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Neuroscience and Society

Neuroscience and Society is a three-year series of articles and essays on the ethical, legal, and social issues presented by emerging neuroscience. It is published open access in the Hastings Center Report with funding from the Dana Foundation. The series fosters dynamic, sustained conversation among neuroscience researchers and legal and ethics scholars with one another, policymakers, and wider publics.

Development of the series is led by Gregory E. Kaebnick with support from Erik Parens and the guidance of a steering committee of six scholars:
Jennifer Chandler, University of Ottawa
Winston Chiong, University of California San Francisco
Joseph J. Fins, Weill Cornell Medical School
Sara Goering, University of Washington
Jonathan D. Moreno, University of Pennsylvania
Oliver Rollins, University of Washington

Contributing to the Series
New submissions to the series are welcome. Contact Gregory E. Kaebnick at

Table of Contents

Gregory E. Kaebnick, “Neuroscience and Society: Supporting and Unsettling Public Engagement,” Hastings Center Report 54, no. 1 (2024): 20-23. DOI: 10.1002/hast.1565
Abstract: Advancing neuroscience is one of many topics that pose a challenge often called “the alignment problem”—the challenge, that is, of assuring that science policy is responsive to and in some sense squares with the public’s values. This issue of the Hastings Center Report launches a series of scholarly essays and articles on the ethical and social issues raised by this vast body of medical research and bench science. The series, which will run under the banner “Neuroscience and Society,” is supported by the Dana Foundation and seeks to promote deliberative public engagement, broadly understood, about neuroscience. As a social goal, deliberative public engagement is both ubiquitous and elusive—called for everywhere yet difficult to undertake at a national level on a complex scientific topic. To be meaningful, deliberative public engagement must occur in many locations in a society and be carried forward by many actors. Scholarly writing might contribute in several ways.

Sara Goering, Andrew I. Brown, and Eran Klein, “Brain Pioneers and Moral Entanglement: An Argument for Post-trial Responsibilities in Neural-Device Trials,” Hastings Center Report 54, no. 1 (2024): 24- 33. DOI: 10.1002/hast.1566
Abstract: We argue that in implanted neurotechnology research, participants and researchers experience what Henry Richardson has called “moral entanglement.” Participants partially entrust researchers with access to their brains and thus to information that would otherwise be private, leading to created intimacies and special obligations of beneficence for researchers and research funding agencies. One of these obligations, we argue, is about continued access to beneficial technology once a trial ends. We make the case for moral entanglement in this context through exploration of participants’ vulnerability, uncompensated risks and burdens, depth of relationship with the research team, and dependence on researchers in implanted neurotechnology trials.

Joseph J. Fins, Amanda R. Merner, Megan S. Wright, and Gabriel Lázaro- Muñoz, “Identity Theft, Deep Brain Stimulation, and the Primacy of Post-trial Obligations,” Hastings Center Report 54, no. 1 (2024): 34-41. DOI: 10.1002/hast.1567
Abstract: Patient narratives from two investigational deep brain stimulation trials for traumatic brain injury and obsessive-compulsive disorder reveal that injury and illness rob individuals of personal identity and that neuromodulation can restore it. The early success of these interventions makes a compelling case for continued post-trial access to these technologies. Given the centrality of personal identity to respect for persons, a failure to provide continued access can be understood to represent a metaphorical identity theft. Such a loss recapitulates the pain of an individual’s initial injury or illness and becomes especially tragic because it could be prevented by robust policy. A failure to fulfill this normative obligation constitutes a breach of disability law, which would view post-trial access as a means to achieve social reintegration through this neurotechnological accommodation.