FMRI Journal Club: Ethical issues in neuroimaging

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Ethical Issues in Neuroimaging

“…a witness might also claim Fourth Amendment protection against unreasonable search and seizure. Doing so to protect the contents of one’s mind, so to speak, is unprecedented but may be increasingly relevant as the ability to detect truthful or false responses develops. First Amendment claims might even be used, as interference with free responses to questions could be proposed as a violation of the right to free mentation and speech. This would be the first time that the limits of ‘‘cognitive liberty’’ would be defined and tested, so there is no clear legal precedent (Wolpe et al., 2005).” from, Luber, et al. Behavioral Sciences and the Law Behav. Sci. Law 27:191–208 (2009)

We will meet Tuesdays at 2 pm in 58-261A of the NPI

Students are expected to come to class prepared to present and discuss the contents of the articles.

Here are some readings as they pile up:

A few topic ideas

Week 1

3/30 Led by Katherine Narr:

  • Neurology. 2008 Jan 29;70(5):384-90. Practical approaches to incidental findings in brain imaging research. Illes J, Kirschen MP, Edwards E, Bandettini P, Cho MK, Ford PJ, Glover GH, Kulynych J, Macklin R, Michael DB, Wolf SM, Grabowski T, Seto B.
  • Morris Z, Whiteley WN, Longstreth WT Jr, Weber F, Lee YC, Tsushima Y, Alphs H, Ladd SC, Warlow C, Wardlaw JM, Al-Shahi Salman R. Incidental findings on brain magnetic resonance imaging: systematic review and meta-analysis. BMJ. 2009 Aug 17;339:b3016. doi: 10.1136/bmj.b3016

Week 2

4/6 Led by Elizabeth Sowell

  • Lu LH, Dapretto M, O'Hare ED, Kan E, McCourt ST, Thompson PM, Toga AW, Bookheimer SY, Sowell ER (2009) Relationships between Brain Activation and Brain Structure in Normally Developing Children. Cereb Cortex.

Week 3 - No Meeting


There will be no meeting this week. We will continue on 4/20.

Week 4

4/20 No Lie MRI (this may take more than one session)

A number of groups have reported reliable detection of true and false using fMRI, usually with the aid of machine learning/pattern analysis schemes.

We will discuss a variety of issues here

  • Does this actually work?
  • Does a Polygraph work?
  • Who should profit?
  • What does this do to our rights to privacy?


Week 5

5/4 Neuropolitics (a little late...)

Dr. Iacoboni has agreed to come to talk with us about these materials at a later date, as well.

Some Readings

Week 6

5/4 Presented by Leo and Derek

Hello all,

Here are the papers for this week. Attached are:

primary papers:

The first discusses major ethical issues raised by the advent of neuromarketing. The second asks "why use imaging for marketing at all?" The third, "what is NM" is a short meta-analysis of neuromarketing as a field of study unto itself. The patent document is a useful example of how a neuromarketing project is carried out. No need to read the whole thing.

Questions to think about:

  • 1)Is this even feasible?
  • 2)How exactly would it work?
  • 3)How might it change marketing?
  • 4)How does it affect privacy?
  • 5)What are the implications/possible future applications of this sort of research?

Regards, Leo

Week 8

5/11 Presented by Katy Cross and Sarah Madsen

Criminality, Responsibility and the Brain

In 2009 fMRI evidence was used (for the first time in court?) by the defense to combat the death penalty in the sentencing of Brian Dugan for murder. These papers discuss the role of brain imaging in law, specifically regarding criminal responsibility.

This last one is a paper from a law journal in case anyone wants the law perspective. Its a little longer and won't be the primary focus, just FYI.

Week 9

5/18 Presented by Jia Liu :)

In order to apply neuroimaging techniques and results to more broad areas, eg. neuromarketing and lie detection, and to better understand the brain, we first need to make sure that our research is reliable. This week we'll talk about how we believe our research.

questions to think about:

How much do we rely on statistics tools and how much do we really understand them?

and if have time, we'll discuss the relationship between neuroimaging and mass media, eg. how people outside academia see us

optional reading

Week 10

5/25 Presented by Wei Li

This week we will focus on TMS and safety of neuroimaging.

Week 10

6/1 Presented by John Kuo

To ethically perform neuroimaging studies, we must fully understand the risks involved:

The reviews are lengthy, so just focus on the safety and side effect issues.

Week 12

6/8 Led by Jack van Horn

  • tbd