Guest editorial from Dr. Laura Cabrera published in ‘AJOB Neuroscience’

Laura Cabrera photo

Assistant Professor Dr. Laura Cabrera is the author of a guest editorial on “The Need for Guidance around Recruitment and Consent Practices in Intracranial Electrophysiology Research,” published in the current issue of AJOB Neuroscience. Dr. Cabrera stresses the importance of the involvement of institutional review boards and funding agencies with regard to study recruitment and participant consent.

The full text is available online via Taylor & Francis Online (MSU Library or other institutional access may be required to view this article).

Dr. Cabrera co-authors article on osteopathic medical student attitudes on neuroenhancement

Laura Cabrera photo

Authors Aakash A. Dave and Dr. Laura Cabrera, Assistant Professor in the Center for Ethics, have an article in the December issue of the Journal of Cognitive Enhancement. The article, “Osteopathic Medical Students’ Attitudes Towards Different Modalities of Neuroenhancement: a Pilot Study,” was available online first in January of this year.

Abstract: The advancement of society has coincided with the development and use of technologies intended to improve cognitive function, which are collectively known as neuroenhancers. While several studies have assessed public perception towards the moral acceptability of pharmacological and device-based cognitive enhancers, just a few have compared perceptions across different modalities of cognitive enhancers. In this pilot study, 154 osteopathic medical students were asked to read one of six possible vignettes describing a certain type of improvement—therapy or above the norm—brought about by using one of three modalities—neurodevice, pill, or herbal supplement. Subjects answered questions that were designed to reveal their attitudes towards the given scenario. Our participants suggested that improvement using neurodevices and herbal supplements is more acceptable than when pills are used. We also found that acceptable attitudes towards cognitive enhancement were subserved by reasons such as “positive outcome from use” and “it’s safe” and unacceptable attitudes by reasons such as “safety concerns” and “no need.” Furthermore, a majority of participants would prefer to consult with a physician regarding the use of cognitive enhancers prior to accessing them. These results provide novel insights into pressing neuroethical issues and warrant further studying.

The full text is available online via Springer Link (MSU Library or other institutional access may be required to view this article).

Dr. Cabrera co-authors commentary in ‘AJOB Neuroscience’ neuroethics issue

Laura Cabrera photoCenter Assistant Professor Dr. Laura Cabrera and Dr. Robyn Bluhm, Associate Professor in the Department of Philosophy and Lyman Briggs College, are co-authors of a commentary published in the latest issue of AJOB Neuroscience.

In “Fostering Neuroethics Integration: Disciplines, Methods, and Frameworks,” Drs. Cabrera and Bluhm comment on two papers that are part of the journal’s special issue on the BRAIN 2.0 Neuroethics roadmap.

Drs. Cabrera and Bluhm are co-investigators on an ongoing NIH BRAIN Initiative project,
“Is the Treatment Perceived to be Worse than the Disease?: Ethical Concerns and Attitudes towards Psychiatric Electroceutical Interventions.”

The full text is available online via Taylor & Francis Online (MSU Library or other institutional access may be required to view this article).

Dr. Cabrera published in March issue of ‘Journal of Cognitive Enhancement’

Laura Cabrera photoCenter Assistant Professor Dr. Laura Cabrera and Dr. Karen Herrera-Ferrá (Asociación Mexicana de Neuroética) are co-authors of an article published in the March 2020 issue of the Journal of Cognitive Enhancement. Their article is titled “¿Neuroensanchamiento?: Concepts and Perspectives About Neuroenhancement in the Hispanic Literature.”

Abstract: While neuroenhancement has been widely debated in the bioethics and neuroethics literature, the Anglo-American perspective has dominated a majority of these discussions. Thus, little is known about the motives and attitudes towards neuroenhancement in other cultures. Cultural values and linguistic peculiarities likely shape distinct attitudes and perspectives about neuroenhancement. In this paper, we aim to identify universals and points of divergence between the Anglo-American and the Hispanic discussions about neuroenhancement. We carried out a literature review of articles published in the Spanish language discussing perspectives and ethical issues around neuroenhancement. We analyzed the content for (1) the terms used to convey the concept of “neuroenhancement” and (2) the ethical concerns raised. Our results show a wide range of Spanish terms used to refer to neuroenhancement, as well as important differences on the scope and concerns raised. These results invite further research regarding cross-cultural perspectives on neuroenhancement and neuroethical discussion.

