Panel discussion – Thursday, September 22nd, at 18:15 in Cankarjev dom, Linhartova dvorana
- Colin Blakemore, FMedSci, FRS, Professor of Neuroscience at the University of Oxford.
- Jože Trontelj, physician, PhD in neurosciences, Professor of neurology.
- Marian Joels, PhD in biology, professor of neuroscience at University of Utrecht and director of the Rudolf Magnus Institute.
- Gilberto Pizzolato, M.D., Full Professor of Neurology at the University of Trieste, Director of the local Neurologic Clinic and Residency program in Neurology.
- Srećko Gajović, M.D., Ph.D., Professor of Histology and Embryology at the University of Zagreb School of Medicine, Head of Section for Neurogenetics, Cytogenetics and Developmental Genetics at Croatian Institute for Brain Research.
- Luka Omladič, Ph.D., researcher and assistant at philosophy department of University of Ljubljana, Faculty of Arts.
Our brains are responsible for all our thoughts and actions. The ethics of neuroscience research is, then, philosophically intriguing. Is the organ of ethics capable of explaining its own ethical judgements and behaviour? Beyond this little philosophical paradox, it is clear that research on the brain, and its applications in everyday life, raise important ethical questions.
- Is it acceptable to use animals in research, especially when that research is directed at understanding diseases or processes (such as pain) that are likely to cause suffering?
- Should we set limits to the use of neuroscientific techniques (especially neuroimaging) to monitor personal, subjective experiences and intentions, and the use of methods of brain stimulation to methods of modulating and modifying brain activity and behaviour?
- How should we approach the potential military use of neuroscientific knowledge (e.g. the possible development of new methods of incapacitating or altering the thought processes of populations?
- Do we need to reconsider the basis of our legal systems as our understanding of the causal basis of decision-making casts doubt on the standard concepts of free will and responsibility?
Consideration of ethical issues arising from advances in science should not be left to scientists alone: the general public and politicians must be involved in making difficult ethical decisions. But scientists themselves should lead the debate. Neuroscientists have a responsibility to inform the public about the ethical issues raised by their research, and to provide the information and evidence on which sensible decisions can be made.