Neuroscience, ethics, and national security: the state of the art

March 21, 2012

(credit: MGM)

U.S. military and intelligence communities fund and utilize an array of neuroscience applications, generating profound ethical issues, say researchers from Wake Forest University and theUniversity of Pennsylvania.

Neuroscience offers possibilities for cutting edge, deployable solutions for the needs of national security and defence, but are, or at least should be, tempered by questions of scientific validity, consequential ethical considerations, and concern for the relationship between science and security, according to the researchers.

For example, brain-computer interfaces, which have already been used to make monkeys control walking robots remotely, could enable humans to operate military devices while sheltered from the reality of combat. Also, research suggests that neuromodulation technologies, such as transcranial magnetic stimulation, could be used to enhance or suppress certain neurological capacities of soldiers on the battlefield. And neuroscientific deception detection, while putatively performing better than traditional “lie-detector” polygraphs, raises questions of reliability and privacy.

Ref.: Michael N. Tennison, Jonathan D. Moreno, Neuroscience, Ethics, and National Security: The State of the Art, PLoS Biology, 2012; [DOI:10.1371/journal.pbio.1001289]