been the right or justified decision under the circumstances). This divergence allows for a person to have two views, in a way. One is the view that they would “do it all over again” and the other is the view that in a way “it was the wrong thing to do.”

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.

Bioethics Blogs

In the Journals, March 2015 – Part 2 by Anna Zogas

Here is a selection of journal articles published toward the end of March. Also check out this month’s first In the Journals post, and Science in Context’s special issue on mind and brain science in the twentieth century.

Disability Studies Quarterly (Open Access) 

Listen and Speak: Power-Knowledge-Truth and Cochlear Implants in Toronto
Tracey Edelist

Cochlear implants and auditory-verbal therapy are the latest techniques and technologies used to make deaf people learn to listen and speak. This paper provides a genealogical analysis of the Cochlear Implant Program at SickKids Hospital in Toronto, Ontario, Canada and shows how this program exemplifies the medicalization of deafness while denying deaf children the opportunity to learn sign language. Using Foucault’s concept of governmentality, the relations between power, knowledge, truth and their influences on the program’s practices are revealed in order to provide insight into Canadian society’s conceptions of deafness. This analysis reveals the Cochlear Implant Program as a capitalist establishment that is supported by unquestioned reverence of modern medicine and technology, oriented by a quest for normalcy. The paper concludes by encouraging members of the Deaf community and their supporters to challenge the hegemony of normalcy by utilizing alternate research-based knowledge-truths of cochlear implants and sign language.

“Crying Doesn’t Work”: Emotion and Parental Involvement of Working Class Mothers Raising Children with Developmental Disabilities
Amy Christine Sousa

This article presents three critical case studies that explore the relationship between income and parental involvement in the education of children with developmental disabilities. Interviewed as part of a larger study on mothering children with developmental disabilities, Joy, Jackie, and Maya are low income mothers of children with severe developmental disabilities living in New Hampshire.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.

Bioethics Blogs

Creative Minds: A Baby’s Eye View of Language Development

Click to start videoIf you are a fan of wildlife shows, you’ve probably seen those tiny video cameras rigged to animals in the wild that provide a sneak peek into their secret domains. But not all research cams are mounted on creatures with fur, feathers, or fins. One of NIH’s 2014 Early Independence Award winners has developed a baby-friendly, head-mounted camera system (shown above) that captures the world from an infant’s perspective and explores one of our most human, but still imperfectly understood, traits: language.

Elika Bergelson

Elika Bergelson
Credit: Zachary T. Kern

Elika Bergelson, a young researcher at the University of Rochester in New York, wants to know exactly how and when infants acquire the ability to understand spoken words. Using innovative camera gear and other investigative tools, she hopes to refine current thinking about the natural timeline for language acquisition. Bergelson also hopes her work will pay off in a firmer theoretical foundation to help clinicians assess children with poor verbal skills or with neurodevelopmental conditions that impair information processing, such as autism spectrum disorders.

Already, Bergelson has made progress towards building that firmer foundation. In her doctoral work at the University of Pennsylvania, she and her advisor Daniel Swingley showed that infants begin understanding words about six months after birth [1]. Until then, many researchers believed that babies were unable to shift their focus from sounds and syllables to the meaning of words until about 12 months of age. Using a laboratory-based system that tracked infants’ eye movements when they were asked to identify common objects on a computer screen, Bergelson and Swingley found that some 6-month-old babies could understand, to a certain degree, about a dozen nouns, such as “apple” or “hair.”

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.

Bioethics Blogs

Vision Loss Boosts Auditory Perception

Image of green specks with blobs of blue centered around a large red blob with tentacles

Caption: A neuron (red) in the auditory cortex of a mouse brain receives input from axons projecting from the thalamus (green). Also shown are the nuclei (blue) of other cells.
Credit: Emily Petrus, Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore

Many people with vision loss—including such gifted musicians as the late Doc Watson (my favorite guitar picker), Stevie Wonder, Andrea Bocelli, and the Blind Boys of Alabama—are thought to have supersensitive hearing. They are often much better at discriminating pitch, locating the origin of sounds, and hearing softer tones than people who can see. Now, a new animal study suggests that even a relatively brief period of simulated blindness may have the power to enhance hearing among those with normal vision.

In the study, NIH-funded researchers at the University of Maryland in College Park, and Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, found that when they kept adult mice in complete darkness for one week, the animals’ ability to hear significantly improved [1]. What’s more, when they examined the animals’ brains, the researchers detected changes in the connections among neurons in the part of the brain where sound is processed, the auditory cortex.

The new findings are surprising because such drastic changes in neural wiring were generally thought to occur only during a critical window of development in early childhood. That’s why children are such quick learners. As we age, the brain becomes less plastic, which means it’s less adaptable and less capable of remodeling neural connections. But this new study suggests we may have underestimated the brain’s ability to adapt in adulthood.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.

Bioethics Blogs

Peer review: Enhancing Human Capacities

The world’s first cyborg, artist Neil Harbission wears an eyeborg as an extension of himself rather than as part of his performance. NeilHarbisson

Human enhancement is one of the most controversial and exciting areas in bioethics: advances in science promise a future world where we can radically alter our basic capabilities.

This future may include technologies that allow us to make ourselves not only stronger and smarter, but also happier, kinder and morally better.

And this prospect raises a wide range of ethical questions.

Enhancing Human Capacities

Enhancing Human Capacities provides an excellent overview of the latest scientific developments in human enhancement and the ethical and policy issues they raise.

It is a collection of 37 articles on five central forms of enhancement –

  • Cognitive: improvement of mental capacities, such as memory;

  • Mood: improvements in our emotional experiences;

  • Physical: increases in our physical abilities, such us strength;

  • Moral: making our motivations more ethical.

  • Lifespan: interventions slowing or stoping the ageing process.

But enhancement is not something we need only concern ourselves with in the distant future.

Drugs that improve working memory and reduce mental fatigue are already on the market. The book reports that at some US universities 16% of the student body have reported using cognitive enhancers such as the drug modafinil, which improves working memory.

Already available cochlear implants and bionic eyes could mark the beginning of increasingly powerful computer-brain interfaces that improve our senses.

Medications such as antidepressants are beginning to be used by people who are not clinically diagnosed as depressed, but who just want to feel better.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.