Biomedical Microdevices

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Nanotechnology, neuromodulation & the immune response: Discourse, materiality & ethics

  • Joseph J. Fins


Drawing upon the American Pragmatic tradition in philosophy and the more recent work of philosopher Karen Barad, this paper examines how scientific problems are both obscured, and resolved by our use of language describing the natural world. Using the example of the immune response engendered by neural implants inserted in the brain, the author explains how this discourse has been altered by the advent of nanotechnology methods and devices which offer putative remedies that might temper the immune response in the central nervous system. This emergent nanotechnology has altered this problem space and catalyzed one scientific community to acknowledge a material reality that was always present, if not fully acknowledged.


Nanotechnology Neuromodulation Immune response Ethics Neuroethics Discourse Materials Philosophy of science NanoGagliato Karen Barad 



The author would like to thank Paola and Mauro Ferrari for inviting me to NanoGagliato 2014 (where an earlier version of this paper was presented); his fellow conferees for their collegiality and wisdom; and the people of Gagliato for their warm hospitality. He also gratefully acknowledges the editorial insights of Amy B. Ehrlich and partial support from the Clinical and Translational Science Center (UL1)-Cooperative Agreement (CTSC) 1UL1 RR024996 to Weill Cornell Medical College and its Ethics Core.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Division of Medical EthicsWeill Cornell Medical College New YorkUSA
  2. 2.Consortium for the Advanced Study of Brain Injury (CASBI)Weill Cornell Medical College and The Rockefeller UniversityNew YorkUSA
  3. 3.The Rockefeller University and Rockefeller University HospitalNew YorkUSA
  4. 4.The Houston Methodist Hospital Research InstituteHoustonUSA

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