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Turnbull, O. Baird, J. (2004). Research Digest. Neuropsychoanalysis, 6(2):223-225.

(2004). Neuropsychoanalysis, 6(2):223-225

Research Digest

Oliver Turnbull, Ph.D. and Janet Baird, M.D., Ph.D.

Ethics, Empathy, and Personality

Featured Article

Farah, M. J., Illes, J., Cook-Deegan, R., Gardner, H., Kandel, E., King, P., Parens, E., Sahakian, B., & Wolpe, P. R. (2004). Neurocognitive enhancement: What can we do and what should we do? Nature Reviews Neuroscience, 5: 421-425.

The question of ethical issues in neuroscience was reviewed in the 2003:1 issue of the Research Digest. In this more recent article, Martha Farah has encouraged a number of prominent figures in the fields of modern neuroscience and ethics (readers will recognize, for example, Eric Kandel on the author list) to band together and outline a general position on one aspect of this important topic. The central theme is that this century will show a growing ability to directly modify brain function, producing changes that “might well shape history as powerfully as the development of metallurgy in the Iron Age, mechanization in the Industrial Revolution or genetics in the second half of the twentieth century” (p.421). These advances in “neurotechnology” will be implemented through a wide range of techniques, from the well-known example of psychopharmacology, through transcranial magnetic stimulation, to the implantation of stimulation devices, tissue transplants, and even the possibility of brain-machine “interfaces”—a technology that has already shown remarkable promise. These innovations will be manifest in a number of important ways— not only in the ethically “simple” case of treating mental illness, but also in the ability to enhance the mental capabilities of “normal” individuals.

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