The latest findings in neuroscience are increasingly affecting the justice system in America. Owen Jones, professor of law and biology at Vanderbilt University, explores where neurolaw is making its mark and where the discipline is heading.
One significant finding from MRI scanners is that the adolescent brain continues to develop right into the early- and mid-twenties. The fact that we are not ‘adults’ at age 18 is having big repercussions in the legal system.
In San Francisco, the entire way that young offenders of crimes such as armed robbery up to the age of 25 are treated is adapting to the brain data.
More and more, neuroscientists are testifying in courts, often to mitigate sentences including the death penalty in juveniles. Other times, they highlight rare brain abnormalities that cause violent and antisocial behaviour, which helps justify a lighter sentence.
However, young brains are still malleable. In Wisconsin, brain imaging of juvenile prisoners can detect psychopathic markers. Once identified, staff can employ techniques to de-programme those antisocial traits and rehabilitate prisoners to ready them for, they hope, a crime-free life outside.
And this is simply the first generation of neurolaw – where to next?
University of Oxford – Wellcome Centre for Ethics and Humanities
Salary: £31,076 to £36,001 Grade 7 p.a.
Hours: Full Time
Contract Type: Fixed-Term/Contract
Job Ref: 130447
Applications are invited for a full-time Research Fellow to conduct collaborative research in philosophy and applied ethics, with a neuroethics research focus, as part of the new interdisciplinary Wellcome Centre for Ethics and and Humanities.
This post is fixed term for two years from the date of appointment; ideally the post will begin in October 2017. The fellow will be located in the Wellcome Centre for Ethics and Humanities in the new Big Data Institute in Oxford’s Old Road campus as well as having office space in central Oxford at the Oxford Uehiro Centre for Practical Ethics, which is part of the Faculty of Philosophy. The post will be managed via two 50% contracts issued to the Research Fellow.
The fellow will conduct collaborative research under the supervision of Professor Julian Savulescu (Co-Director of the Wellcome Centre for Ethics and Humanities and Director of the Uehiro Centre). This post will focus particularly on neuroethics, in relation to at least some of the following: advances in neuroscience (particularly neuroimaging); incidental findings (in children and adults); bioprediction; neuroenhancement technologies; replicability and data management in neuroscience – ethics at the intersection of data science and neurosciences; ethics of brain organoids and human-nonhuman chimeras; experimental treatment (including gene therapy, in neurodegenerative conditions); concepts of disease and normality, well-being and disability.
Collaborative research will include the provision of research assistance for Professor Savulescu, literature reviews and preparing drafts of publications. The fellow will also play an important role in establishing and developing collaborative relationships within the new and interdisciplinary Wellcome Centre for Ethics and Humanities and between the two centres and will participate in related activities, including public engagement as well as grant applications, event planning, preparation of policy papers, supporting donor relations and the development of collaborations, as well as other occasional duties such as administration or teaching.
The post holder is required to have received the degree of PhD (or equivalent) in philosophy or other relevant discipline (such as law) with specialisation in practical ethics, bioethics, or other related discipline or at least have submitted and preferably had examined a completed doctoral dissertation by the required start date of the post. Also essential are excellent research skills, an outstanding research record and demonstrated track record of publishing in bioethics, applied ethics or neuroethics, and a strong track record in public engagement.
Applications must be made online.
Applications are to be submitted no later than 12.00 midday (UK time) on Friday 8 September 2017.
Closing date for expressions of interest: Friday 26 February 2015, 11:55 p.m. Australian Eastern Daylight Time
A PhD scholarship, equivalent to an Australian Postgraduate Award, is available to examine treatment-induced compulsive behaviours in Parkinson’s disease. The Scholarship is provided by an Australia Research Council Discovery Early Career Award received by Dr Adrian Carter (2014-2017) entitled “Treatment-induced compulsive behaviours: Ethical and policy implications”.
