Integration without reduction: What the philosophy of empathy can learn from mirror neurons
*This post was originally published on The Neuroethics Blog.
by Georgina Campelia
Georgina Campelia is currently a Ph.D. Candidate in Philosophy at the Graduate Center, CUNY, working under the supervision of Virginia Held. Her dissertation, “Virtue’s Web: The Virtue of Empathic Attunement and the Need for a Relational Foundation,” develops an account of empathic attunement, defends its status as a virtue, and sketches a relational ontology of virtue that would better accommodate the relationality of this and other important virtues.
More broadly, Georgina’s research focuses on ethics and feminist theory, with particular interests in virtue ethics, care ethics, empathy, the interdependence of ethics and epistemology, and interrelational conceptions of persons. Georgina’s work extends this theoretical work to neuroethics and medical ethics, where much of her research concerns using virtue ethics and care ethics to guide patient care, establishing structures to enable and encourage empathy, and creating greater awareness of the relational constitution of patient identity and medical decisions.
Georgina is currently an affiliate instructor at the Montefiore Einstein Center for Bioethics, where she teaches in their Certificate and Masters Programs. She also serves on the Steering Committee at the New York Society for Women and Philosophy (NYSWIP) and is a co-organizer of SWIPshop (a workshop for feminist philosophy).
As the lack of empathy in the world has become particularly apparent and troubling in light of the resistance to offering asylum for Muslim refugees (see this recent article from The Guardian), perhaps it makes sense that the study of empathy is booming (Coplan, 2014; Decety, 2012; de Waal, 2009). Philosophers question and defend its moral worth (Bloom, 2014), psychologists and primatologists consider its nature and origin (Hoffman, 2000; Waal, 2012), and neuroscientists explore its metaphysical structure (Singer, 2009; Zaki & Ochsner, 2012). Empathy offers a distinctive ground for interdisciplinary work and, yet, little has been done to advance cross-field communication. While some popular work offers broadly incorporated perspectives (de Waal, 2009), and there are some anthologies that include multiple disciplines (Coplan & Goldie, 2014; Decety, 2012), there is room for more robustly integrated research.
|Image of a baby macaque imitating facial expressions courtesy of Wikimedia.|
Meet-a-Member: Dr. Keerthi Shetty
Keerthi Shetty is a Hellman Fellow in Science and Technology Policy at the American Academy. She contributes to several projects in the Science, Engineering, and Technology program including the Public Face of Science, Human Performance Enhancement, the Alternative Energy Future, and New Models for U.S. Science and Technology Policy. The Human Performance Enhancement Project is a project aimed as exploring societal and ethical issues around invasive and noninvasive cognitive enhancement technologies. Keerthi joined the American Academy after completing her doctoral work in immunobiology at Yale University. Keerthi’s thesis research involved studying the recruitment of RAG1 and RAG2—two important proteins of the immune system that help create antibodies—to chromatinized DNA during V(D)J recombination. At Yale, she was the co-president of the Yale Science Diplomats, a science policy group. Leading this organization, Keerthi helped develop a science lecture series for local high schools and the general public, organized policy writing workshops and seminars, and contacted legislators about funding issues concerning biomedical research. She was also named an eIntern for the State Department’s Virtual Student Foreign Service program, where she assisted with global science and technology projects. Keerthi holds a Ph.D. in immunobiology from Yale University and an A.B. in molecular biology from Princeton University.
Consumer Neurotechnology: New Products, More Regulatory Complexity
Posted by Karen Rommelfanger in Uncategorized on June 14, 2016
*This post was originally published on The Neuroethics Blog.
By Anna Wexler
Anna Wexler is a PhD candidate in the HASTS (History, Anthropology, Science, Technology and Society) at MIT and a 2015-2016 visiting scholar at the Center for Neuroscience and Society at the University of Pennsylvania. Her dissertation focuses on the ethical, legal and social implications of emerging neuroscience technology, with a particular focus on the home use of noninvasive brain stimulation.
Just when it seemed like the consumer neurotechnology market couldn’t get any stranger—after all, who would’ve expected that a sleek white triangle could be placed on the forehead for “calm” or “energy” vibes—two new products recently hit the market that further complicate the challenges of regulating this emerging market. Halo Sport is a brain stimulator marketed for athletic enhancement that utilizes technology similar to transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS), while Nervana, which began taking pre-orders in March, is the first noninvasive vagus nerve stimulation (VNS) device to be sold directly to the public in the United States.
Halo Neuroscience, the manufacturer of Halo Sport, advertises that its product “accelerates gains in strength, explosiveness, and dexterity.” In many ways, Halo Sport overcomes obstacles that have plagued other direct-to-consumer brain stimulation products. Because Halo Sport only claims to stimulate the motor cortex—which, conveniently for the company, lies beneath the area of the head where a pair of headphones might sit—the product does not utilize stray wires or a futuristic headset, but instead takes the recognizable shape of headphones. The beneficial effect of a familiar design should not be underestimated: many potentially useful technology tools have failed in no small part due to their unusual “look.”
