Farah, Martha J
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PublicationMinds, Motherboards, and Money: Futurism and Realism in the Neuroethics of BCI Technologies(2014-05-15) Farah, Martha J; Farah, Martha JFrom the Introduction: Brain computer interfaces (BCIs) are systems that enable the brain to send and receive information to and from a computer, bypassing the body's own efferent and afferent pathways. BCIs have been used in experimental animal models to augment perception, motor control and even memory (Velliste et al., 2008; Berger et al., 2011; Torab et al., 2011). Human BCIs include cochlear implants and a host of experimental devices including retinal implants (Niparko et al., 2010; Klauke et al., 2011). BCI technology holds the potential to benefit humanity greatly, but also the potential to do harm, and its ethical implications have therefore been addressed by a number of commentators. PublicationNeuroethics, An Introduction with Readings(2010-01-01) Farah, Martha J.; Farah, Martha J. PublicationSocioeconomic status and the brain: prospects for neuroscience-informed policy(2018-06-01) Farah, Martha J; Farah, Martha JSocioeconomic status (SES) is associated with health (physical and mental) and cognitive ability. Understanding and ameliorating the problems of low SES have long been goals of economics and sociology; in recent years, these have also become goals of neuroscience. However, opinion varies widely on the relevance of neuroscience to SES-related policy. The present article addresses the question of whether and how neuroscience can contribute to the development of social policy concerning poverty and the social and ethical risks inherent in trying. I argue that the neuroscience approach to SES-related policy has been both prematurely celebrated and peremptorily dismissed and that some of its possible social impacts have been viewed with excessive alarm. Neuroscience has already made modest contributions to SES-related policy, and its potential to have a more effective and beneficial influence can be expected to grow over the coming years. PublicationNeuroethics and the Problem of Other Minds: Implications of Neuroscience for the Moral Status of Brain-Damaged Patients and Nonhuman Animals(2008-01-01) Farah, Martha J.; Farah, Martha J.Our ethical obligations to another being depend at least in part on that being's capacity for a mental life. Our usual approach to inferring the mental state of another is to reason by analogy: If another being behaves as I do in a circumstance that engenders a certain mental state in me, I conclude that it has engendered the same mental state in him or her. Unfortunately, as philosophers have long noted, this analogy is fallible because behavior and mental states are only contingently related. If the other person is acting, for example, we could draw the wrong conclusion about his or her mental state. In this article I consider another type of analogy that can be drawn between oneself and another to infer the mental state of the other, substituting brain activity for behavior. According to most current views of the mind–body problem, mental states and brain states are non-contingently related, and hence inferences drawn with the new analogy are not susceptible to the alternative interpretations that plague the behavioral analogy. The implications of this approach are explored in two cases for which behavior is particularly unhelpful as a guide to mental status: severely brain–damaged patients who are incapable of intentional communicative behavior, and nonhuman animals whose behavioral repertoires are different from ours and who lack language. PublicationSocioeconomic status and the brain: mechanistic insights from human and animal research(2010-09-01) Farah, Martha J.; Farah, Martha J.; Meaney, Michael J.Human brain development occurs within a socioeconomic context and childhood socioeconomic status (SES) influences neural development — particularly of the systems that subserve language and executive function. Research in humans and in animal models has implicated prenatal factors, parent–child interactions and cognitive stimulation in the home environment in the effects of SES on neural development. These findings provide a unique opportunity for understanding how environmental factors can lead to individual differences in brain development, and for improving the programmes and policies that are designed to alleviate SES-related disparities in mental health and academic achievement. PublicationBrain Imaging and Brain Privacy: A Realistic Concern?(2010-01-01) Farah, Martha J.; Farah, Martha J.; Smith, M. Elizabeth; Gawuga, Cyrena; Lindsell, Dennis; Foster, DeanFunctional neuroimaging has been used to study a wide array of psychological traits, including aspects of personality and intelligence. Progress in identifying the neural correlates of individual differences in such traits, for the sake of basic science, has moved us closer to the applied science goal of measuring them and thereby raised ethical concerns about privacy. How realistic are such concerns given the current state of the art? In this article, we describe the statistical basis of the measurement of psychological traits using functional neuroimaging and examine the degree to which current functional neuroimaging protocols could be used for this purpose. By analyzing the published data from 16 studies, we demonstrate that the use of imaging to gather information about an individual’s psychological traits is already possible, but to an extremely limited extent. PublicationNeuroscience for Educators: What Are They Seeking, and What Are They Finding?