Tag: cognition

Bioethics Blogs

Antibody Makes Alzheimer’s Protein Detectable in Blood

Caption: The protein tau (green) aggregates abnormally in a brain cell (blue). Tau spills out of the cell and enters the bloodstream (red). Research shows that antibodies (blue) can capture tau in the blood that reflect its levels in the  brain.
Credit: Sara Moser

Age can bring moments of forgetfulness. It can also bring concern that the forgetfulness might be a sign of early Alzheimer’s disease. For those who decide to have it checked out, doctors are likely to administer brief memory exams to assess the situation, and medical tests to search for causes of memory loss. Brain imaging and spinal taps can also help to look for signs of the disease. But an absolutely definitive diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease is only possible today by examining a person’s brain postmortem. A need exists for a simple, less-invasive test to diagnose Alzheimer’s disease and similar neurodegenerative conditions in living people, perhaps even before memory loss becomes obvious.

One answer may lie in a protein called tau, which accumulates in abnormal tangles in the brains of people with Alzheimer’s disease and other “tauopathy” disorders. In recent years, researchers have been busy designing an antibody to target tau in hopes that this immunotherapy approach might slow or even reverse Alzheimer’s devastating symptoms, with promising early results in mice [1, 2]. Now, an NIH-funded research team that developed one such antibody have found it might also open the door to a simple blood test [3].

Scientists know that tau loosened from abnormal tangles exits the brain and enters the bloodstream.

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 2017, Part II by Julia Kowalski

This is Part II of March’s article round-up. You can find part I here.

In addition to the articles below, Theory, Culture and Society features an interview with Michel Foucault from 1983.

New Genetics and Society

Everything and nothing: regulating embryo research in Canada

Alana Cattapan & Dave Snow

This article examines how medical and scientific professionals experience and engage with the governance of embryo research in Canada. Drawing on the history of embryo regulation in Canada and the findings of a survey conducted with lab directors in Canadian fertility clinics, we identify a disjuncture between the rules established by legislation, regulations, and research ethics guidelines and the real-life experiences of professionals in the field. This disjuncture, we argue, is the result of both the absence of implementation mechanisms that would give substance to the governing framework, as well as an inability on the part of medical and scientific professionals to engage in robust self-regulation. Overall, we demonstrate that in an ethically charged and highly technical area of policy-making like embryonic research, clarity about the roles and responsibilities of government and professionals in policy-making and implementation is critical to effective governance.

Not just about “the science”: science education and attitudes to genetically modified foods among women in Australia

Heather J. Bray & Rachel A. Ankeny

Previous studies investigating attitudes to genetically modified (GM) foods suggest a correlation between negative attitudes and low levels of science education, both of which are associated with women. In a qualitative focus group study of Australian women with diverse levels of education, we found attitudes to GM foods were part of a complex process of making “good” food decisions, which included other factors such as locally produced, fresh/natural, healthy and nutritious, and convenient.

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

Functional neo-Aristotelianism as a way to preserve moral agency: A response to Dr William Casebeer’s lecture: The Neuroscience of Moral Agency

Written by Dr Anibal Monasterio Astobiza

Audio File of Dr Casebeer’s talk is available here: http://media.philosophy.ox.ac.uk/uehiro/HT17_Casebeer.mp3

 

Dr. William Casebeer has an unusual, but nonetheless very interesting, professional career. He retired from active duty as a US Air Force Lieutenant Colonel and intelligence analyst. He obtained his PhD in Cognitive Science and Philosophy from University of California, San Diego, under the guidance and inspiration of Patricia and Paul Churchland, served as a Program Manager at the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency from 2010-14 in the Defense Sciences Office and helped to established DARPA’s neuroethics program. Nowadays, Dr. William Casebeer is a Research Area Manager in Human Systems and Autonomy for Lockheed Martin’s Advanced Technology Laboratories. As I said, not the conventional path for a well known researcher with very prominent contributions in neuroethics and moral evolution. His book Natural Ethical Facts: Evolution, Connectionism, and Moral Cognition (MIT Press) presented a functional and neo-Aristotelian account of morality with a clever argument trying to solve G. E. Moore´s naturalistic fallacy: according to Casebeer it is possible to reduce what is good, or in other words morality, to natural facts.

In his public lecture of 14 February 2017, held at the Lecture Theatre, Oxford Martin School, Oxford, entitled “The Neuroscience of Moral Agency (Or: How I Learned to Love Determinism and Still Respect Myself in the Morning”, Dr. William Casebeer resubmitted the case for a functional neo-Aristotelianism  model for agency that defends a compatibilist view of free will: to accept determinism as viable but still hold moral concepts true.