Some medications can produce compulsive behaviours that challenge our understanding of decision-making and raise significant ethical questions about our control over and responsibility for our actions. Around one in five individuals receiving dopamine replacement therapy (DRT), usually for Parkinson’s disease, will develop severe compulsive behaviours or impulse control disorders (ICDs). These behaviours, which include pathological gambling, compulsive buying, hypersexuality, Internet addiction, and compulsive eating, can cause significant harm and distress to sufferers and their families. Individuals have lost hundreds of thousands of dollars, homes and businesses from pathological gambling and compulsive buying, while others have developed a compulsive interest in sex that, in some cases, have resulted in criminal prosecutions. These conditions pose an imminent problem not only for these individuals, but also clinicians, judges and loved ones that deal with the consequences of these behaviours.
Very little is known about the impact that these disorders have upon those who suffer from them. Clinicians prescribe these medications with little ethical guidance, while courts make judgements on the culpability of compulsive actions in criminal cases that are minimally informed by the scientific literature. There is also little that can be done to prevent or ameliorate these behaviours other than stopping or reducing a medication that is essential to control life-threatening motor disturbances. There is therefore an urgent need to understand these conditions, the ethical and legal issues that they raise, and to develop more effective methods of minimising their occurrence or the harms that they cause.
The PhD Scholarship aims to:
1. Identify the ethical and legal issues raised by the use of dopaminergic drugs, such as DRT, that cause compulsive behaviour, and the implications they have for agency and moral responsibility.
2. Determine the impact of dopamine-induced compulsive behaviour on affected individuals, including their ability to control their behaviour, their understanding of these behaviours, and their sense of moral agency.
3. Increase knowledge and understanding of the impact of dopaminergic drugs on behaviour and decision-making
These aims will be achieved using three inter-related methodologies:
1. Critical ethical and policy analysis
2. Qualitative study of affected individuals and clinicians
3. Neuropsychological assessment of persons affected by these disorders.
For further information, including remuneration package, candidate requirements, and application details go here.
Enquiries should be directed to:
Dr Adrian Carter
School of Psychological Sciences
Telephone: +613 9902 9431
Conference: The Human Sciences after the Decade of the Brain – Perspectives on the neuro-turn in the social sciences and the humanities.25 November 2014
March 30th – March 31st, 2015
Philosophy Department, Johannes Gutenberg-University of Mainz, Germany
It is now almost 25 years since the U.S. Congress authorized the then president, George Bush sr., to proclaim the decade beginning January 1, 1990 as the Decade of the Brain. This proclamation stimulated a number of initiatives that substantially benefitted neuroscience research in the following years. Alongside this rise of neuroscience and the corresponding increase of public awareness, many disciplines in the humanities and social sciences have shifted towards more brain based and evolutionary informed approaches. New research fields such as Neuroethics, Neuroeconomics, Cognitive Cultural Studies, Neuroaesthetics or even Neurotheology have gained a following. In addition to surveying the mutual interactions between the cognitive neurosciences and the social sciences and humanities, this interdisciplinary symposium investigates the methodological and conceptual prospects and perils of choosing a neuroscience approach to the social sciences and the humanities. The symposium aims to shed light on a broad range of epistemological, historical and sociological questions about the
purported neuro-turn in the social sciences and the humanities including (but not limited to):
• How and why have brain based approaches to the social sciences and humanities developed?
• What exactly distinguishes cognitive and brain based approaches from their traditional counterparts?
• How are brain-based sub-disciplines of the traditional humanities institutionalized?
• How does research policy contribute to the development of a neuro-turn in the social sciences and the humanities?
• Are there common motives for turning to cognitive neuroscience approaches in the different disciplines of social sciences and humanities? If so, which?
• Are there any historical examples of a turn to brain based approaches in the social sciences and the humanities?
• If so, what could be learned from this history for practicing social sciences and humanities today?
• What, if anything, can the humanities and the social sciences learn from the neurosciences?
• What, if anything, can the neurosciences learn from the social sciences and the humanities?
• How does neuroscience change the social sciences and the humanities?
• How do the humanities and the social sciences change neuroscience?
We invite submission of abstracts of 300-500 words from researchers in relevant disciplines such as history of science, science and technology studies, philosophy of science, philosophy of mind, cognitive neuroscience, psychology or any sub-discipline of the social sciences or the humanities, which approaches its subject from a cognitive science perspective.
Abstracts should be emailed to leefmann[at]uni-mainz.de by December 15, 2014. Applicants will be notified by mid-January 2015 whether their abstract has been accepted.
