Center for Neuroscience & Society

The Center for Neuroscience and Society is a group of faculty and students from departments spanning the Schools of Arts and Sciences, Medicine, Law, Wharton and Engineering and Applied Science at the University of Pennsylvania, whose work addresses the ethical, legal and social implications of neuroscience. The mission of the Center for Neuroscience & Society is to increase understanding of the impact of neuroscience on society through research and teaching, and to encourage the responsible use of neuroscience for the benefit of humanity.


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Now showing 1 - 10 of 150
  • Publication
    Cosmetic Neurology and Cosmetic Surgery: Parallels, Predictions, and Challenges
    (2007-01-01) Chatterjee, Anjan
    As our knowledge of the functional and pharmacological architecture of the nervous system increases, we are getting better at treating cognitive and affective disorders. Along with the ability to modify cognitive and affective systems in disease, we are also learning how to modify these systems in health. “Cosmetic neurology,” the practice of intervening to improve cognition and affect in healthy individuals, raises several ethical concerns.1 However, its advent seems inevitable.2 In this paper I examine this claim of inevitability by reviewing the evolution of another medical practice, cosmetic surgery. Cosmetic surgery also enhances healthy people and, despite many critics, it is practiced widely. Can we expect the same of cosmetic neurology? The claim of inevitability poses a challenge for both physicians and bioethicists. How will physicians reconsider their professional role? Will bioethicists influence the shape of cosmetic neurology? But first, how did cosmetic surgery become common?
  • Publication
    Will Future Forensic Assessment Be Neurobiologic?
    (2006-04-01) Popma, Arne; Raine, Adrian
    During the past 2 decades, research on the role of biologic factors in antisocial behavior has made vast progress. This article discusses recent findings and their possible implications for future forensic assessment and treatment. In addition, some relevant philosophical, ethical, and political questions are brought forward.
  • Publication
    Minds, Motherboards, and Money: Futurism and Realism in the Neuroethics of BCI Technologies
    (2014-05-15) Attiah, Mark A; Farah, Martha J
    From 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.
  • Publication
    Correspondence: A Medical View of Potential Adverse Effects
    (2009-01-01) Chatterjee, Anjan
    These letters respond to the Commentary 'Towards responsible use of cognitive-enhancing drugs by the health' by Henry Greely and colleagues. (Nature 456, 702-705; 2008)
  • Publication
    Brain Imaging Research on Psychopathy: Implications for Punishment, Prediction, and Treatment in Youth and Adults
    (2015-07-01) Umbach, Rebecca; Berryessa, Colleen; Raine, Adrian
    While there has been an exponential increase in brain imaging research on psychopathy in the past two decades, knowledge on the brain basis to child and adolescent psychopathic-like behavior is relatively new. This adult and child research has potential future implications for the development of new interventions, prediction of future offending, and punishment. This review examines both adult and child literatures on the neural basis of psychopathy, together with implications for the criminal justice system. The adult imaging literature provides growing evidence for amygdala structural and functional impairments in psychopaths, and more variable evidence for prefrontal deficits. The emerging child and adolescent imaging literature with notable exceptions broadly parallels these adult findings and may help explain the development of fearlessness, disinhibition, and lack of empathy. This knowledge places policy makers at a crossroads. Should new biological interventions be developed to remediate these brain abnormalities? Would imaging be used in the future to predict offending? Could imaging findings help excuse psychopathic behavior or alternatively argue for longer sentences for public protection? This review attempts to address these issues at the child and adult levels and provides directions for future research that include the incorporation of biological measures into treatment programs.