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

M[Emory] Enhancement and its Implications

By Shweta Sahu
Imagine a situation in which you suffer from severe anterograde amnesia, a form of short term memory loss, and can’t recall information presented to you even 7 seconds before– let alone being able to remember the one thing you went to Target to buy, but forgot. Such is the case of Clive Wearing, a man known for his lack of short term memory. His wife notes, “you ask him a question and he’ll give you an answer but while he’s giving me the answer, he’s already forgotten the question. That’s how short it is.” He himself notes “the brain has been totally inactive—day and night the same—no thoughts at all.” Though this is one of the most severe cases of amnesia observed, it underscores how crucial memory is not only to every day functioning, but also for one’s sense of self. Autobiographical memories and the ability to recall these emotional and important events are an integral component of one’s identity. These events, in turn, get tied into personal narratives that our personalities are built on. In the case of Mr. Wearing, he is stuck in this personality because of the damage to his hippocampus and closely related brain regions, an area of the brain necessary for transferring information from short term to long term memory. As a result, he reports that he feels like he is dead and is constantly waking up into a new reality.
Video courtesy of YouTube

Realizing how significant memory is one thing, but the ability to recover or enhance memory is another.

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

What is Feminist Neuroethics About?

By Ben Wills

Ben Wills studied Cognitive Science at Vassar College, where his thesis examined cognitive neuroscience research on the self. He is currently a legal assistant at a Portland, Oregon law firm, where he continues to hone his interests at the intersections of brain, law, and society.
As the boundaries of what may be considered “neuroethics” extend with the development of new kinds of technologies and the evolving interests of scholars, its branches encounter substantial structures of adjacent scholarship. “Feminist neuroethics” is a multidimensional construct and a name that can be afforded both to approaches that fall within the bounds of mainstream neuroethics and metatheoretical challenges to the scope and lines of debate within neuroethics. While acknowledging that scholarship at the intersections of academic feminism/gender studies, feminist science studies, ethics, and neuroscience is much more substantial and diverse than I’m considering here, my modest aim in this post is to highlight how the label “feminist neuroethics” has been used to look at what scholars consider important for neuroethics. In so doing we can see what scholars in these fields see as worth highlighting when identifying their work as such.

The phrase “feminist neuroethics” is young, first used (to my knowledge) in peer-reviewed literature by philosopher Peggy DesAutels in her 2010 article on “Sex differences and neuroethics,” published in Philosophical Psychology (though see Chalfin, Murphy, & Karkazis, 2008 for a close antecedent). She writes that, having found herself considering the ethics of neuroscience, the neuroscience of ethics, and sex/gender differences, her “overlapping approach could neatly be summarized as feminist neuroethics” (p.

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

Neuroeconomics and Reinforcement Learning: The Concept of Value in the Neuroscience of Morals

By Julia Haas
Julia Haas is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Philosophy at Rhodes College. Her research focuses on theories of valuation and choice.
Imagine a shopper named Barbara in the pasta aisle of her local market.  Just as she reaches for her favorite brand of pasta, she remembers that one of the company’s senior executives made a homophobic statement. What should she do? She likes the brand’s affordability and flavor but prefers to buy from companies that support LGBTQ communities. Barbara then notices that a typically more expensive brand of pasta is on sale and buys a package of that instead. Notably, she doesn’t decide what brand of pasta she will buy in the future.

Barbara’s deliberation reflects a common form of human choice. It also raises a number of questions for moral psychological theories of normative cognition. How do human beings make choices involving normative dimensions? Why do normative principles affect individuals differently at different times? And where does the feeling that so often accompanies normative choices, namely that something is just right or just wrong, come from? In this post, I canvass two novel neuroethical approaches to these questions, and highlight their competing notions of value. I argue that one the most pressing questions theoretical neuroethicists will face in the coming decade concerns how to reconcile the reinforcement learning-based and neuroeconomics-based conceptions of value.
One popular approach to the problem of normative cognition has come from a growing interest in morally-oriented computational neuroscience. In particular, philosophers and cognitive neuroscientists have turned to an area of research known as reinforcement learning (RL), which studies how agents learn through interactions with their environments, to try and understand how moral agents interact in social situations and learn to respond to them accordingly.

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

The National Academy of Sciences Expands its Approval for Gene Editing

by Keisha Ray, Ph.D.

