Chapter 1. Biological Psychology: Scope and Outlook

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By Meredith Wadman Breaking with a history of reticence, nearly 600 scientists, students, and lab animal workers published a letter in USA Today this morning that calls on U.S. research institutions to “embrace openness” about their animal research. “We should proudly explain how animals are used for the advancement of science and medicine, in the interest of the well-being of humans and animals,” the 592 signatories write in the letter. “From the development of insulin and transplant surgery to modern day advances, including gene therapies and cancer treatments; animals … continue to play a crucial role in both basic and applied research.” The letter was organized by the pro–animal research advocacy group Speaking of Research, which has offices in the both the United States and the United Kingdom. The group notes that four Nobel Prize–winning biologists are among the signatories: William Campbell, Mario Capecchi, Carol Greider, and Torsten Wiesel. It was also signed by students, lab technicians, veterinarians, physicians, and a few public policy experts. “I read the letter and decided within minutes that I would sign it,” says Greider, a biologist at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore, Maryland, who shared the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 2009 for her discovery of the enzyme telomerase. “Animal research is very important to understanding fundamental biological mechanisms.” © 2018 American Association for the Advancement of Science.

Keyword: Animal Rights
Link ID: 25114 - Posted: 06.21.2018

By Aaron E. Carroll The medical research grant system in the United States, run through the National Institutes of Health, is intended to fund work that spurs innovation and fosters research careers. In many ways, it may be failing. It has been getting harder for researchers to obtain grant support. A study published in 2015 in JAMA showed that from 2004 to 2012, research funding in the United States increased only 0.8 percent year to year. It hasn’t kept up with the rate of inflation; officials say the N.I.H. has lost about 23 percent of its purchasing power in a recent 12-year span. Because the money available for research doesn’t go as far as it used to, it now takes longer for scientists to get funding. The average researcher with an M.D. is 45 years old (for a Ph.D. it’s 42 years old) before she or he obtains that first R01 (think “big” grant). Given that R01-level funding is necessary to obtain promotion and tenure (not to mention its role in the science itself), this means that more promising researchers are washing out than ever before. Only about 20 percent of postdoctoral candidates who aim to earn a tenured position in a university achieve that goal. This new reality can be justified only if those who are weeded out really aren’t as good as those who remain. Are we sure that those who make it are better than those who don’t? A recent study suggests the grant-making system may be unreliable in distinguishing between grants that are funded versus those that get nothing — its very purpose. When a health researcher (like me) believes he has a good idea for a research study, he most often submits a proposal to the N.I.H. It’s not easy to do so. Grants are hard to write, take a lot of time, and require a lot of experience to obtain. © 2018 The New York Times Company

Keyword: ADHD
Link ID: 25097 - Posted: 06.18.2018

by William Wan and Lenny Bernstein The National Institutes of Health on Friday canceled a mammoth study of moderate drinking after determining that officials had irrevocably compromised the research by soliciting over $60 million from beer and liquor companies to underwrite the effort. NIH Director Francis S. Collins said the results of the 10-year, $100 million study would not be trusted because of the secretive way in which staff at an institute under NIH met with major liquor companies, talked to them about the trial’s design and convinced them to pick up most of the tab for it. “Many people who have seen this working-group report were frankly shocked to see so many lines crossed,” he said, calling the staff interaction with the alcohol industry “far out of bounds.” Collins ordered the examination of what was originally planned as a study of more than 7,800 people around the globe after the New York Times reported in March that officials had aggressively sought the industry funding and routed their donations through the institutes’ nongovernmental foundation. In May, NIH suspended enrollment of participants in the research, which was already underway when the newspaper published its story. The findings released Friday address the scientific merit of the study. The review found that the staff who met with five liquor companies did not follow existing rules that required them to report such contacts. In a statement, NIH said that “a small number” of employees at the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) violated policies and that “appropriate personnel actions” would be taken, without specifying what that would entail. The report includes a lengthy appendix with emails between staff and industry representatives. © 1996-2018 The Washington Post

Keyword: Drug Abuse
Link ID: 25096 - Posted: 06.16.2018

Susan Milius A little brain can be surprisingly good at nothing. Honeybees are the first invertebrates to pass a test of recognizing where zero goes in numerical order, a new study finds. Even small children struggle with recognizing “nothing” as being less than one, says cognitive behavioral scientist Scarlett Howard of the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology in Australia. But honeybees trained to fly to images of greater or fewer dots or whazzits tended to rank a blank image as less than one, Howard and colleagues report in the June 8 Science. Despite decades of discoveries, nonhuman animals still don’t get due credit outside specialist circles for intelligence, laments Lars Chittka of Queen Mary University of London, who has explored various mental capacities of bees. For the world at large, he emphasizes that the abilities described in the new paper are “remarkable.” Researchers recognize several levels of complexity in grasping zero. Most animals, or maybe all, can understand the simplest level — just recognizing that the absence of something differs from its presence, Howard says. Grasping the notion that absence could fit into a sequence of quantities, though, seems harder. Previously, only some primates such as chimps and vervet monkeys, plus an African gray parrot named Alex, have demonstrated this level of understanding of the concept of zero (SN: 12/10/16, p. 22). |© Society for Science & the Public 2000 - 2018

