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Discussions Discussion Science - Neurology
Tom Gary, March 8, 2012

Paul Zak is a pioneer in this nascent field of neuroeconomics. In a recent paper published in the journal PLoS One, he examined genes that may predict success among traders on Wall Street. His forthcoming book, “The Moral Molecule,” will explore how a chemical in the brain called oxytocin compels cooperation in society.


Tom Gary

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Discussions Discussion Science - Neurology
Jill Davies, Feb. 15, 2012

Neurolaw” - A meeting of the minds on brain and law

This emerging area of work was coined “neurolaw” in 1991, and has been bringing together interdisciplinary teams of neuroscientists, scholars, lawyers and judges to explore and deliberate where the science of the brain and the principles of justice intersect. As the understanding of the brain becomes greater, many new questions with potentially game-changing answers arise. How can assemblies of brain cells and the inter-actions between them lead to notions of guilt and punishment? What is the role of our genes and our brains in the courtroom? Will neuroscience change how we feel about criminal responsibility? How is eyewitness testimony affected by aging, neurologic and psychiatric conditions? What can courts and other justice system participants learn from neuroscience to improve eyewitness reliability, including lineup procedures, jury instructions and the use of expert witnesses? How does popular culture affect public perceptions of the meaning of moral and legal responsibility? The answers to these questions, and many more, have great potential to influence how we, as a society, deliver justice and punishment.


Jill Davies
Comments (1)
  • Tony Trevari Tony Trevari Feb. 15, 2012
    Canadian law will be forced very soon to accommodate the fact there is no absolute “free will.” …fascinating implications.

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Discussions Discussion Science - Neurology
Janet Pearson, Feb. 8, 2012

Neuroscience could mean soldiers controlling weapons with minds:

Soldiers could have their minds plugged directly into weapons systems, undergo brain scans during recruitment and take courses of neural stimulation to boost their learning, if the armed forces embrace the latest developments in neuroscience to hone the performance of their troops.


These scenarios are described in a report into the military and law enforcement uses of neuroscience, published on Tuesday, which also highlights a raft of legal and ethical concerns that innovations in the field may bring.

Interview with Professor Rod Flower FRS, chair of the Royal Society’s new report.

Janet Pearson
Comments (3)
  • Rajneesh Nair Rajneesh Nair Feb. 8, 2012
    I know this seems like a bit irrelevant, but in Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots, many of the soldiers are controlled by technology, used to pair their guns to their digital I.D.'s. They also perform in a more uniform manner, never question orders, and show no judgment of their own, for better or for worse. The various ethical dilemmas that arise throughout the game relating to this topic are very interesting. If you're into games and neurobiological weaponry, look into it.
  • Thomas Billingsly Thomas Billingsly Feb. 9, 2012
    The parallel with the world of games is not irrelevant at all. Military drones that hover over distant lands for spying and attack purposes are known to be sometimes controlled by a game-like joystick from a person sitting in an office outside of Washington DC who decides to press the button “kill” button or not. The whole scenario is reduced to a game-like situation for this person. Training for such work also involves game techniques. The parallel is right on point.
  • Thomas Billingsly Thomas Billingsly Feb. 9, 2012
    To this point — Predator Drones and Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs): Military ethicists concede that drones can turn war into a video game and, with no Americans directly at risk, more easily draw the United States into conflicts.

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Discussions Discussion Science - Neurology
Wendy I - USA, Sept. 27, 2011

This sounded interesting, and had a lot of interesting points.

Wendy I - USA
Comments (2)
  • Ricky Burkhardt Ricky Burkhardt Sept. 28, 2011
    Interesting conclusion:
    “There is virtually no evidence that artworks activate emotion areas distinct from those involved in appraising everyday objects important for survival. Hence, the most reasonable evolutionary hypothesis is that the aesthetic system of the brain evolved first for the appraisal of objects of biological importance, including food sources and suitable mates, and was later co-opted for artworks such as paintings and music. As much as philosophers like to believe that our brains contain a specialized system for the appreciation of artworks, research suggests that our brain’s responses to a piece of cake and a piece of music are in fact quite similar.”
  • Nicole G-USA Nicole G-USA Oct. 20, 2011
    After reading this article I was stunned that appreciating ordinary objects sparks a similar sensation with appreciating art. I came to believe that these two aspects would motivate different outcomes in the brain, but apparently not.

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Discussions Discussion unselected
Marco Masoni, March 24, 2011

I was sent this article by a good friend of mine who also happens to be a psychiatrist. It’s about one of the driving forces of Einztein: the thirst for knowledge.

Why information is its own reward - same neurons signal thirst for water, knowledge

by Ed Yong

To me, and I suspect many readers, the quest for information can be an intensely rewarding experience. Discovering a previously elusive fact or soaking up a finely crafted argument can be as pleasurable as eating a fine meal when hungry or dousing a thirst with drink. This isn’t just a fanciful analogy - a new study suggests that the same neurons that process the primitive physical rewards of food and water also signal the more abstract mental rewards of information.


Ethan Bromberg-Martin and Okihide Hikosaka trained two thirsty rhesus monkeys to choose between two targets on a screen with a flick of their eyes; in return, they randomly received either a large drink or a small one after a few seconds. Their choice of target didn’t affect which drink they received, but it did affect whether they got prior information about the size of their reward. One target brought up another symbol that told them how much water they would get, while the other brought up a random symbol.

After a few days of training, the monkeys almost always looked at the target that would give them advance intel, even though it never actually affected how much water they were given. They wanted knowledge for its own sake. What’s more, even though the gap between picking a target and sipping some water was very small, the monkeys still wanted to know what was in store for them mere seconds later. To them, ignorance is far from bliss.

Marco Masoni

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