Tag: cognition

Bioethics News

A New Edition of Minds and Machines Is Now Available

December 23, 2016

Minds and Machines (vol. 26, no. 4, 2016) is available online by subscription only.

Articles include:

  • “On the Risks of Relying on Analogies to Understand Cyber Conflicts” by Mariarosaria Taddeo
  • “The Internet, Cognitive Enhancement, and the Values of Cognition” by Richard Heersmink
  • “Dynamics of Perceptible Agency: The Case of Social Robots” by Maria Brincker

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

BioethicsTV (November 2016): Informed consent, HIV organ transplants, Forgiveness, Assisted Suicide, Treating Prisoners, Undue Influence in Consent, and Failure to Vaccinate

by Craig Klugman, Ph.D.

Grey’s Anatomy (Season 13, Episode 9). A building collapses when a landlord has failed to make necessary repairs a year after an earthquake. The landlord mistakes a resident for a priest and confesses that his neglect was the cause of the tragedy that has led to much morbidity and mortality. The resident wonders if he has to preserve confidentiality like a priest or if information told to a doctor is different. A fellow resident tells him that since it’s not medically related, he has no obligation to maintain this particular confidence. Later, after surgerty the landlord tells the resident that he knows there was never a priest, but he simply needs someone to forgive him. The question then is whether the physician can offer a patient forgiveness for causing mass casualties to others. Of course, a physician must treat every patient the same irrespective of anything the patient may or may not have done in life. Thus the serial killer is treated the same as the cop. Health care professionals must make no moral judgments about choosing who to treat and how. But what if a patient admits criminal neglect? If the physician is a mental health professional, then the therapeutic privilege of confidentiality may protect the patient’s secret (unless there is an admission of fraud or abuse). But to your surgeon or anesthesiologist there is no such promise of confidentiality. In fact, the non-therapist physician may be obligated to report knowledge of the crime.

Chicago Med (Season 2, Episode 7-11/3) The main story line consists of a female patient who presents with altered mental status.

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

Jennifer Greenwood, Becoming Human: The Ontogenesis, Metaphysics, and Expression of Human Emotionality, MIT Press, 2015

Becoming Human by Jennifer Greenwood is one of the most thought-provoking books on emotion and its expression I have read. At its core, it attempts to provide an account of the development of full human emotionality and in so doing argues the emotions are “transcranial.” Emotions are radically realized outside our nervous systems and beyond our skin. As children, we are functionally integrated affectively with our mothers; so much so that in a sense our emotions are not ours alone. Regardless of whether one agrees with her radical claims, it is a must-read for those interested in emotion and expression. In order appreciate the significance of this book, let me sketch its contents and raise a few criticisms.

Many, but certainly not all, psychologists and philosophers assume that there are basic emotions (BEs) and higher-cognitive emotions (HCEs). The former include fear, anger, disgust, happiness, surprise, and sadness; and the later include guilt, shame, and pride amongst others. BEs are thought of as natural kinds involving facial expression, homologous traits shared with non-human primates, specific brain structures, and stereotyped behaviors. HCEs differ in that they often do not have unique physiological profiles, facial expressions, dedicated brain regions, and culturally vary quite a bit. Greenwood argues that there are affective precursors that develop into BEs and HCEs. However, the distinction between BEs and HCEs lulls us into naïve views about nature and nurture, biology and culture. We have not taken their development from childhood as seriously as we should. Both develop through time.

Greenwood has us consider human infants.

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

Conference Report: “Biopolitics and Psychosomatics: Participating Bodies” by Alev Sen

Biopolitics and Psychosomatics: Participating Bodies

8 July 2016, University of Cambridge

Conveners:
Darin Weinberg, University of Cambridge
Monica Greco, Goldsmiths, University of London
Robbie Duschinsky, University of Cambridge
Michael Schillmeier, University of Exeter

Introduction

Can we think of our living bodies as involving forms of social intelligence, agency, and power? And if so, how might this proposition transform the ways in which we consider the possibilities and politics of patient participation? These were the questions at the core of the intellectual agenda of the conference “Biopolitics and Psychosomatics: Participating Bodies”, held on 8 July 2016 at the Centre for Research in the Arts, Social Sciences and Humanities (CRASSH) at the University of Cambridge. The event—co-convened by Monica Greco (Goldsmiths), Darin Weinberg and Robbie Duschinsky (University of Cambridge) and Michael Schillmeier (University of Exeter)—aimed to reclaim the term ‘psychosomatic’ from the reductive and polemical forms of engagement in which it is often caught, and use it as a springboard for reframing questions of agency, embodiment, responsibility, power and choice in the context of current challenges facing state-sponsored service provision in Europe and the US.[1] The spirit of the conference was explicitly exploratory, more concerned with creating space for a new type of conversation than to provide direct answers to the many questions raised. Despite a last-minute cancellation by Laurence Kirmayer, who was scheduled to deliver the closing keynote, the conference proved successful, stimulating discussion and debate about these important and timely questions, on practical, political and intellectual levels.

