May 24, 2024


The legal and moral quandaries of the burgeoning new field of neuroethics “threaten to proliferate into every part of our lives”, according to a feature in Time magazine. With rapid advances in pharmacology and in brain imaging, it will soon be possible to monitor and control impulses and behaviour. Amongst the uses to which this new technology could be put are:

  • scanning police cadets to detect potential racists. Apparently racists show heightened activity in the amygdala, a part of the brain that corresponds to emotional arousal.
  • reliable lie detection for police and intelligence agencies.
  • testing for the compatibility of spouses
  • quizzing teenagers about sex and drugs
  • a “neuro-correctional system” which dampens criminal urges

According to Time, scientists need to dialogue with the public. “We need to keep this discussion rational,” says Alan Leshner, the head of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, “so that science can advance and society can benefit from the tremendous potential of being able to look into the brain of a living, breathing, behaving individual and watch the mind in action”.