Conference website here.
This symposium is part of the international project ‘The Neuro-Turn in the Social Sciences and the Humanities’ (NESSHI) funded by the German Research Foundation (DFG). For information on the project see: www.nesshi.eu
Thursday 30 October 2014, 5.30pm-6.45pm, Oxford Martin School Lecture Theatre, Oxford.
Professor Walter Sinnott-Armstrong
‘Implicit Moral Attitudes’
Most moral philosophers and psychologists focus on explicit moral beliefs that people give as answers to questions. However, much research in social psychology shows that implicit moral attitudes (unconscious beliefs or associations) also affect our thinking and behavior. This talk will report our new psychological and neuroscientific research on implicit moral attitudes (using a process dissociation procedure) and then explore potential implications for scientific moral psychology as well as for philosophical theories of moral epistemology, responsibility, and virtue. If there is time, I will discuss practical uses of these findings in criminal law, especially regarding the treatment of psychopaths and prediction of their recidivism.
Registration is required. Please register at https://bookwhen.com/uehiro
Fixed term 12 month contract (to start no later than the beginning of July 2012)
Salary range: £42,995 – £47,986
The Nuffield Council on Bioethics examines the ethical issues raised by advances in biology and medicine. It has achieved an international reputation based on quality, independence and the timeliness of its reports which both stimulate public debate in bioethics and give advice to policy-makers. We are now looking to recruit a Project Leader to supervise the production of a report on novel neurotechnologies that intervene in the brain.
You will undertake research, prepare, organise and support meetings of a Working Party and prepare the final report for publication. You will work with a wide range of academics, professionals and policy-makers.
Candidates will need a sound understanding of both science and ethics; a strong academic background in a relevant discipline; excellent drafting and organisational skills; energy, motivation, and the ability to work independently. The contract is expected to be for 12 months full-time, although the Council will consider alternative working arrangements that will meet the requirements for the post, and is happy to consider filling the role being by means of a secondment.
This is an excellent opportunity for those interested in the high-profile area of bioethics, providing an opportunity to work closely in the development of policy and the promotion of debate in bioethics.
Closing date for applications: 30 March 2012
Interviews: w/c 10 or 16 April
For further information and details on how to apply, please visit our website or email recruitment [at] nuffieldfoundation.org
Tuesday, 14 June 2011
6.30pm – 8.00pm, followed by a drinks reception
The British Academy, 10-11 Carlton House Terrace, London SW1
Professor Raymond Tallis in conversation with Professor Robin Dunbar FBA
Neuroscience is making astounding progress in helping us to understand how the brain works and this will deliver advances in the management of brain disease. Unfortunately, it has a Dark Companion – Neuromania – which is founded on the belief that brain activity is not merely a necessary but a sufficient condition for human consciousness and that consequently our behaviour in every day life can be entirely understood neural terms. This has resulted in wild claims about the potential of neuroscience to cast light on art, to explain economic behaviour, to inform social policy and the justice system, and even to account for religious belief. The talk will show why such hype is bad for the reputation of neuroscience and may have dangerous consequences.
About the Speakers:
Raymond Tallis trained as a doctor before going on to become Professor of Geriatic Medicine at the University of Manchester. He was elected Fellow of the Academy of Medical Sciences for his research in clinical neuroscience.
He retired from medicine in 2006 to become a full-time writer. He has published fiction, poetry and over a dozen books of cultural criticism and philosophical anthropology including, most recently, The Kingdom of Infinite Space (2008) and Michelangelo’s Finger (2010).
Robin Dunbar is currently Professor of Evolutionary Anthropology at the University of Oxford and Director of its Institute of Cognitive and Evolutionary Anthropology. He is a Fellow of Magdalen College and was elected a Fellow of the British Academy in 1998. He is co-Director of the British Academy’s Centenary Research Project, ‘Lucy to Language: The Archaeology of the Social Brain’, a multi-disciplinary project involving research groups at the Universities of Oxford, Liverpool, Royal Holloway (University of London), Southampton and Kent. His principal research interest is the evolution of sociality, with specific focus on humans, nonhuman primates and ungulates.
Attendance is free, but registration is required for this event. Please register via the British Academy website.