Neuroethics/Mental Health

What is neuroethics?

Neuroethics became a “hot area” within the medical, research, and ethics communities in approximately 2002-2003.  Since then, there are new journals devoted just to neuroethics.  Many existing ethics journals have published special issues about neuroethics.  Several of the field’s leading teachers, writers, researchers, and thinkers work in Canada.

Neuroethics emerged with recent advances in scientific investigation of the brain and neurological systems and clinical applications of this new knowledge.  In particular, neuroscience and neurology were at the centre.  The ethics-related questions and issues included the impact of new technologies (e.g., brain imaging, deep brain stimulation, pharmaceuticals) on human free will, moral motivations and emotions, and personhood.  These are deeply philosophical questions that societies have been debated for centuries and continue to debate.  Moreover the connection of these technologies to governmental agencies and societal priorities is of great ethical importance.  The ethical importance (i.e., benefits versus dangers) of this research and application is reminiscent of the importance of human genome research and application.

How did the group start?

CBS member Eric Racine led the formation and development of this group in the early 2000s.  The group meets at the annual Canadian Bioethics Society conference.  Based on a survey of those who attended one of the first meetings, the preferred group name was “Neuroethics Interest Group.”  However, because issues and questions related to the brain/mind/neurological system are not limited to the neurosciences, the name was recently modified to explicitly include mental health.  Psychologists, counselors/therapists, psychiatrists, healthcare workers and students in mental health are welcome as are all those interested in ethical aspects of mental health (including substance use problems), treatment, care, and research.

What does the group do?

At this time, the group’s primary objective continues to be bringing people interested in mental health/neuroethics together - something particularly important in a country as large as Canada and in a field as big - world wide - as ethics.  At the annual conference get together, people share information about their work/studies, work underway at their centre/agency/hospital/clinic/university as well as news about upcoming events and opportunities in the field.