After Darin Weinberg’s welcome address Monica Greco’s introduction outlined the multiple connotations of the term ‘psychosomatic’ and the striking contrast between them.

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

Guilty or Not Guilty: Policy Considerations for Using Neuroimaging as Evidence in Courts

By Sunidhi Ramesh
This post was written as part of a class assignment from students who took a neuroethics course with Dr. Rommelfanger in Paris of Summer 2016. 

Sunidhi Ramesh, an Atlanta native, is a third year student at Emory University where she is double majoring in Sociology and Neuroscience and Behavioral Biology. She plans to pursue a career in medicine and holds a deep interest in sparking conversation and change around her, particularly in regards to pressing social matters and how education in America is both viewed and handled. In her spare time, Sunidhi is a writer, bridge player, dancer, and violinist.
 In 1893, Dr. Henry Howard Holmes opened his World’s Fair Hotel to the world [1].
But what his guests did not know was that the basement was filled with jars of poison, boxes of bones, and large surgical tables. Chutes from the guest rooms existed only to slide bodies into a pile downstairs. In the few months that the hotel was open for the public, Holmes, dubbed America’s first serial killer, killed an estimated number of 200 guests. Two years later, he was put on trial, found guilty, and sentenced to death [1].

H. H. Holmes, image courtesy WikiCommons
“I was born with the devil in me. I could not help the fact that I was a murderer, no more than the poet can help the inspiration to sing,” Holmes is quoted to have said [1]. But our judicial system does not care much for whether or not a murderer “can help it.”

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

Cross Post: Ig Nobel prize winner: why I lived like a badger, an otter, a deer and a swift

Written by Charles Foster, Research Associate, University of Oxford

This article was originally published in The Conversation

I have lived as a badger in a hole in a Welsh wood, as an otter in the rivers of Exmoor, an urban fox rummaging through the dustbins of London’s East End, a red deer in the West Highlands of Scotland and on Exmoor, and, most hubristically, a swift, oscillating between Oxford and West Africa. For this I was recently awarded an Ig Nobel Prize for “achievements that make people laugh, and then think”. Why I did this is not an unreasonable question. There are many answers. One is that I wanted to perceive landscapes more accurately.

We have at least five senses. By and large we use only one of them – vision. That’s a shame. We’re missing out on 80% of the available information about the world. I suspect it’s responsible for lots of our uncertainty about the sort of creatures we are, our personal crises, and the frankly psychopathic way in which most of us treat the natural world. If we only perceive 20% of something, we’re unlikely to be able to relate appropriately to it.

In fact, it’s rather worse than this. Vision – the sense by which we’re tyrannised – is intimately related to cognition. Listen to how we speak. “Seeing is believing,” we tell ourselves. If we understand someone, we’ll say, “I see”. This is a consequence of our evolutionary history. We grew up as a species on the plains of East Africa.

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

Embodied Cognition: What it means to "Throw like a Girl"

By Jenn Lee

Jenn Laura Lee is a PhD candidate in neuroscience at New York University. Her scattered neuroethics projects involve advancing harms reduction policies for illicit drug use and re-evaluating the ethics of animal experimentation.
While I tell myself now that I’m just “not the athletic type,” the reality is that I might have been. Back in middle school, I recall actually really enjoying track and field, basketball, and soccer. But at just the age when girls reach peak athletic shape, a socially-imposed understanding of “femininity” begins to forge a new, contrived relationship between one’s self and one’s body.
The rehearsal of gendered social performances run deep enough to mould even our most basic bodily movements. In Throwing like a Girl, Iris Young dissects this phenomenon through the philosophy of Simone de Beauvoir and Maurice Merleau-Ponty (who was, coincidentally, one of Simone de Beauvoir’s first romantic interests).

