Consumer Neurotechnology: New Products, More Regulatory Complexity

*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.”

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Forgeting about Fear: A neuroethics perspective

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.

 

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Naming the devil: The mental health double bind

*Editor’s note: This post was originally published on The Neuroethics Blog.

By Jennifer Laura Lee

bio_picJenn 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.

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NIH BRAIN Funding for Neuroethics Research

The NIH BRAIN Initiative is now offering funding for neuroethics research in the form of administrative supplements to existing NIH BRAIN Initiative awards.

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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.

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Best wishes and happy brainstorming,

Karen

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CFA: Does Neuroscience Have Normative Implications?

Symposium of interest: Deadline for submissions Feb 1, 2016.

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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.

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The freedom to become an addict: The ethical implications of addiction vaccines

*This post was originally featured on The Neuroethics Blog.
by Tabitha Moses

Tabitha Moses, M.S., is Administrative and Research Coordinator at Lehman College, CUNY, as well as a Research Affiliate at the National Core for Neuroethics at the University of British Columbia. Tabitha earned her BA in Cognitive Science and Philosophy and MS in Biotechnology from The Johns Hopkins University. She has conducted research in the areas of addiction, mental illness, and emerging neurotechnologies. She hopes to continue her education through a joint MD/PhD in Neuroscience while maintaining a focus on neuroethics.

The introduction of “addiction vaccines” has brought with it a belief that we have the potential to cure addicts before they have ever even tried a drug. Proponents of addiction vaccines hold that they will:
  1. prevent children from becoming addicted to drugs in the future,
  2. allow addicts to easily and safely stop using drugs, and
  3. potentially lower the social and economic costs of addiction for society at large.
However, it is critical to be aware of the limitations and risks – both ethical and physical – of introducing these vaccines into mainstream medical care.

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*Editor’s note: This post was originally published on The Neuroethics Blog.

by Carolyn Plunkett

Carolyn Plunkett is a Ph.D. Candidate in the Philosophy Department at The Graduate Center of City University of New York. She is also an Ethics Fellow in The Bioethics Program at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, and a Research Associate in the Division of Medical Ethics at NYU Langone Medical Center. Carolyn will defend her dissertation in spring 2016, and, beginning July 2016, will be a Rudin Post-Doctoral Fellow in the Divisions of Medical Ethics and Medical Humanities at NYU Langone Medical Center. 

This post is part of a series that recaps and offers perspectives on the conversations and debates that took place at the recent 2015 International Neuroethics Society meeting.

 

Karen Rommelfanger, founding editor of The Neuroethics Blog, heard a talk I gave on deep brain stimulation (DBS) at Brain Matters! 3 in 2012. Three years later, she heard a brief synopsis of a paper I presented a few weeks ago at the International Neuroethics Society Annual Meeting. Afterward, she came up to me and said, “Wow! Your views have changed!” I had gone from being wary about using DBS in adults, much less minors, to defending its use in teens with anorexia nervosa. She asked me to write about this transition for this blog, and present my recent research.

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Meet-a-Member: Dr. Tomi Kushner

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Dear Friends:

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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Join Us at International Neuroethics Society on Friday, Oct. 16, 2015 @ 7:30 pm.

JOIN US FOR FOOD AND DRINK* (each person will be responsible for his/her bill).
• Date: Friday, October 16
• Time: 7:30pm until?
• Location: Potter’s, lobby level of Palmer House Hotel, 17 East Monroe Street, Chicago, Illinois, 60603, Phone: 312.917.4933

*We will have small plates (in lieu of a sit down dinner) and drinks.
We will meet after the International Neuroethics Society poster reception. Potter’s is a 4 min walk from the INS Venue (Art Institute of Chicago).

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Meet-a-Member: Vanessa Bentley

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Editor’s note: Dr. Vanessa Bentley successfully defending on September 4, 2015. Congrats, Dr. Bentley!

Vanessa Bentley (formerly Gorley) is a doctoral candidate at the University of Cincinnati. While in the doctoral program in Philosophy, she also completed a master’s in Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies. Her research interests are in philosophy of science, philosophy of neuroscience, feminist epistemology, and neuroethics. Her interest in neuroethics has focused on neuroimaging research on sex/gender differences. Using two case studies in the neuroimaging of sex/gender differences, she has identified the many ways that the assumption of sex essentialism affects research and functions to limit scientific progress. Sex essentialism is the view that men and women are essentially different due to their sex. In addition to limiting scientific progress, research in the tradition of sex essentialism has been used to argue against women’s equal participation in society. Read the rest of this entry »

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