Skip to main content

Ethical Aspects of Computational Neuroscience

Abstract

Recent research in computational neuroscience has demonstrated that we now possess the ability to simulate neural systems in significant detail and on a large scale. Simulations on the scale of a human brain have recently been reported. The ability to simulate entire brains (or significant portions thereof) would be a revolutionary scientific advance, with substantial benefits for brain science. However, the prospect of whole-brain simulation comes with a set of new and unique ethical questions. In the present paper, we briefly outline certain of those problems and emphasize the need to begin considering the ethical aspects of computational neuroscience.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.

References

  1. Izhikevich, E.M., and G.M. Edelman. 2008. Large-scale model of mammalian thalamocortical systems. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 105: 3593–3598.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  2. Block, N. 1997. On a confusion about a function of consciousness. In The nature of consciousness: Philosophical debates, ed. N. Block, O. Flanagan, and G. Guzeldere. Cambridge: MIT Press.

    Google Scholar 

  3. Searle, J. 1980. Minds, brains, and programs. The Behavioral and Brain Sciences 3: 417–457.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  4. Searle, J. 1999. Mind, language, and society. New York: Basic Books.

    Google Scholar 

  5. Turing, A. 1950. Computing machinery and intelligence. Mind 59: 455–460.

    Google Scholar 

  6. Chalmers, D.J. 1995. Absent qualia, fading qualia, dancing qualia. In Conscious experience, ed. Thomas Metzinger, 309–328. Exeter: Imprint Academic.

    Google Scholar 

  7. Moravec, H. 1988. Mind children. Cambridge: Harvard University.

    Google Scholar 

  8. Singer, W. 1998. Consciousness and the structure of neuronal representations. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London B 353: 1829–1840.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  9. Singer, W. 2001. Consciousness and the binding problem. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences 929: 123–146.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  10. Pakkenberg, B., and H.J.G. Gundersen. 1997. Neocortical neuron number in humans: Effect of sex and age. The Journal of Comparative Neurology 384: 312–320.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  11. Izhikevich, E.M. 2004. Which model to use for spiking neurons. IEEE Transactions on Neural Networks 15: 1063–1070.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  12. Izhikevich, E.M. 2003. Simple model of spiking neurons. IEEE Transactions on Neural Networks 14: 1569–1572.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  13. Schnitzler, A., and M. Ploner. 2000. Neurophysiology and functional neuroanatomy of pain perception. Journal of Clinical Neurophysiology 17: 592–603.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  14. Treede, R.-D., D.R. Kenshalo, R.H. Gracely, and A.K.P. Jones. 1999. The cortical representation of pain. Pain 79: 105–111.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  15. Kozlov, A., M. Huss, A. Lansner, J.H. Kotaleski, and S. Grillner. 2009. Simple cellular and network control principles govern complex patterns of motor behavior. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 106: 20027–20032.

    Google Scholar 

  16. Burd, L., J.M. Gregory, and J. Kerbeshian. 1998. The brain-mind quiddity: Ethical issues in the use of human brain tissue for therapeutic and scientific purposes. Journal of Medical Ethics 24: 118–122.

    Article  Google Scholar 

Download references

Acknowledgments

I thank J. R. Caldwell and two reviewers for their helpful comments and suggestions.

Author information

Authors and Affiliations

Authors

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Tyler D. Bancroft.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Bancroft, T.D. Ethical Aspects of Computational Neuroscience. Neuroethics 6, 415–418 (2013). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12152-012-9163-7

Download citation

  • Received:

  • Accepted:

  • Published:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s12152-012-9163-7

Keywords

  • Ethics
  • Computational neuroscience
  • Simulation
  • Neuroethics
  • Organizational invariance