Originally published July 6, 2017
Here is an excerpt:
As advances in molecular biology and chemical engineering are increasing the precision of pharmaceuticals, even more spatially-targeted technologies are emerging. New noninvasive treatments send electrical currents or magnetic waves through the scalp, altering the ability of neurons in a targeted region to fire. Surgical interventions are even more precise; they include implanted electrodes that are designed to quell seizures before they spread, or stimulate the recall of memories after a traumatic brain injury.
Research into the brain's "wiring"—how neurons are physically connected in networks that span disparate parts of the brain—and how this wiring relates to changing mental states has enabled principles from control theory to be applied to neuroscience. For example, a recent study by Bassett and colleagues shows how changes in brain wiring from childhood through adolescence leads to greater executive function, or the ability to consciously control one's thoughts and attention.
While insights from network science and control theory may support new treatments for conditions like obsessive compulsive disorder and traumatic brain injury, the researchers argue that clinicians and bioethicists must be involved in the earliest stages of their development. As the positive effects of treatments become more profound, so do their potential side effects.
"New methods of controlling mental states will provide greater precision in treatments," Sinnott-Armstrong said, "and we thus need to think hard about the ensuing ethical issues regarding autonomy, privacy, equality and enhancement."
The article is here.