This week the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) released a report giving their support for altering heritable genes when previously the NAS only supported altering uninheritable genes. Although it gave very special conditions in which altering human eggs, sperm, and embryos would be acceptable, giving their seal of approval to any alteration of the human germline is a revolutionary move for the current and future status of genetic engineering for a few reasons:

  1. Expanding Clinical Research

Genetic engineering is already practiced for non-heritable genes. Genes that are known to cause chronic and debilitating diseases are the subject of clinical trials all across the world. However, with the advancement of affordable gene editing technology like CRISPR, some bioethicists, physicians, and scientists have changed their stance on what was once seen as an unethical use of genetic engineering—altering genes that could be passed down to offspring. Now the NAS endorses extending the benefits of gene editing to preventing, curing, and treating chronic, deadly, and heritable diseases, when there is no alternative intervention. Changing their ethical stance on gene editing will expand clinical research and change how research funds are allocated. It will give laboratories new avenues in which to pursue cures for diseases that were once thought incurable. Inevitably, there will be also be an increase in lively debate among bioethicists about what the NAS’s new report means for the relationship between science, ethics, and patient care.

  1. Research Arms-Race

The release of this report, for better or for worse, puts the United States on the same playing field as other countries who have already begun to use gene editing tools to alter the germline, particularly in embryos.

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 News

New Articles for International Journal of Human–Computer Interaction Are Now Available

International Journal of Computer-Human Interaction (Latest Articles) is available online by subscription only.

Articles include:

  • “Consumer Health Informatics Interventions Must Support User Workflows, Be Easy-to-Use, and Improve Cognition: Applying the SEIPS 2.0 Model to Evaluate Patients’ and Clinicians’ Experiences with the CONDUIT-HID Intervention” by Vanessa I. Martine et al.
  • “Nurses’ Perceptions of A Novel Health Information Technology: A Qualitative Study in the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit” by Onur Asan et al.
  • “Human Robot Engagement and Acceptability in Residential Aged Care” by Rajiv Khosla, Khanh Nguyen, and Mei-Tai Chu

 

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 News

Brain-computer interface allows completely locked-in people to communicate

A female participant in the locked-in study     

A computer interface that can decipher the thoughts of people who are unable to communicate could revolutionize the lives of those living with completely locked-in syndrome, according to a paper published this week in PLOS Biology.

And contrary to expectations, the participants in the study reported being “happy,” despite their extreme condition. The research was conducted by a multinational team, led by Niels Birbaumer, at the Wyss Center for Bio and Neuroengineering in Geneva.

Patients suffering from complete paralysis, but with preserved awareness, cognition, and eye movements and blinking are classified as having locked-in syndrome. If eye movements are also lost, the condition is referred to as completely locked-in syndrome.

In the trial, patients with completely locked-in syndrome were able to respond “yes” or “no” to spoken questions, by thinking the answers. A non-invasive brain-computer interface detected their responses by measuring changes in blood oxygen levels in the brain.

The results overturn previous theories that postulate that people with completely locked-in syndrome lack the goal-directed thinking necessary to use a brain-computer interface and are, therefore, incapable of communication.

Extensive investigations were carried out in four patients with ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease) — a progressive motor neuron disease that leads to complete destruction of the part of the nervous system responsible for movement.

The researchers asked personal questions with known answers and open questions that needed “yes” or “no” answers including: “Your husband’s name is Joachim?” and “Are you happy?” They found the questions elicited correct responses in 70% of the time.

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

Health Law at AALS 2017

Next week, in San Francisco, there is a plethora of health law related programming at the 111th Annual Meeting of the Association of American Law Schools.



THURSDAY, JAN 5


Health Law and Health Equity
8:30 am – 10:15 am
Continental Ballroom 5, Ballroom Level, Hilton
Moderator and Speaker: Elizabeth Pendo, Saint Louis University School of Law
Speakers:
Daniel Dawes, Executive Director, Government Relations, Policy & External Affairs, Morehouse School of Medicine
Dayna B. Matthew, University of Colorado Law School
Courtney Anderson, Georgia State University College of Law 
Medha D. Makhlouf, The Pennsylvania State University – Dickinson Law


Health Insurance and Access to Healthcare After the Affordable Care Act
10:30 am – 12:15 pm
Continental Ballroom 5, Ballroom Level, Hilton
Moderator: Allison K. Hoffman, University of California, Los Angeles School of Law
Speakers:
Brietta R. Clark, Loyola Law School, Los Angeles 
Mark A. Hall, Wake Forest University School of Law


The Affordable Care Act has significantly reshaped the landscape of private and public health insurance coverage and content. This panel will examine these changes and the effect on access to health care.


Children As Decisionmakers: Legal, Social, and Scientific Perspectives
1:30 pm – 3:15 pm
Continental Parlor 1, Ballroom Level, Hilton
Moderator: Annette R. Appell, Washington University in St. Louis School of Law
Speakers:
Emily Buss, The University of Chicago, The Law School 
Jonathan Todres, Georgia State University 
College of Law 
Marina Tolou-Shams, Associate Professor, In Residence,University of California, San Francisco School of Medicine
Charisa Kiyô Smith, University of Wisconsin Law School


How should the law reflect and incorporate our evolving understanding of what it means to be a child?

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.