  • Publication
    A Pragmatic Analysis of the Regulation of Consumer Transcranial Direct Current Stimulation (TDCS) Devices in the United States
    (2015-10-12) Wexler, Anna
    Several recent articles have called for the regulation of consumer transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) devices, which provide low levels of electrical current to the brain. However, most of the discussion to-date has focused on ethical or normative considerations; there has been a notable absence of scholarship regarding the actual legal framework in the United States. This article aims to fill that gap by providing a pragmatic analysis of the consumer tDCS market and relevant laws and regulations. In the five main sections of this manuscript, I take into account (a) the history of the do-it-yourself tDCS movement and the subsequent emergence of direct-to-consumer devices; (b) the statutory language of the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act and how the definition of a medical device—which focuses on the intended use of the device rather than its mechanism of action—is of paramount importance for discussions of consumer tDCS device regulation; (c) how both the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and courts have understood the FDA's jurisdiction over medical devices in cases where the meaning of ‘intended use’ has been challenged; (d) an analysis of consumer tDCS regulatory enforcement action to-date; and (e) the multiple US authorities, other than the FDA, that can regulate consumer brain stimulation devices. Taken together, this paper demonstrates that rather than a ‘regulatory gap,’ there are multiple, distinct pathways by which consumer tDCS can be regulated in the United States.
  • Publication
    True lies: delusions and lie-detection technology
    (2006-10-01) Langleben, Daniel; Dattilio, Frank M; Guthei, Thomas G
    Legally relevant lying is an intentional attempt to convince another of the truth of a proposition the liar believes to be false. Delusion is an unintentional product of impaired reality testing that occurs in a range of psychiatric conditions and psychological states, some of which could be clinically subtle, since deception, truth and delusion differ in the intent rather than reality testing criterion. Deception and delusion are influenced by the degree of congruence between subjective and objective reality and are probably mutually exclusive. Thus, a delusion could lead to an objectively false statement, that could nevertheless be subjectively true and indistinguishable from truth by its psychophysiological (i.e., the polygraph) signature. This article presents a relevant case as a starting point of an examination of the current and future role of neurophysiological (i.e., functional brain imaging) measurements in the detection of deception. The authors incorporate the recent data on functional brain imaging to the neuroanatomical mechanisms of true and false recall, behavioral regulation and deception into a testable model that could redefine deception and separate it from delusions on the basis of objective functional brain imaging measures.
  • Publication
    Psychopathy and instrumental aggression: Evolutionary, neurobiological, and legal perspectives
    (2009-05-01) Glenn, Andrea L; Raine, Adrian
    In the study of aggression, psychopathy represents a disorder that is of particular interest because it often involves aggression which is premeditated, emotionless, and instrumental in nature; this is especially true for more serious types of offenses. Such instrumental aggression is aimed at achieving a goal (e.g., to obtain resources such as money, or to gain status). Unlike the primarily reactive aggression observed in other disorders, psychopaths appear to engage in aggressive acts for the purpose of benefiting themselves. This is especially interesting in light of arguments that psychopathy may represent an alternative life-history strategy that is evolutionarily adaptive; behaviors such as aggression, risk-taking, manipulation, and promiscuous sexual behavior observed in psychopathy may be means by which psychopaths gain advantage over others. Recent neurobiological research supports the idea that abnormalities in brain regions key to emotion and morality may allow psychopaths to pursue such a strategy—psychopaths may not experience the social emotions such as empathy, guilt, and remorse that typically discourage instrumentally aggressive acts, and may even experience pleasure when committing these acts. Findings from brain imaging studies of psychopaths may have important implications for the law.
  • Publication
    Social Influence and the Brain: Persuasion, Susceptibility to Influence and Retransmission
    (2015-06-01) Cascio, Christopher N; Scholz, Christin; Falk, Emily B
    Social influence is an important topic of research, with a particularly long history in the social sciences. Recently, social influence has also become a topic of interest among neuroscientists. The aim of this review is to highlight current research that has examined neural systems associated with social influence, from the perspective of being influenced as well as influencing others, and highlight studies that link neural mechanisms with real-world behavior change beyond the laboratory. Although many of the studies reviewed focus on localizing brain regions implicated in influence within the lab, we argue that approaches that account for networks of brain regions and that integrate neural data with data beyond the laboratory are likely to be most fruitful in understanding influence.