Archive for the ‘conference’ Category

neuro.gifIn May 15-16 this year, the Copenhagen Business School arranges a conference on neuroeconomics. According to the mission statement, the idea is to “provide an international discussion forum for research in the intersection of the psychology and neuroscience of decision-making and to set a stage for the presentation of recent contributions.”

I will give a talk entitled “Three new directions for neuroeconomic research”. The abstract is below. I can see form the other abstracts and talks that the contributions are most interesting, and there are many results that I expect will make it to the neuroscience journals in the foreseeable future.

So if you are interested in neuroeconomics, the neuroscience of decision making, and the relationship between brands, emotions and consumer behaviour, this is definitely the place to go this year.


Three new directions for neuroeconomic research


Cognitive neuroscience has recently contributed significantly to the improvement of models in microeconomy and consumer behaviour research. We here suggest that three recent development in cognitive neuroscience may lead to new and exciting fields of enquiry in neuroeconomic research. First, imaging genetics has provided detailed insight into how genes influence emotional responses and decision making in the brain. Second, studies of healthy ageing suggest that emotions and cognitive processes change with age. Finally, single-subject neuroimaging studies may provide new tools for finding neuronal markers for parameters relevant to consumer behaviour research, including emotional responses, preference formation and decision making.

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brain-reading.jpgBack in February, BBC ran a story about fMRI researchers – shock, horror! – now being able to read people’s minds. In actual fact, the story was a bit more benign. Using a fairly new (and little used) type of fMRI analysis called “multivariate analysis” researchers such as Geraint Rees and John-Dylan Haynes are presently attempting to associate individual mental states with specific patterns of BOLD signal activity. If the mental states of interest can be precisely delineated it is possible to determine if a subject is “in” mental state A or B just from looking at the scanned fMRI data. For instance, in one experiment, described in the BBC story, subjects were asked to either subtract or add numbers shown on a screen without telling the experimenters which of the two potential choices they actually went with. Just by looking at the obtained scans Haynes and his colleagues were able to infer, in 70 % of the cases, whether the subject chose to add or substract – thus, to some degree, being able to “read” the subjects’ hidden intentions. Of course, in reality, the experimenters’ mind reading ability was extremely limited, being focused on only two, highly simple, forced choices. (If you want to read a good presentation of the mind reading possibilities offered by multivariate analysis, see this paper by Rees and Haynes.)

Yet, with all the recent talk about fMRI lie detection and what have you, work such as Haynes and Rees’ on multivariate analysis raises a number of interesting neuroethical questions. On May 9, Haynes is convening a bunch of top-notch speakers to discuss these questions, including Daniel Langleben (of fMRI lie detection fame), Adrian Owen, Henrik Walther, and Thomas Metzinger. He presents the colloquium with the following words:

Every thought is associated with a characteristic pattern of activation in the brain. By training a computer to recognize these patterns, it becomes possible to read a person’s thoughts from patterns of their cerebral activity. In this way a person’s brain activity can betray their thoughts and emotions, can gives clues whether they are lying, or can even predict what they are about to do.

This recent progress in brain science has made completely new insights into thought processes possible. We can now investigate how thoughts are stored in the brain, or how intentions unconsciously arise and affect our behavior. But these findings are not just of interest for the scientific disciplines involved. They have important implications for our understanding of human nature. Also, they lay foundations for important applications: For example, with the help of a “brain computer interfaces”, paralysed patients can control technical devices solely “with the power of their thoughts”.

In the 11th Berlin Colloquium, brain scientists from the USA, Canada and Europe will present this new field of “brain-reading”, while at the same time providing a forum for discussion on the future perspectives of these methods. In particular, the ethical question will be of interest, to which extent such “thought technology” is compatible with “mental privacy”.

It should be well worth your time going.


