Understanding the human brain
Neuroscientific research and the increasing use of neurotechnologies raise a number of philosophical, ethical, social, and regulatory issues. The need to examine them has resulted in the development of a new field of research: neuroethics. This field is an interface between the empirical brain sciences, philosophy of mind, moral philosophy, ethics, and psychology, among other disciplines.
In our research, we have identified three main neuroethical approaches. “Neurobioethics” applies ethical theory and reasoning to address the practical issues arising from neuroscientific research and its clinical applications, and the issues raised by public communication of neuroscientific findings and their impact. “Empirical neuroethics” uses empirical data to inform theoretical (e.g., what is moral reasoning) and practical issues (e.g., who is really a moral agent). Finally, “Conceptual neuroethics” uses conceptual analysis to address issues such as how neuroscientific knowledge is constructed and why or how empirical knowledge of the brain can be relevant to philosophical, social, and ethical concerns.
OUR CONCEPTUAL NeuroethicS APPROACH
Adequate applied research must be based on solid conceptual work. Our conceptual approach, “fundamental neuroethics,” provides the theoretical framework to analyse practical issues, to examine ethical and neuroscientific concepts, and to address the impact of neuroscientific findings on society.
We investigate applications of neuroscience and ethical assessments of neuroscientific research. Current PhD projects look at how we can use neuroimaging and other methods to understand how the mind works in people who can’t use their behaviour to communicate and what it is like to be unconscious.
We are also part of the European Community (FET) Flagship Human Brain Project where we look at the ethical and social questions that are raised when we model the human brain, for example by simulation.
Neuroethics & Philosophy of the Brain
The CRB neuroethics research team is an international, multi-disciplinary group. Our backgrounds allow us to approach these issues from theoretical, philosophical, social, bio-political and clinical perspectives. We collaborate closely with neuroscientists to understand the ethical and philosophical questions that neuroscience brings. In this report, we provide a summary of our research. The report was updated in November 2016.
The Human Brain Project
The Human Brain Project is one of the European Community flagship projects and involves over 100 groups. Kathinka Evers leads the philosophical research.
Pervasive refusal syndrome
Karl Sallin is studying pervasive refusal syndrome as a disorder of consciousness.
Communicating with unconscious patients
The instrumental investigation and assessment of consciousness have witnessed an astonishing progress over the last years. Michele Farisco is looking at the neuroscience of disorders of consiousness.