Intervention in the Brain: Politics, Policy, and Ethics

Article excerpt

Intervention in the Brain: Politics, Policy, and Ethics by Robert H. Blank. MIT Press. 2013. 370 pages. $34.

Medicine's capabilities for intervening in brain function are expanding rapidly, but might these interventions have unintended consequences? Political-science professor Robert H. Blank calls for an expansion of dialogue by the medical community with social scientists, policy analysts, and the media and general public about what the science can do and where it might progress.

Blank delves into the latest directions in neuroscience scholarship and the conflicting theories surrounding each one. Scientists are increasingly recognizing the influence of emotions and instincts on politics, culture, and consumers' buying and spending habits, he explains. They're also learning how genes and the environment interact to predispose some individuals to aggression or to criminal and antisocial behaviors--one corollary of which is growing use of neuroimaging in criminal trial proceedings to determine whether defendants' brain wiring makes them prone to commit their suspected crimes and, if so, to what extent they can be considered accountable. Social scientists and brain scientists alike are reconsidering how we understand personal autonomy, personal identity, and individual rights.

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

In addition, some advertisers hope to use neuroimaging to craft better marketing campaigns, even though the technology's actual usefulness for marketing purposes is unknown. …