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July 15, 2004

Neuroscience Expert to Discuss Ethical Issues Emerging
from Modern Research on the Brain

WOODS HOLE - Martha Farah, Ph.D., professor of Psychology at The University of Pennsylvania and Director of their Center for Cognitive Neuroscience, will offer the Marine Biological Laboratory's (MBL's) Fourth Annual Bioethics Lecture on Wednesday, July 28 at 4:00 pm in the Lillie Auditorium, MBL Street, Woods Hole. The lecture, titled "Bioethics, neuroethics, and neuroscience: A guide for the perplexed,” sponsored by Drs. Gerald and Ruth Fischbach, is free and open to the public.

Neuroethics is a new field concerned with the benefits and dangers of modern research on the brain, and by extension, with the social, legal and ethical implications of treating or manipulating the mind. Neuroethics critically examines the rapidly expanding fields of neuroscience.

Recent advances in neuroscience have put extraordinary new technologies within reach, including ever more sensitive neuroimaging and ever more selective  psychopharmaceuticals.  The effects of these developments have already begun to be felt beyond the lab and clinic.  Issues of privacy and freedom arise when we monitor and manipulate the brain.  The ideas of neuroscience, as well as the methods, are also increasingly affecting society’s understanding of responsibility, selfhood and spirituality.  While admitting to feeling some perplexity myself in the face of these many profound and varied issues herself, Dr. Farah will attempt to identify some of the key questions facing the field and suggest approaches to analyzing them.

Dr. Farah is the author of numerous books and articles on the subjects of neuropsychology, behavioral neurobiology, and cognitive neuroscience. She received her undergraduate degree from The Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and her doctorate from Harvard University. Dr. Farah has also worked as a Professor at The Carnegie Mellon University, and as a Visiting Scientist at the Insitut National de la Sante et de la Recherche Medicale in Lyon, France. Among her many honors, Dr. Farah has received the 1983 Keenan Award for Innovative Teaching from Harvard University, the 1992 Distinguished Scientific Award for an Early Career Contribution from the American Psychological Association, and the 1992 Troland Award from the National Academy of Sciences. She was awarded the John Simon Guggenheim Fellowship in 1995, and the Cognitive Science Society Fellowship in 2002. Dr. Farah has been a Special Issue Editor of Current Opinion in Neurobiology and Developmental Science and has also been a member of the editorial boards of several noted psychology journals.

The Annual Bioethics Lecture was established in 2001 to offer an opportunity for a formal discussion of bioethical issues to reach a broad and diverse audience of scientists and concerned citizens.  Because so many biologists, including M.D. and Ph.D. candidates, work and receive their training at the Marine Biological Laboratory, the MBL provides an excellent forum for addressing ethical dilemmas emerging in biomedicine. Students in MBL courses are especially encouraged to participate in this important seminar.

The Marine Biological Laboratory is an internationally known, independent, nonprofit research and educational institution. It conducts the highest level of original research and education in biology, including the biomedical and environmental sciences. MBL hosts research programs in cell and developmental biology, ecosystems studies, molecular biology and evolution, neurobiology, behavior, global infectious diseases and sensory physiology. Its intensive graduate-level educational program is renowned throughout the life sciences. Founded in 1888, the MBL is the oldest private marine laboratory in the western hemisphere.