Centre for Research Ethics & Bioethics (CRB)

New book on direct brain communication

2016-05-13

Neuroscience offers exciting prospects for communication with infants and patients with brain disorders that reduce their consciousness. This possibility raises many questions. A new anthology offers a systematic assessment of philosophical, scientific, ethical, and legal issues that arise when neurotechnology is used to attempt this type of communication.

Neuroimaging, brain simulation and brain-computer interfaces could potentially allow clinicians and researchers to access mental states. The anthology is edited by Michele Farisco and Kathinka Evers who have worked with issues related to neuroethics and neurophilosophy for several years.

Michele FariscoMichele Farisco investigates the tools that neurotechnology offers to help people who can’t communicate verbally. He is both Associate Professor of Moral Philosophy and working on his second doctoral dissertation, which includes a focus on communication with unconscious patients.Kathinka Evers Kathinka Evers is Professor of Philosophy and one of the Directors of the European Flagship, Human Brain Project. She has investigated the possibilities of neurotechnological mind-reading. Over the last years, they have witnessed an astonishing progress in terms of the instrumental investigation and assessment of consciousness. This development has led to more graded approaches to assessing consciousness. This raises ethical and philosophical questions about what consciousness is that need to be taken into account when neuroscience attempts to assess consciousness and the responses that modern technology can identify and detect. Together, they are now developing a new view of the conscious brain.

Michele Farisco and Kathinka Evers believe it is necessary to take a multi-disciplinary approach with particular attention to the ethical and legal implications of this practice, both when it comes to clinical and experimental procedures. The book is focused on the scientific and clinical implications of the use of brain visualization and cerebral communication tools for patients with disorders of consciousness (DOC’s) and infant care. The book also suggests Neurotechnology and Direct Brain Communicationthat a re-evaluation of some ethical and legal concepts is necessary if they are to be used in this field, for example authority, informed consent and privacy.

According to Kathinka Evers, the book is written for a wide audience. It is relevant for researchers and postgraduate students in cognitive science, neurology, psychiatry, clinical psychology, medicine, medical ethics, medical technology, neuroethics, neurophilosophy and philosophy of mind. But it also has implications for the clinical care of comatose and infant patients and will be a useful resource in hospitals where these patients are treated. Finally, it may be of interest for a broader public who find questions of consciousness and the human mind fascinating.

If you are interested in these issues, we welcome you to a mini-symposium on Neurotechnology and Direct Brain Communication held in Uppsala on October 6, 2016.

About the book: Neurotechnology and Direct Brain Communication

By Josepine Fernow

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