Many are familiar with de Beauvoir’s The Second Sex, in which she describes some of the structural biological differences between men and women that have perhaps led to female oppression. Maurice Merleau-Ponty, also a preeminent phenomenologist of the 40’s and 50’s, argued mainly for the primacy of embodiment – meaning that any sweeping claims about the nature of the external universe must first take into account our physical bodies and how they move, perceive, sense, and interact with the outside world. He would argue that if we want to study consciousness, we can’t only study the brain – we must concurrently strive to understand the basic sensorimotor phenomena which feed the brain everything it knows.
The concept of embodied cognition is taking off in cognitive neuroscience.

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

Redefining the X and Y-Axes of Cognitive Enhancement

By Somnath Das

This post was written as part of a class assignment from students who took a neuroethics course with Dr. Rommelfanger in Paris of Summer 2016.


I am a Senior at Emory University and am currently pursuing a double major in Neuroscience and Chemistry. Currently, I am applying to medical school. My interest in healthcare lies primarily in understanding the behavioral motivations of patients as they navigate through various healthcare systems. I also wish to study how to effectively translate innovations powered by biomedical research into accurate health information for patients and optimized healthcare delivery. Neuroethics allows me to focus these interests onto patient dignity and rights when considering the role of novel therapeutics and interventions in treatment. Studying this fascinating field has given me a perspective on the role that deontological considerations play in both neuroscience and medicine as a whole. It is with this perspective that I hope to approach my patients with a balanced worldview, taking into account both individual rights as well as stakeholders and developers participating in a rapidly changing field.
Hearing from leading scholars at the Neuroethics Network was a once in a lifetime moment for me. Participating in a wide-ranging, multi-faceted discussion about frontiers in the field proved to be really engaging and fostered my development as a student. Each seminar challenged my understanding of various topics both within and beyond the field of neuroscience, and each speaker gradually enhanced my appreciation of what is a growing field.

One session that I particularly enjoyed focused on Science Fiction and Neuroethics.

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

Cognitive Enhancement in the Movie Limitless Through a Lens of Structural Racism

By Nadia Irfan
This post was written as part of a class assignment from students who took a neuroethics course with Dr. Rommelfanger in Paris of Summer 2016.


The Western society familiar to most of us attending the Neuroethics Network conference in Paris is certainly one that values and glorifies financial gain and socio-economic upward mobility. We are obsessed with the notion of the “optimal” self: an idealized image of a self that never tires, never ages, and is always running at its top performance. The Neuroethics Network Cinéma du Cerveau movie Limitless raises an interesting perspective about who represents this image, who achieves and maintains this lifestyle, and whether this optimal version only has value in a competitive context.
I think when representing cognitive enhancement, it is important to note the lens it is viewed through. Eddie Morra, the main character in the film, is played by Bradley Cooper, “a young, able-bodied, white, cis-gendered heterosexual male,” as noted by Dr. Karen Rommelfanger at the conference. This white male image, when paired with idealized cognitive enhancement, appeals to young and old demographics, with the young wrapped up in the sexiness of the drug, and the old fascinated by anti-aging.
An indirect display of inaccessibility to the drug is the social power to maintain possession once receiving it. Studies show that there is an implicit tendency for white participants to associate white faces with pleasantness and black faces with unpleasantness [1]. Taking this a step further, studies even show that race bias engages the same neural circuitry as a conditioned fear response [2].

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

Mental Alchemy

By Adina Roskies

Adina Roskies is Professor of Philosophy and chair of the Cognitive Science Program at Dartmouth College. She received a Ph.D from the University of California, San Diego in Neuroscience and Cognitive Science in 1995, a Ph.D. from MIT in Philosophy in 2004, and an M.S.L. from Yale Law School in 2014. Dr. Roskies’ philosophical research interests lie at the intersection of philosophy and neuroscience, and include philosophy of mind, philosophy of science, and ethics. Her recent work focuses on free will and responsibility. Dr. Roskies is also a member of the AJOB Neuroscience editorial board.

In the last several months I’ve attended a few workshops on the topic of “cognitive ontology.” One workshop, held at the Rotman Institute at the University of Western Ontario was entitled “Rethinking the taxonomy of psychology”; the other, at Macquarie University was called “Reshaping the mind: New work on cognitive ontology”. The basic question raised by these workshops is whether the concepts we use to investigate cognition and refer to its constructs and processes are the “right” ones, or the ones we ought to use. The way in which this question has been elaborated by the speakers at these meetings varies: the topic has very broad scope. In what follows, I’ll sketch a few of the ways it has been discussed. As you will see, although the topic is more centrally one of interest to philosophy of neuroscience and psychology, it also has potential ramifications for neuroethics.
The way in which I have been thinking of cognitive ontology is prompted by my interest in neuroimaging.

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.