(2013-08-01) Farah, Martha J; Farah, Martha JWhat can neuroscience offer to educators? Much of the debate has focused on whether basic research on the brain can translate into direct applications within the classroom. Accompanying ethical concern has centered on whether neuroeducation has made empty promises to educators. Relatively little investigation has been made into educators’ expectations regarding neuroscience research and how they might find it professionally useful. In order to address this question, we conducted semi-structured interviews with 13 educators who were repeat attendees of the Learning & the Brain conferences. Responses suggest that ‘brain based’ pedagogical strategies are not all that is sought; indeed, respondents were more often drawn to the conference out of curiosity about the brain than a desire to gain new teaching methods. Of those who reported that research had influenced their classroom practice, most did not distinguish between neuroscience and cognitive psychology. Responses indicated that learning about neuroscience can help educators maintain patience, optimism and professionalism with their students, increase their credibility with colleagues and parents, and renew their sense of professional purpose. While not necessarily representative of the entire population, these themes indicate that current research in neuroscience can have real relevance to educators’ work. Future ethical discussions of neuroeducation should take into account this broader range of motivations and benefits. PublicationLaw and Neuroscience(2013-11-06) Jones, Owen D; Farah, Martha J; Farah, Martha J; Greely, Henry PublicationWhen we enhance cognition with Adderall, do we sacrifice creativity? A preliminary study(2008-11-15) Farah, Martha J.; Farah, Martha J.Rationale: Adderall (mixed amphetamine salts) is used by healthy normal individuals to enhance attention. Research with healthy normal participants and those with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder indicate a possible inverse relationship between attentional function and creativity. This raises the possibility that Adderall could decrease creativity in people using it for cognitive enhancement. Objective: This study was designed to find out whether Adderall impairs creativity in healthy young adults. Material and methods: In a double-blind placebo-controlled study, the effects of Adderall on the performance of 16 healthy young adults were measured on four tests of creativity from the psychological literature: two tasks requiring divergent thought and two requiring convergent thought. Results: Adderall affected performance on the convergent tasks only, in one case enhancing it, particularly for lower performing individuals, and in the other case enhancing it for the lower-performing and impairing it for higher-performing individuals. Conclusion: The preliminary evidence is inconsistent with the hypothesis that Adderall has an overall negative effect on creativity. Its effects on divergent creative thought cannot be inferred with confidence from this study because of the ambiguity of null results. Its effects on convergent creative thought appear to be dependent on the baseline creativity of the individual. Those in the higher range of the normal distribution may be unaffected or impaired, whereas those in the lower range of the normal distribution experience enhancement. PublicationEffect of Socioeconomic Status (SES) Disparity on Neural Development in Female African-American Infants at 1 Month(2016-11-01) Avants, Brian B; Farah, Martha J; Avants, Brian B; Farah, Martha J; Brodsky, Nancy L.; Wu, Jue; Ashtari, Manzar; Hurt, HallamThere is increasing interest in both the cumulative and long term impact of early life adversity on brain structure and function, especially as the brain is both highly vulnerable and highly adaptive during childhood. Relationships between SES and neural development have been shown in children older than age two years. Less is known regarding the impact of SES on neural development in children before age two. This paper examines the effect of SES, indexed by income-to-needs (ITN) and maternal education, on cortical, deep gray, and white matter volumes in term, healthy, appropriate for gestational age, African American, female infants. At 44-46 post-conception weeks, unsedated infants underwent MRI (3.0T Siemens Verio scanner, 32-channel head coil). Images were segmented based on a locally-constructed template. Utilizing hierarchical linear regression, overall and component (maternal education and ITN) SES effects on MRI volumes were examined. In this cohort of healthy African American infants of varying SES, lower SES was associated with smaller cortical gray and deep gray matter volumes. These SES effects on neural outcome at such a young age build on similar studies of older children, suggesting that the biological embedding of adversity may occur very early in development.