2014 Wellcome Lecture in Neuroethics
'Implicit Moral Attitudes'
30 October 2014
Professor Walter Sinnott-Armstrong of Duke University
Most moral philosophers and psychologists focus on explicit moral beliefs that people give as answers to questions. However, much research in social psychology shows that implicit moral attitudes (unconscious beliefs or associations) also affect our thinking and behavior. This talk will report our new psychological and neuroscientific research on implicit moral attitudes (using a process dissociation procedure) and then explore potential implications for scientific moral psychology as well as for philosophical theories of moral epistemology, responsibility, and virtue. If there is time, I will discuss practical uses of these findings in criminal law, especially regarding the treatment of psychopaths and prediction of their recidivism.
2013 Wellcome Lectures in Neuroethics (double lecture)
27 November 2013
The Oxford Centre for Neuroethics & International Neuroethics Society are pleased to present a set of two Wellcome Lectures in Neuroethics for 2013:
'Brain mechanisms of voluntary action: the implications for responsibility'
Prof. Patrick Haggard, University College London
No abstract or audio recording available.
'The irresponsible self: Self bias changes the way we see the world'
Prof. Glyn Humphreys, Department of Experimental Psychology, Oxford University
Humans show a bias to favour information related to themselves over information related to other people. How does this effect arise? Are self biases a stable trait of the individual? Do these biases change fundamental perceptual processes? I will review recent work from my laboratory showing that self-biases modulate basic perceptual processes; they are stable for an individual and are difficult to control; they reflect rapid tuning of brain circuits to enhance the saliency of self-related items. I discuss the implications of this work for understanding whether perceptual processes are informationally encapsulated, and whether perception changes as a function of social context.
2011 Wellcome Lecture in Neuroethics
'Moral Enhancement? Evidence and Challenges'
18 November 2011
Dr Molly Crockett, University of Zürich
Can pills change our morals? Neuroscientists are now discovering how hormones and brain chemicals shape social behaviour, opening potential avenues for pharmacological manipulation of ethical values. In this talk, I will present an overview of recent studies showing how altering brain chemistry can change moral judgment and behaviour. These findings raise new questions about the anatomy of the moral mind, and suggest directions for future research in both neurobiology and practical ethics.
2011 2nd Annual Wellcome Lecture in Neuroethics
'New Imaging Evidence for the Neural Bases of Moral Sentiments, Prosocial and Antisocial Behavior'
18 January 2011
Professor Jorge Moll, Cognitive and Behavioral Neuroscience Unit, Director, D’Or Institute for Research and Education (IDOR), Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Important advances have been made on the understanding of the neurobiological bases of moral cognition and behavior and their impairments. Novel findings from fMRI studies addressing the neural correlates of specific moral sentiments, social values and altruistic decisions will be discussed, as well as recent results from imaging studies in psychopathy and in fronto-temporal dementia. Together, lesion and functional imaging evidence point to a critical role of a consistent distributed fronto-temporal network in enabling moral experience and behaviour, including moral sentiments, values and decisions. Damage to parts of this network underlies severe impairments of social behavior, as observed in neuropsychiatric conditions such as psychopathy and fronto-temporal dementia. These lines of evidence pose new levels of complexity but, at the same time, point to new ways for the investigation of human moral nature.
2010 Special Lecture
'Should we consider trialling Deep Brain Stimulation as a treatment for addiction?'
29 October 2010
Professor Wayne Hall, Center for Clinical Research, University of Queensland
Deep brain stimulation (DBS) has been proposed as a potential treatment of drug addiction on the basis of its effects on drug self-administration in animals and case reports of reductions in addictive behaviours in some patients treated with DBS for other psychiatric or neurological conditions. DBS is seen as a more reversible intervention than ablative neurosurgery but it is nonetheless a treatment that carries significant risks. A review of preclinical and clinical evidence for the use of DBS to treat addiction suggests that much more animal research is required to establish the safety and efficacy of the technology and to identify optimal treatment parameters before investigating its use in addicted persons. Severely addicted persons who try and fail to achieve abstinence may, however, be desperate enough to undergo such an invasive treatment if they believe that it will cure their addiction. History shows that the desperation for a “cure” of addiction can lead to the use of risky medical procedures before they have been rigorously tested. In the event that DBS is used in the treatment of addiction, I discuss some minimum ethical requirements for clinical trials of DBS in the treatment of addiction. These include: restrictions of trials to severely intractable cases of addiction; independent oversight to ensure that patients have the capacity to consent and give that consent on the basis of a realistic appreciation of the potential benefits and risks of DBS; and rigorous assessments of the effectiveness and safety of this treatment compared to the best available treatments for addiction.
13-14 May saw a very successful, oversubscribed conference on ‘The Mechanisms of Self-Control: Lessons from Addiction,’ organised by Dr Nick Shea and Professor Neil Levy, held at Christ Church College, Oxford. Giving talks were a world class line-up: Professor George Ainslie, Professor Kent Berridge, Drs Hanna Pickard and Steve Pearce, Dr Natalie Gold, Professor Mark Muraven and Professor Richard Holton. Each speaker had a discussant, and there was fruitful discussion following each talk. The audience spanned the UK, Europe and the US.
Loss of control over some aspects of behaviour is usually held to be a defining feature of addiction. But the loss of control envisaged is somewhat mysterious. The series of actions in which addicts engage in order to procure and consume their drug is not reflexive; should it nevertheless be properly seen as uncontrolled? What mechanisms are impaired in the addict’s behaviour, and how can those impairments illuminate normal agency? This conference will bring together leading thinkers in neuroscience, psychology, psychiatry and philosophy to explore and advance our understanding of the mechanisms of self-control and the way in which they are weakened in addiction.
Audio of each talk where possible can be found within the programme below.
Video of the talk, courtesy of the Science Network, is available here.
George Ainslie (Coatesville Veterans Affairs Medical Center)
Money as MacGuffin: How Gambling Conjures Utility out of Thin Air
Discussant: Pat Churchland (UCSD)
Kent Berridge (University of Michigan)
Wanting and Liking: Phenomena for Addiction and Philosophy
Discussant: Matthew Rushworth (University of Oxford)
Steve Pearce (Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Mental Health Trust) and Hanna Pickard (University of Oxford)
Addiction in Context: Philosophical Lessons from the Clinic
Discussant: Walter Sinnott-Armstrong (Duke)
Natalie Gold (University of Edinburgh)
Framing, Decision-Making and Self-Control
Discussant: John Broome (University of Oxford)
Mark Muraven (SUNY Albany)Self-Control Failure: Depletion and Motivation
Discussant: Owen Flanagan (Duke University)
Richard Holton (MIT)
Finding Space for an Addict's Self-Control
Discussant: Tim Bayne (University of Oxford)
2010 The Inaugural Wellcome Lecture in Neuroethics
'Meditations on Self-Control: Lessons from the Neurobiology of Addiction'
12 May 2010
Professor Steven Hyman, Provost, Harvard University
Loss of control over some aspects of behavior is usually held to be a defining feature of addiction. But the loss of control envisaged is somewhat mysterious. The series of actions in which addicts engage in order to procure and consume their drug is not reflexive; should it nevertheless be properly seen as uncontrolled? What mechanisms are impaired in the addict’s behavior, and how can those impairments illuminate normal agency?