The full text is available online via Springer (MSU Library or other institutional access may be required to view this article).

Dr. Cabrera published in journal’s special section on feminist neurotechnologies

Laura Cabrera photoDr. Robyn Bluhm, Associate Professor in the Department of Philosophy and Lyman Briggs College, and Dr. Laura Cabrera, Assistant Professor in the Center for Ethics and Humanities in the Life Sciences and the Department of Translational Neuroscience, are co-authors of an article in the Spring 2020 issue of IJFAB: International Journal of Feminist Approaches to Bioethics.

Their article, “Deep Brain Stimulation and Relational Agency: Negotiating Relationships,” appears in a special section on feminist neurotechnologies. From the article’s introduction:

In this commentary, we consider three aspects of [Timothy] Brown’s discussion of DBS and relational agency: (1) the importance of thinking critically about what it means to have a relationship with a DBS device; (2) how the development of “closed loop” implants might change the kinds of relationships that are possible; and (3) the need to consider how an individual’s relationship with their device is shaped by their relationship with others in their lives. We see ourselves as building on, or offering suggestions for further developing, Brown’s important paper.

Drs. Bluhm and Cabrera are co-investigators on the project “Is the Treatment Perceived to be Worse than the Disease?: Ethical Concerns and Attitudes towards Psychiatric Electroceutical Interventions,” funded by the NIH BRAIN Initiative. Deep brain stimulation (DBS) is one of four types of psychiatric electroceutical interventions (PEIs) included in the scope of the project.

The full text is available online via University of Toronto Press (MSU Library or other institutional access may be required to view this article).

Dr. Cabrera gives community talk on psychiatric neurosurgery

Laura Cabrera photoOn February 18, Center Assistant Professor Dr. Laura Cabrera presented a talk entitled “The ethics of psychiatric neurosurgery” at Schuler Books & Music in Okemos. The event was part of the Cafe Scientifique series presented by the Lansing Community College Science Department.

In her presentation Dr. Cabrera shared results from her Science and Society at State grant with the audience, and discussed how the insights from that project led to her current NIH-funded project, “Is the Treatment Perceived to be Worse than the Disease?: Ethical Concerns and Attitudes towards Psychiatric Electroceutical Interventions.” The presentation also highlighted the role of neuroethics in examining and addressing public perceptions and values around psychiatric neurosurgery.

Visit the Lansing Community College website for information on future Cafe Scientifique events, which are free to attend and open to the public.

Dr. Laura Cabrera presents at 1st International Bioethics Congress

Laura Cabrera photoCenter for Ethics Assistant Professor Dr. Laura Cabrera traveled to Mexico City earlier this month to give a keynote presentation at the 1st International Bioethics Congress: Knowledge, Law and New Technologies in Health.

Dr. Cabrera’s presentation, “Neuroethical Aspects of Psychiatric Neurosurgery,” gave an overview of her work as part of the NEURON Consortium with Dr. Judy Illes (University of British Columbia) on media and public perceptions around psychiatric neurosurgery. The congress had several parallel tracks touching on a variety of important bioethics topics, including neuroethics, nanomedicine, clinical ethics, research ethics, biolaw, medical devices regulation, and translational medicine.

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Image description: Dr. Laura Cabrera stands while presenting her talk to attendees at the 1st International Bioethics Congress in Mexico City. Photo courtesy of Laura Cabrera.

