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Posted on October 4, 2007

Workshop: The Ethics of Neuroimaging

The planned workshop is unique in several respects: (a) in the Netherlands, relatively little attention has thus far been paid to neuroethics; (b) to the best of our knowledge, this is the first workshop exclusively devoted to ethical issues in connection with neuroimaging; (c) the workshop should bring together a wide range of professionals, varying from clinicians and engineers to brain researchers, policy makers and philosophers.

We intend to publish the proceedings either as a booklet or in the form of a special issue of a suitable journal. The workshop is organized as part of our project “Neuroethics: ethical, legal and conceptual aspects of neuroscience“.

Photos from the workshop

Here are some photos from the workshop:


More information

For more information on the workshop, contact {encode=”” title=”Saskia Polder”}. Below, you can find more information on the workshop topic, keynote speakers and program.

On the topic of the workshop

Ethical problems encountered in connection with neuro-imaging include the following:

  1. Methodological and conceptual issues — the interpretation of the data in folk-psychological terms, the mismatch between scientific language and ordinary language, quantitative vs qualitative interpretations, the photoshop effect, natural kinds in psychology, and so on.
  2. Ethical aspects of the use and abuse of the results of brain imaging technology: the use of brain images in court, “brain fingerprinting”, foreseeable future use of brain scans by insurance companies and security agencies, the pros and cons of brain screening by private clinics, high hopes and false expectations among the general public, taking neuroscience into account in future legislation, how to lie with brain images, neuro-marketing, concerns about mind reading, privacy issues, and so on.
  3. The use of brain-imaging to shed light on decision making, including moral decision making (“the neuroimaging of ethics”).
  4. The impact of neuroimaging on our conception of man, free will and responsibility vs causal explanation. This is only the tip of the iceberg: neuroethics is a field which is currently undergoing an explosive growth, mainly due to the advances in neuroimaging.

image(Photo: Duke University Medical Center)

Keynote speakers

We are happy to announce our keynote speakers:

  • Adina Roskies, Dartmouth College, USA
  • The illusion of proximity: Neuroimaging and inferential distance
    Neuroimaging provides us with an important means of visualizing aspects of brain function, and neuroimages seem to be a direct and easily interpretable source of data that enables us to link mind and brain. I explore the analogy of neuroimaging with photography, and argue that people tend to view neuroimages as if they were photographs of brain activity. As such, they automatically accord neuroimages the same evidential value as they do photographs. In this talk I will explore the aptness of this analogy, and will discuss the ways in which the actual evidential status of neuroimaging differs from that it is often assumed to have. I consider the potential ethical consequences of this mismatch.

  • Bill Uttal, Arizona State University, USA
  • Bill Uttal will speak about the change from localized to distributed theories of neuroimaging representation and the impact that this change has on our courtroom proceedings.

  • Hank Greely, Stanford Law School, USA
  • Functional magnetic resonance imaging technology is being used to explore many aspects of human mental functioning, including deception. At least a dozen peer reviewed papers have claimed to be able to use fMRI to detect signs that a person is lying. In the United States, one firm, named No Lie MRI, is already selling fMRI-based lie detection services. Lie detection is a useful case study for discussing the implications of society’s non-medical uses of neuroimaging technologies. This talk will examine the limited scientific basis for fMRI-based lie detection, discuss forbidding the use of such technology until proven effective, and explore the limitations we might want to place on effective lie detection.

  • Gert-Jan Lokhorst, Delft University of Technology, The Netherlands
  • Neuroimaging: lessons from the philosophy of mind
    The philosophy of mind is more relevant to neuroethics than has thus far been assumed. For example, the dominant doctrine in contemporary philosophy of mind is externalism. There are two variants of this doctrine. According to passive externalism, “meanings are not in the head” because they depend on the constitution of the world (Putnam) or social conventions (Burge). If this is true, neuroethicists’ worry that it will one day be possible to read thoughts off from brains is unfounded. According to active externalism, “the mind is not in the head” because it includes common accessories such as notebooks and laptops (Clark and Chalmers). If this is true, neuroethicists’ exclusive attention to the brain is out of place. These are only two examples of ways in which the philosophy of mind now, for the first time in history, turns out to have implications beyond the academic world.

  • Stephan Schleim, Universitaetsklinikum Bonn, Germany
  • Carsten Griesel, Johannes-Gutenberg Universität, Germany
  • Karla Schneider, Affiliation: to be announced
  • Will the Minority Report come true? Implications of neuroscientific research on the German law system
    Cognitive neuroscience and especially neuroimaging has been a rapidly growing field during the past decades and challenges the traditional way of thinking in other sciences and the humanities. While there already exist new fields of scientific research such as “neurophilosophy”, “neuroethics” and “neuroeconomics”, the points of contact between law and neuroscience are hardly discussed.
    Steiner, an Austrian philosopher of the early 20th Century, points out that the foundation of legal studies and the prerequisite for legislation as well as for jurisdiction should be the knowledge of human life and human nature.That should be the main reason for dealing with the interaction between the two disciplines and constitutes the starting point of my own work:
    My dissertation concentrates on the legal questions of the use of imaging technologies as evidence in German criminal proceedings with special emphasis on their application as lie detectors in favour and/or to the detriment of the accused. In contrast – or rather in addition – to it, my talk will examine the possibilities of imaging methods in favour of criminal prevention and of the protection of crime victims. Aside from the use of imaging technologies during lawsuits, I will reflect on further legal questions raised by neuroscientific research:
    While I am focusing mainly on German penal law (e. g. alternatives to the present-time execution of punishment), I will as well allude to possible future consequences for the other legal disciplines of civil and public law (the idea of man, doctrine of privity of contract).
    As neuroscientific research might cause changes in some parts of the traditional juristic thinking, there is as well the question whether there are legal barriers for the neuroscientific research and if so, how they look like, and if not, if and how far there is a need for them. In other words: Should be done what can be done?

  • Unfortunately, Walter Glannon, University of Calgary, Canada had to cancel for this workshop.

Preliminary program

The preliminary program looks like this:

Thursday October 4

10.00 Welcome and Introduction by Jeroen van den Hoven
10.15 Bill Uttal
11.15 Coffee break
11.30 Hank Greely
12.30 Lunch
13.30 Adina Roskies
14.30 Stephan Schleim
15.30 Break
16.00 Carsten Griesel
17.00 Gert-Jan Lokhorst
18.00 End of Program
19.00 Dinner

Friday October 5

10.30 Discussion with Bill Uttal, Hank Greely and Adina Roskies
12.00 Lunch
13.30 Karla Schneider
14.30 Carsten Griesel
15.00 Break
15.30 Stephan Schleim
16.00 Plenary Discussion
17.00 Conclusion by Gert-Jan Lokhorst
17.15 Drinks
18.30 Dinner


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