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oslo.jpgI’ve just been alerted to the fact that the University of Oslo in Norway will play host to a conference on “Neuroethics and Empirical Moral Psychology” from March 14 to March 16. See more here. It looks pretty interesting (and free of charge). Among the speakers are John Bickle, Shaun Nichols and Stephen Morse. John Bickle is well known as a hardcore reductionist (he makes the Churchlands look like dualists). Stephen Morse has written several papers arguing that neuroscience should have no impact on our conception of legal responsibility. Putting Bickle and Morse in the same room should make for lots of fun!


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brain_child_by_temabina.jpgIt’s really a slow digestion period, getting back from SfN in Atlanta. Other than an aching back and jet-lag the conference experience has been tremendous. But at the same time it was rather confusing. Those talks and lectures that I expected to be good turned out to be boring or far too complex (or ill presented) to comprehend. Other talks — IMO wildcards relative to my own area — were tremendously informative.

It strikes me that this year didn’t have one or more major themes that were dominating the discussion and themes as such. This very much as we’ve seen in previous conferences, and at other conferences, where topics such as e.g. stem cell research (SfN) or brain development or imaging genetics (Human Brain Mapping) was on everybody’s lips. So while I sit here back home and reflect on some highlights — other than those very technical aspects that I myself found interesting — a few come to mind.


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heidelberg.jpgHeidelberg hosts the first big neuroethics conference on European soil Friday, November 3, and Saturday, November 4. You can see the programme here. It looks very promising. Among the speakers is not only people who have already published several papers on neuroethics – Judy Illes, Turhan Canli, Erik Parens, Adina Roskies, and Paul Root Wolpe, for instance – but also a number of big shot neuroscientists without a previous track record in the field – Wolf Singer, Nikos Logothetis, Jean-Pierre Changeux, and Petra Störig, to name just a few. Furthermore, Alison Abbott, a correspondent for Nature will be there.

Since neither Thomas nor I will be able to go, I would very interested in hearing from prospective attendees who would be interested in filing a report from the meeting here on BrainEthics. Please send me an email at martins_AT_drcmr_DOT_dk.


UPDATE (Oct. 29). We have found a reporter!

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kristan.jpgWilliam B. Kristan at UCSD gave a very interesting talk today about decision making in the leech (!), but instead of providing you with a review of this talk, which is a little bit outside my own domain (put mildly), I’ll quote Kristan in a way that kind of captures his presentation style: present and witty.

In a novel situation an organism has to choose what to do. Here, we can typically speak of the possible options as the four F’s; flight, fight, feed or mate.


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incidental1.jpgWe are about half way through the Society for Neuroscience 2006 in Atlanta, and it’s time for some general impressions and notes for future reports. Some of the lectures and symposia have been interesting and revealing, others have required too much previous knowledge for me to fully appreciate.

Illes lecture

But let’s start with today’s lectue by Judy Illes, who gave an interesting talk on the different aspects of neuroethics. Much of the talk was dedicated to the aspects of incidental findings (IF). It gave rise to quite a few thoughts to me. First of all, the problem with IF seems to focus a lot on the ethics on behalf of the subject. Should we tell in case we find something, should we ask people in advance if they want to know, how can we secure our research to avoid as many IFs as possible? It struck me that as a researcher, there is an additional motavion: external validity. If you are studying healthy volunteers you want them to BE healthy volunteers. Any IF will thus influence your data in an unwanted way. To me this is not trivial. It is part and parcel of your scientific motif. So for this reason alone we should make as sure as we can that we are indeed analyzing healthy subjects. The better screening we can do, the more sure we can be that we’re studying what we aim to, e.g. healthy ageing.


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Neuroethicist bound for SfN

logo_society-for-neuroscience.gifSfN is up shortly, and I will do my best to overcome a disc prolapse and get there, too. If you are going to Atlanta, let me know (either here as a comment, or email me, thomasr AT drcmr.dk) .

