What did Dr. May say?"This course addresses the following sorts of questions. Does unconscious neural activity determine our behavior prior to conscious awareness? Is a psychopath morally responsible if the behavior is the result of brain dysfunction? Is addiction a neurological compulsion? Which areas of the brain are involved in moral thought and action? Can neuroscientific technologies determine whether someone is lying? Should brain images be used as legal evidence? Is there something wrong with making oneself more ethical by altering one’s brain directly (e.g. via pills or deep brain stimulation)? Students in Neuroethics learn about such topics and evaluate arguments on different sides of the issues."
Dr. Josh May, Assistant Professor of Philosophy
What did the students say?
"Under the current political climate, there are a lot of controversial arguments that have risen within the scientific world. But if you like to argue, how cool is it to argue like a philosopher and a neuroscientist? From philosophy and other humanities classes, I learned to admit our own ignorance and turning questions into reminders. We can better present facts and make wiser decisions for ourselves and others through learning the right reasoning, logic, and thought process. Neuroethics was the most enjoyable, memorable, and useful course I have taken. I was heavily involved with in-class discussions, readings, and writings that required me to think, question, understand, and to learn from my peers. For example, my final 2,500-word paper allowed me to explore the issues that I cared about, which tied to my experiences and interests in disability advocacy, cultural identity, education, language, communication, technology, medicine, etc. There is still controversy when making scientific/medical decisions and public policies for the vulnerable groups, and even the entire population. Yet, this course helped me to develop a pair of clearer lenses to read the world, and to uphold ethically responsible approaches in my career."
Isabella Mak took this course in Spring 2016. She is the editor of this blog. You can find more about her in the "About" page.
"Neuroethics was one of the most unique, engaging, and challenging classes I have ever taken at UAB. Despite taking a host of neuroscience classes throughout undergrad and supplementing my degree with a few graduate public health courses, no class made me question myself or think as critically as Neuroethics. One of the most important things I learned in neuroethics is how different (often clashing) fields have to come together to answer neuroethical dilemmas. For example, my final paper for the course discussed whether psychopaths could be considered morally responsible (and legally responsible) for their decision making. I had to juggle: 1) implications of not punishing them on policy and the criminal justice system, 2) the neuroscience of psychopathy and whether psychopaths could understand the rules they were breaking, and even 3) morality and ethics surrounding punishment and rehabilitation. From this class, I gained a much wider worldview when thinking about how neuroscience research affects both policy and society. I hope to be involved in public health policy-making in the future and have a greater appreciation for the ethical nuance required in translating research into policy. This class will force you to step outside of your comfort zone and add some depth to your arguments. But in the end, it was absolutely worth it. Take a break from statistics, neuroanatomy, and sodium channels to explore this philosophical take on neuroscience! It will be well worth your time."
Mugdha Mokashi took this course in Spring 2017. She is the President of USGA, pursuing a fast-Track Masters of Public Health, a part of the Science and Technology Honors program. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org
"In the midst of pre-med courses, Neuroethics was a nice change of pace. Neuroethics is taught by Dr. May who always brings some topic or concept which will have you thinking/second guessing yourself. In a nutshell, the course strives to do two things: look at ethics from a neuroscientific perspective and look at neuroscience from an ethical perspective. This leads to a host of questions such as should brain imaging be allowed in courts? Should we be held responsible for violence caused from implicit bias? Is it our moral obligation to use cognitive enhancements? These are just a few questions that Neuroethics challenged me to ponder. Not only is the course engaging, but the challenge it offers helps to augment anyone in the sciences. The various perspectives one learns to take can directly be applied to research or even medicine; specifically by teaching the student how to formulate questions to challenge a claim/problem. For this reason, I think this course is a great addition to one’s schedule and guarantee it will be a lot of fun. As the field of Neuroscience grows rapidly, Neuroethics will prepare students to question whatever new advancements Neuroscience offers."
JaVarus Humphries took this course in Spring 2017. He is the Co-Founder of Spreading Awareness, a Research Assistant in the Translational Research for Injury Prevention, and a part of the Science and Technology Honors Program. You can reach him at email@example.com
Edited by Nadia Anabtawi