[Report] Brain Matters: New Directions in Neuroethics

13 October, 2009 ISHIHARA Kohji, NISHITSUTSUMI Yu, OGUCHI Mineki

The international conference "Brain Matters: New Directions in Neuroethics" was held on September 24-26, 2009 in Halifax, Canada. Koji Ishihara, Mineki Oguchi, and Yu Nishitsutsumi of UTCP participated in the conference. The conference was mainly organized by the Novel Tech Ethics research team at Dalhousie University.

A total of 58 people made their presentations at the conference (38 people for oral and 20 people for poster). Prof. Ishihara took part in the panel session "Neuroethics in Asia: Current situation and future views" on the second day, and talked about possible future effects on neuroethics studies from social and cultural settings in Japan. Oguchi gave a paper on the second day, and Nishitsutsumi made a poster presentation on the first day. What follows is Oguchi’s and Nishitsutsumi’s reports on their presentations and impressions of the conference.

Lord Nelson Hotel

(Reported by Mineki Oguchi)


Yu Nishitsutsumi, "Does the 'Iowa Gambling Task' really verify the somatic marker hypothesis?"

At the first annual meeting of "Brain Matters" held on September 24-26 in Halifax, Canada, I made a poster presentation. The title of my poster is "Does the 'Iowa Gambling Task' really verify the somatic marker hypothesis?" The Somatic Marker Hypothesis (SMH) proposed by A. R. Damasio brings forward a new framework for understanding our decision-making, based on the latest findings in neuroscience, and holds that emotion is an essential factor in any decision-making. In my poster, I gave a careful consideration to Damasio’s interpretation of the Iowa Gambling Task (IGT), which is evidence to confirm the SMH. There are some unclear points about how to interpret its results. My poster made clear the interpretative problem of the IGT results, suggested some additional tasks to solve the problem, and then, clarified the contents of the SMH.


Download the poster [PDF 801KB]

(Reported by Yu Nishitsutsumi)


Mineki Oguchi, “Neuroethical Considerations of the Concept of Invasiveness”

I made an oral presentation “Neuroethical Considerations of the Concept of Invasiveness.” My presentation was based on the paper of the same title which was published in Enhancement, Society and Humanity (UTCP Booklet 8).

In discussions on cognitive enhancement, whether an intervention is invasive or noninvasive is often taken as an ethical criterion. The criterion states that a certain intervention deserves ethical considerations if it is invasive, but it does not if noninvasive. I analyzed the intuition behind the criterion as the following three problems: health risk, unnaturalness, and violation of the person. The aim of my presentation was to scrutinize the relations between these problems and the concept of invasiveness.


After carefully examining each problem, I concluded that the ethical concerns underlying the concept of invasiveness lack ethical reliability and theoretical relevance.


I received many inspiring questions and constructive reactions from audiences, and promised to keep in touch with some of them.

In my impression, the Brain Matters conference had a friendly atmosphere, and thus effectively facilitated international dialogues and discussions among neuroethicists from different regions and backgrounds. I hope to participate again in the future conferences.

(Reported by Mineki Oguchi)


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