SfN is definitely going to be busy, and Judy Illes is going to give a talk about neuroethics. I might even be lucky and squeeze in a mini-interview with her. Anyway, amidst the abundance of posters, talks and workshops, I hope to make your acquaintance.


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gal507.jpgThe next International Imaging Genetics Conference is opening its doors now for registration. The third year in a row, building on two successful conferences, this third meeting will also house two separate workshops: one on brain imaging for geneticists; and one on genetics for brain imagers. All in the spirit of crossing the bridge between genetics, brain imaging and statistics. As this course was brilliant last year, I’m hoping to attend in January 2007, too.

Here is the announcement:

The First and Second International Imaging Genetics Conferences were held to bring together national and international experts in neuroimaging, genetics, data-mining, visualization and statistics. Targeting physicians and scientific researchers, this annual conference features presentations from investigators world-wide and held in-depth discussions within the emerging field of Imaging Genetics. Given the known importance of both genetics and environment in brain function, and the role of neuroimaging in revealing brain dysfunction, the synergism of integrating genetics with brain imaging will fundamentally change our understanding of human brain function in disease. To fully realize the promise of this synergy, we must develop novel analytic, statistical, and visualization techniques for this new field.

This international symposium was held to initially assess the state of the art in the various established fields of genetics and imaging, and to facilitate the transdisciplinary fusion needed to optimize the development of the emerging field of Imaging Genetics. The Third Annual International Imaging Genetics Conference will be held on January 15th and 16th, 2007 at the Beckman Center of the National Academy of Sciences in Irvine, CA. We look forward to seeing you at this exciting upcoming event.

Monday January 15th:

  • Nicholas Schork, UCSD “Multivariate Analysis of Combined Imaging and Genomic Data”
  • Eleazer Eskin, UCSD “Analysis of Complex Traits Through Intermediate Phenotypes.”
  • Tom Nichols, University of Michigan “Statistical Challenges & Opportunities in Imaging Genetics”
  • Fabio Macciardi, University of Toronto “Integrating Imaging Genetics Methods in Schizophrenia.”
  • David Goldman, NIAAA “Genes and Neurobiologies in the Addictions”
  • David Goldstein, Duke Institute for Genome Sciences and Policy “Neuropsychiatric pharmacogenetics”
  • Daniel Weinberger, NIMH/NIH: TBA

Tuesday January 16th:

  • Joseph Callicott, NIMH “Does risk for schizophrenia arise from multiple genes in vulnerable pathways? Evidence from DISC1 and FEZ1″
  • Lisa Eyler, UCSD “Genetics of Brain and Cognition: A Twin Study of Aging”
  • Fei Wang, Peking University “Neuregulin 1 Genetic Variation and anterior cingulum integrity in schizophrenia and in health.”
  • Andreas Meyer-Lindenberg, NIMH/NIH “Genetic characterization of prefrontal-subcortical interactions in humans.”

**New for 2007** Sunday January 14th:

*** Half-day Workshop tutorials will be offered the day before the conference at the Beckman Center- see website for details***

Workshop 1: What Geneticists need to know about Brain Imaging
Workshop 2: What Brain Imagers need to know about Genetics

Registration and conference information can be found at the conference website


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Adina Roskies is a neurophilosopher with a strong interest in neuroethics. (See a list below with some of her contributions to the field.) Recently she spoke on the topic of cognitive enhancement at a conference called Forbidding Science at Arizona State University. Also speaking on the same topic at this event were Nick Bostrom and Carl Elliott. Videos of all three presentations are now up at the Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies's website.

Adina Roskies's papers on neuroethics

Roskies, A. (2002): Neuroethics for the new millennium. Neuron 35:21-23.

Roskies, A. (2003): Are ethical judgments intrinsically motivational? Philosophical Psychology 16: 51-66.

Roskies, A. (2006): A case study of neuroethics: The nature of moral judgment. In Illes, J., ed. (2006): Neuroethics. Oxford: Oxford UP.



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