Listen: Considering Consciousness in Neuroscience Research

No Easy Answers in Bioethics logoNo Easy Answers in Bioethics Episode 19

What can neuroscience tell us about human consciousness, the developing brains of babies, or lab-grown brain-like tissue? How do we define “consciousness” when it is a complex, much-debated topic? In this episode, Michigan State University researchers Dr. Laura Cabrera, Assistant Professor in the Center for Ethics and Humanities in the Life Sciences, and Dr. Mark Reimers, Associate Professor in the Neuroscience Program, discuss the many layers of consciousness. Examining recent research on lab-grown brain organoids, they discuss moral and ethical considerations of such research, including how future technologies could challenge our definitions of consciousness and moral agency. They distinguish consciousness from intelligence, also discussing artificial intelligence.

Ways to Listen

This episode was produced and edited by Liz McDaniel in the Center for Ethics. Music: “While We Walk (2004)” by Antony Raijekov via Free Music Archive, licensed under a Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike License. Full episode transcript available.

About: No Easy Answers in Bioethics is a podcast series from the Center for Ethics and Humanities in the Life Sciences in the Michigan State University College of Human Medicine. Each month Center for Ethics faculty and their collaborators discuss their ongoing work and research across many areas of bioethics. Episodes are hosted by H-Net: Humanities and Social Sciences Online.

Article from Dr. Laura Cabrera in November ‘Bioethics’ issue

Laura Cabrera photoAn article by Center Assistant Professor Dr. Laura Cabrera has been published in the November 2019 issue of Bioethics. The article, “A human rights approach to low data reporting in clinical trials of psychiatric deep brain stimulation,” advocates for “the importance of reporting clinical trial data of invasive procedures in highly vulnerable populations, such as psychiatric DBS trials.”

Abstract: The reporting of clinical trial data is necessary not only for doctors to determine treatment efficacy, but also to explore new questions without unnecessarily repeating trials, and to protect patients and the public from dangers when data are withheld. This issue is particularly salient in those trials involving invasive neurosurgical interventions, such as deep brain stimulation (DBS), for ‘treatment refractory’ psychiatric disorders. Using the federal database ClinicalTrials.gov, it was discovered that out of the completed or unknown‐status trials related to psychiatric DBS up to November 2018, only two had submitted results to ClinicalTrials.gov. These results suggest that, despite federal requirements to report clinical trial data, reporting on psychiatric DBS trials is problematically minimal. It is argued that a human rights approach to this problem establishes a legal and ethical foundation for the need to report clinical trial results in this area.

The full text is available online via Wiley Online Library (MSU Library or other institutional access may be required to view this article).

Dr. Cabrera presents at International Neuroscience Society annual meeting

Laura Cabrera photoLast month Center Assistant Professor Dr. Laura Cabrera presented at the International Neuroethics Society (INS) Annual Meeting in Chicago. The meeting theme, “Mapping Neuroethics: An Expanded Vision” resulted in a gathering of a truly diverse group of scholars, scientists, clinicians, and professionals dedicated to the responsible use of advances in brain science.

Dr. Cabrera participated in the panel “Incapable Patients and Psychiatric Neurosurgery: What do Law and Ethics Have to Say?”, discussing the regulatory and ethical landscape around psychiatric neurosurgery. Additionally, Dr. Cabrera had two posters discussing results from her NEURON collaboration with Dr. Judy Illes (University of British Columbia), and two posters discussing results from her NIH BRAIN Initiative grant on psychiatric electroceutical interventions. Undergraduate research assistants Emily Castillo and Marissa Cortright were there to present the posters discussing results from the developmental stage of the ongoing NIH BRAIN project. They are pictured below with the posters “Public Views About Treating Depression Across Four Treatment Modalities” and “Perceived Invasiveness of Psychiatric Electroceutical Interventions as Treatment for Clinical Depression.”

Marissa Cortright with poster at INS 2019
Marissa Cortright with the poster “Public Views About Treating Depression Across Four Treatment Modalities.” Photo courtesy of Emily Castillo.

Emily Castillo with poster at INS 2019
Emily Castillo with the poster “Perceived Invasiveness of Psychiatric Electroceutical Interventions as Treatment for Clinical Depression.” Photo courtesy of Emily Castillo.