Intervening in the Brain
The Europäische Akademie is concerned with the study of the consequences of scientific and technological advance both for the individual and for society at large as well as for the natural environment. One important pillar of its work is to assess the consequences of advances in medical research and technology. In recent years, neuroscience has been a particularly prolific discipline stimulating many innovative treatment approaches in medicine. However, when it comes to the brain, new techniques of intervention do not always meet with a positive public response, in spite of promising therapeutic b- efits. The reason for this caution clearly is the brain’s special importance as “organ of the mind”. As such it is widely held to be the origin of mankind’s unique position among living beings. Likewise, on the level of the individual human being, the brain is considered the material substrate of those traits that in combination render each person unique. In view of this preeminent significance of the brain, it is understandable that, in general, interventions into the brain are considered a delicate issue and that new techniques of intervention are scrutinised with particular care. However, in doing so it is important not to go to the opposite extreme and shy away from promising new therapeutic approaches for debilitating disorders of the brain. With respect to the new techniques of brain intervention a broad int- disciplinary perspective is required to discern irrational fear from justified concern.
Surveys current, emerging and future techniques for brain interventionReviews today’s established pharmaceutical methods of influencing brain activity and mental functionDiscusses the ethical and legal issues involved in different kinds of interventions