Neuroethics Seminar Series

The Neuroethics Seminar Series is designed to explore a diverse range of subjects at the intersection of neuroscience and ethics. In a typical seminar, three expert discussants will come together to explore a topic. In the 90-minute seminar, at least 30 minutes are reserved for discussion and audience participation.

The Center for Bioethics hosts the Neuroethics Seminar Series approximately 9 times each year, with financial support from Harvard's Mind Brain Behavior Interfaculty Initiative, and the Harvard Brain Initiative Collaborative Seed Grant Program. In addition, the International Neuroethics Society makes it possible to live stream the Seminars, and video is archived and available below.

What are the implications of detecting consciousness in someone who looks and acts unconscious? Can and should this information be used to treat patients and manage expectations of caregivers? If so, how? The use of technology to detect consciousness raises a host of questions not only pertinent to medicine and science, but also to law, philosophy, ethics and beyond – questions at the heart of what it means to be conscious, and to recognize consciousness in others.

Since alterations in the brain have the potential to alter cognition, personality, and even the sense of self, do surgical innovations require special ethical consideration? Should "invasiveness" matter ethically, or do we simply weigh risks against benefits?  Should we have distinct policy or regulation regarding neurosurgical innovation? Do patients contemplating such innovations require special protections?

Does Brain Difference Affect Legal and Moral Responsibility?

Brains create behavior. Yet we hold people, not brains, morally and legally responsible for their actions. Under what conditions could -- or should -- brain disorder affect the ways in which we assign moral and legal responsibility to a person?

The prospect of using noninvasive brain stimulation for neuroenhancement in healthy individuals generates a host of ethical questions: What constitutes normal versus impaired ability? Which neurological functions can be ethically improved, and which, if any, should remain unchanged?

As neuroimaging and other technologies advance, will traditionally-excluded tests of veracity (or lack thereof) find a place in American courtrooms?