Neuroethics for the Neurosciences
Without neuroscience, many brain tumours would go untreated, certain diseases would not be diagnosed, and patients with brain injuries would not be rehabilitated. But what are the repercussions when neuroscience is used to predict people’s cognitive and mental health, or to implant mood-altering devices in the brain; or when therapies are sold directly to the public before being fully validated? Neuroscience has moved from research into the hospital, and into a wide range of situations, raising challenging ethical, legal and social questions.
Neuroethics explores the challenges arising from technology that allows us to understand, monitor, and potentially manipulate, human thoughts in ways previously unimaginable. Dr. Judy Illes, Canada Research Chair in Neuroethics, is clarifying pressing neuroethical dilemmas faced by researchers and medical practitioners, patients and families, policy-makers, and the public.
For example, if an unexpected abnormality is discovered during research using brain imaging, who has the right to know? How should new neuroscience discoveries be shared among researchers in a way that best protects patients without slowing the pace of innovation? What is the most ethical way to adopt revolutionary new technologies to modulate people’s cognition (thinking), mood, attention, and even personality?
Illes is sorting through many of these tough questions. Her research will improve public health and help medical researchers stay at the forefront of their fields. It will also make it easier for the public to navigate the challenges that come with major breakthroughs in neuroscience.