The second and final volume in the Grey Matters set (from the US Presidential Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues produced in response to a request from President Barack Obama regarding the BRAIN (Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies) initiative) has just been released.
The formal title of the latest volume is Gray Matters: Topics at the Intersection of Neuroscience, Ethics, and Society, volume two. The first was titled: Gray Matters: Integrative Approaches for Neuroscience, Ethics, and Society, volume one.)
According to volume 2 of the report’s executive summary,
… In its first volume on neuroscience and ethics, Gray Matters: Integrative Approaches for Neuroscience, Ethics, and Society, the Bioethics Commission emphasized the importance of integrating ethics and neuroscience throughout the research endeavor.1 This second volume, Gray Matters: Topics at the Intersection of Neuroscience, Ethics, and Society, takes an in-depth look at three topics at the intersection of neuroscience and society that have captured the public’s attention.
The Bioethics Commission found widespread agreement that contemporary neuroscience holds great promise for relieving human suffering from a number of devastating neurological disorders. Less agreement exists on multiple other topics, and the Bioethics Commission focused on three cauldrons of controversy—cognitive enhancement, consent capacity, and neuroscienceand the legal system. These topics illustrate the ethical tensions and societal implications of advancing neuroscience and technology, and bring into heightened relief many important ethical considerations.
A March 26, 2015 post by David Bruggeman on his Pasco Phronesis blog further describes the 168 pp. second volume of the report,
There are fourteen main recommendations in the report:
Prioritize Existing Strategies to Maintain and Improve Neural Health
Continue to examine and develop existing tools and techniques for brain health
Prioritize Treatment of Neurological Disorders
As with the previous recommendation, it would be valuable to focus on existing means of addressing neurological disorders and working to improve them.
Study Novel Neural Modifiers to Augment or Enhance Neural Function
Existing research in this area is limited and inconclusive.
Ensure Equitable Access to Novel Neural Modifiers to Augment or Enhance Neural Function
Access to cognitive enhancements will need to be handled carefully to avoid exacerbating societal inequities (think the stratified societies of the film Elysium or the Star Trek episode “The Cloud Minders“).
Create Guidance About the Use of Neural Modifiers
Professional societies and expert groups need to develop guidance for health care providers that receive requests for prescriptions for cognitive enhancements (something like an off-label use of attention deficit drugs, beta blockers or other medicines to boost cognition rather than address perceived deficits).
If you don’t have time to look at the 2nd volume, David’s post covers many of the important points.