Section 18 Course Description

Course Name: From Limitless to Lucy: Neuroenhancements and Other Neuroethical Issues
Section 18
Instructor: Bethany Jurs

Neuroscience is one of the top growing scientific fields. Each new discovery captures the imagination of both the scientific community as well as general public as we get ever closer to understanding how we work, why we are the way we are, and how we might make ourselves better.  In this excitement there is a desire to extend the findings into generalizable terms and applications.  For example, how can we enhance brain power? Can we detect if someone is lying based on his/her brain activity? However, it is precisely this reckless excitement that should cause us to take pause and assess the ethical implications of the research findings and consequential applications.  As the great Dr. Ian Malcolm so eloquently said in Jurassic Park “…your scientists were so preoccupied with whether or not they could that they didn’t stop to think if they should.” For example, there have been great strides in brain reading research which attempts to identify what a person is thinking based on her/his current neuro activity pattern.  But should we? Shouldn’t our minds be private? What if we could use this to determine if a criminal is lying? Then should it be used?  While many of us will not pursue neuroscience-related careers, we will all be impacted by the societal applications of this research. Therefore it is critical that we participate in these neuroethical discussions.
This course will focus on several emerging neuroethical issues including: 1) Neuro enhancement: Should we try to build better brains with neuropharmaceuticals?  Students already experiment with this question whenever they consider taking non-prescribed stimulants such as Adderall for the sole purpose of helping them study. 2) Neuroscience and the legal system: How should the court system use neuroscience as evidence? Could it be used to excuse/explain criminal behavior? What are the ramifications of court mandated neuro-interventions (an already established practice). 3) ‘Brain Reading’: Should we use neuro-technology as a polygraph to detect deception? When do we prioritize privacy over scientific advancement?