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Cambridge Neuroscientist Starts the Week with BBC Radio 4

Andrew Marr explores the limits of science and art in this week's Start the Week. The philosopher and neuroscientist Raymond Tallis mounts an all-out assault on those who see neuroscience and evolutionary theory as holding the key to understanding human consciousness and society. While fellow scientist Professor Barbara Sahakian from the Department of Psychiatry, University of Cambridge and pictured right, explores the ethical dilemmas which arise when new drugs developed to treat certain conditions are used to enhance performance in the general population. And the gerontologist Aubrey de Grey looks to the future when regenerative medicine prevents the process of aging.

Barbara plays a pivitol role in the programme. She describes how the brain was largely undiscovered territory until the advent of neuroimaging, which revolutionised our ability to look inside the brain of living people and see it in action. But Barbara questions whether with such advances come ethical dilemmas. What if techniques used to help doctors understand the thoughts of patients in a coma are used to detect whether someone’s lying, or as a commercial aid to advertisers? Or pills developed to help those suffering from dementia or ADHD become the drugs of choice for healthy individuals wanting to be smarter and more alert than their peers? As researchers understand more about where in the brain pleasure is located, should treatments only be available to the sick, rather than those who are just unhappy? Barbara and Andrew consider the line between therapy and enhancement, and questions where responsibility lies for the ultimate ‘dual uses’ of the new technologies being developed.

If you are interested in this topic please read: The Oxford Handbook of Neuroethics, edited by Judy Illes and Barbara J Sahakian, published by Oxford University Press.

To listen again to the programme click here.

Posted on 29/06/2011

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