Forgeting about Fear: A neuroethics perspective
Posted by Karen Rommelfanger in Uncategorized on April 14, 2016
Excerpt from NEW Leaders Dr. Laura Cabrera post originally published on Michigan State University’s Bioethics in the News page.
The alluring possibility of deleting memories has been the topic of movies such as Men in Black, Total Recall, and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, yet in real life the chances of ever achieving such fine-tuned memory erasure is not a realistic bet. But suppose if by taking a pill we could forget about fear and about those things that cause us to be anxious? A New York Times article addressed exactly that possibility with the recent coverage of a drug to “cure” fear—by dampening memory. One factor influencing and shaping memory processes is their emotional intensity. Extensive psychological research and personal experiences confirm that events that occur during heightened states of emotion, such as fear, anger and joy, are generally more memorable than less dramatic occurrences. That research explains why you might remember exactly what you were doing when you found out about 9/11, but not necessarily be able to recall what you had for supper two days ago. Some memories with an intense emotional component might leave individuals susceptible to develop phobias, or possibly even post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Read the rest of the piece here.
Naming the devil: The mental health double bind
Posted by Karen Rommelfanger in mental health, mind-body, Uncategorized on March 17, 2016
*Editor’s note: This post was originally published on The Neuroethics Blog.
By Jennifer Laura Lee
Jenn Laura Lee recently received her undergraduate in neuroscience from McGill University in Montreal, Canada, and hopes to pursue a PhD in neurobiology this fall. Her current interests include the advancement of women in STEM and the ethics of animal experimentation.
The Bell Let’s Talk initiative swept through Canada on January 27, hoping to end the stigma associated with mental illness, one text and one share at a time. Michael Landsberg shares his thoughts in a short video on the Facebook page. “The stigma exists because fundamentally there’s a feeling in this country still that depression is more of a weakness than a sickness,” he explains. “People use the word depression all the time to describe a bad time in their life, a down time. But that’s very different than the illness itself.” Perhaps such a bold statement merits closer examination.
NIH BRAIN Funding for Neuroethics Research
Posted by Karen Rommelfanger in funding, Uncategorized on February 26, 2016
The NIH BRAIN Initiative is now offering funding for neuroethics research in the form of administrative supplements to existing NIH BRAIN Initiative awards.
Since these supplements are open specifically to investigators currently funded by an NIH BRAIN grant, BRAIN investigators and neuroethics researchers alike should know there is now a funded opportunity to collaborate. A full list of the NIH BRAIN Initiative funded awards is here: http://braininitiative.nih.gov/funding/fundedAwards.htm
Note that the supplement applications are due May 2, and should follow the instructions in PA-14-077 (http://grants.nih.gov/grants/guide/pa-files/PA-14-077.html)
I believe we are seeing the tides shift with this unprecedented opportunity and hope there will be more formal funding mechanisms for neuroethics research in the future. If you’re not already aware, the NIH BRAIN Initiative has created a formal neuroethics workgroup (of which I’m honored to be a part along with NEW Leaders Nita Farahany and many talented others), so please keep an eye out for further neuroethics developments on that front.
Best wishes and happy brainstorming,
CFA: Does Neuroscience Have Normative Implications?
Posted by Karen Rommelfanger in conferences, what is neuroethics on January 11, 2016
Symposium of interest: Deadline for submissions Feb 1, 2016.
A symposium entitled “Does Neuroscience Have Normative Implications?” will be held at Illinois Institute of Technology in Chicago on April 15-16, 2016. Researchers across disciplines who are interested in this question are asked to submit abstracts of 200-400 words by February 1st, 2016 to NormativeNeuroscience@gmail.com. More information regarding abstract submission can be found here and questions can be directed to symposium organizer Geoff Holtzman at NormativeNeuroscience@gmail.com.
For more information, please see here.
The freedom to become an addict: The ethical implications of addiction vaccines
Posted by Karen Rommelfanger in addiction, Uncategorized on December 22, 2015
- prevent children from becoming addicted to drugs in the future,
- allow addicts to easily and safely stop using drugs, and
- potentially lower the social and economic costs of addiction for society at large.
Meet-a-Member: Dr. Tomi Kushner
Posted by Karen Rommelfanger in Uncategorized on October 20, 2015
I am a philosopher with a special interest in neuroethics. Until retirement, I served as Clinical Professor of Bioethics in the UCSF/Berkeley Joint Medical Program, teaching bioethics to medical students, other graduate students on the Berkeley campus, and supervising Masters and PhD theses in the School of Public Health. Described below are my current projects and I am happy to extend an invitation for you to join me.
Journals: As founding editor of the CQ, The Cambridge Quarterly of Healthcare Ethics, I’m proud to announce that 2016 marks the journal’s 25th anniversary. Of particular interest to you, will be CQ’s “Neuroethics Now” section that welcomes papers addressing the ethical application of neuroscience in research and patient care, as well as its impact on society. Read the rest of this entry »
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