Technology and Addiction Take Center Stage at Neuroethics Meeting

Moheb Costandi, M.Sc.
September 27, 2018

ins horizontalRapid technological advances are improving not only our understanding of how the brain works, but also our ability to manipulate it and make inferences about peoples’ behavior.

Such advances should ultimately be of huge benefit to society. They also raise various concerns, regarding privacy and identity in particular; and in a month’s time, some of the world’s leading bioethicists will convene in San Diego for the Annual Meeting of the International Neuroethics Society (INS) to discuss these issues.

The meeting will open on the morning of Thursday, November 1 with a lecture by former National Institutes of Mental Health director Tom Insel, where he will talk about the benefits and risks of collecting mental healthcare data from smartphones and other personal digital devices. Other experts in the field will lead a panel discussion immediately after to go over how this can be done responsibly.

On a related note, bioethicist Emily Postan of Edinburgh Law School will then deliver this year’s Rising Star Lecture, entitled, ‘Managing Neuroinformation, Protecting Identity.

Other topics to be discussed at the meeting include whether deep brain stimulation–a highly invasive, experimental surgical procedure for major depression—can cause personality changes, and the ethical issues arising from the experimental, and possible clinical, uses of cerebral organoids (so-called “mini-brains”) and other kinds of brain surrogates.

This year’s public program is a panel discussion about ethical concerns raised by the use of neurotechnology within the advertising industry (for which separate registration is required). The meeting will conclude with the Fred Kavli Distinguished Neuroethics Lecture about the opioid epidemic by psychiatrist Keith Humphreys of Stanford University. Registration to the INS meeting includes admittance to the full two-day program, boxed lunches on both days, Thursday’s evening reception, a continental breakfast on Friday, and the poster reception. Advance registration at a reduced rate is open until September 30.

Disclaimer: Moheb Costandi serves on the Board of Directors of the International Neuroethics Society.