Keyword: Intelligence; Evolution
Link ID: 25069 - Posted: 06.08.2018

…but has yet to reach Base Camp 1 By Gary Stix LONG ISLAND, N.Y.—Brains & Behavior,* a conference at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory (CSHL) held from May 30 to June 4—furnished a captivating look at the work of neuroscientists toiling to isolate the multitude of missing links that bind B&B. Of course, everyone knows about the close ties between the two, but generation after generation of researchers will be needed toto figure out the how of it all. At the end of the conference, Adam Kepecs, a CSHL researcher who had given a talk about his lab’s work on how the brain computes confidence in its own decision-making, summarized several emerging themes to be derived from the conference—novel technologies driving progress in the field and the conversion of some basic research into treatments—not just pharmaceuticals but technologies such as electrical stimulation of the brain. The still relatively slow pace toward clinical trials follows from the size of the challenge. “Understanding the brain functionally—and its dysfunctions—is arguably one of the greatest challenges of humanity,” Kepecs said. CSHL asked me to interview three of the presenters for the lab’s YouTube channel, CSHL Leading Strand. The videos, just a few of those from the conference on the lab’s channel, provide more detail about what the scientists there are up to—and the halting steps toward that initial base camp. There was Li-Huei Tsai of Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Picower Institute for Learning and Memory who talked to me about using noninvasive, flickering light that alters brain rhythms to potentially aid Alzheimer’s patients. Ricardo Dolmetsch, global head of neuroscience with the Novartis Institutes for Biomedical Research, recounted the development of a gene therapy for spinal muscular atrophy. And Robert Malenka, a professor of psychiatry at Stanford University Medical School continues to investigate a brain pathway that promotes social interactions—as well as the street drug, MDMA (aka ecstasy), which enhances prosocial behavior, also through its actions on the neurotransmitter serotonin. © 2018 Scientific American

Keyword: Miscellaneous
Link ID: 25063 - Posted: 06.07.2018

By Ingfei Chen Each year, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, roughly 820,800 guinea pigs, dogs, cats, and other animals covered by the Animal Welfare Act are used in research in the U.S.; of those, about 71,370 are subjected to unalleviated pain. These stats don’t track the millions of mice and rats that are used in lab experiments and excluded from the animal protection law (although the rodents are covered by other federal regulations). Scientists and their institutions say they’re committed to keeping pain or distress to a minimum in lab animals where they can. But how do you know how much pain a mouse or a zebrafish feels? And who decides how much pain is too much? “We know if they’re in really bad pain, as much as they want a nice nest, they’re not gonna put the work into doing that.” The issue of animal suffering was in the headlines earlier this year, when landlocked Switzerland banned the culinary practice of boiling lobsters alive. No one knows for sure whether these big-clawed crustaceans, equipped with only a rudimentary nervous system, experience pain. Nonetheless, Swiss authorities now require stunning lobsters in a humane way before tossing them into the pot. I read of this milestone in crustacean rights with bemused fascination and anthropomorphic cringing, as I imagined the lobster’s hypothetical plight. But the Swiss move also made me wonder how scientists measure and deal with animal pain in research studies. Experiments that use critters to simulate human illness or injury are stepping stones to the medical treatments we all use. Yet, the benefits we reap must outweigh the costs to animal welfare for those sacrifices to be justified, ethicists and animal advocates say. Copyright 2018 Undark

Keyword: Animal Rights; Pain & Touch
Link ID: 25061 - Posted: 06.06.2018

By Maggie Koerth-Baker If an animal is smart enough, should we treat it like a human? An abstract question, but one that found its way into a courtroom recently. A case bidding for consideration by the New York State Court of Appeals sought to extend the legal concept of habeas corpus — which allows a person to petition a court for freedom from unlawful imprisonment — to cover two privately-owned chimpanzees. The case for giving the chimps a human right like freedom from unlawful incarceration is based on their similarity to humans — they can think, feel and plan, argue the people bringing the case on behalf of the chimpanzees, so shouldn’t they have some guarantees of liberty? The court declined to hear the case, but one judge did say that some highly intelligent animals probably should be treated more like people and less like property. It’s just one judge, but you hear this kind of thing a lot from animal rights activists. The Nonhuman Rights Project, the nonprofit behind the habeas corpus lawsuit, has a stated goal of securing increased, human-like rights for great apes, elephants, dolphins and whales — highly intelligent, charismatic mammals. So, does a chimpanzee deserve more rights than, say, a pigeon? The logic that leads to “yes” is clear enough, but putting it into practice would be tough, scientists say. Because when it comes to measuring intelligence, we’re actually a little dumb. One of the problems: Animals don’t stack up the way you’d expect. “[Pigeons have] knocked our socks off in our own lab and other people’s labs in terms of what they can do,” said Edward Wasserman, a professor of experimental psychology at the University of Iowa. “Pigeons can blow the doors off monkeys in some tasks.” Experts who study animal intelligence across species say we can’t rank animals by their smarts — scientists don’t even try anymore — which means there’s no objective way to determine which animals would deserve more human-like rights.

Keyword: Evolution; Animal Rights
Link ID: 25047 - Posted: 06.01.2018

Alison Abbott Scientists at one of Germany’s leading neuroscience institutes say that their employer, the Max Planck Society (MPS), is failing in its responsibility to defend the institute’s scientists against efforts by animal-rights activists to disrupt research. The criticisms are outlined in two letters to MPS leadership seen by Nature, and in interviews with scientists. They relate to the MPS’s handling of a struggle between animal-rights activists and Nikos Logothetis, a world-renowned neuroscientist who has been a director at the Max Planck Institute for Biological Cybernetics (MPI-Biocyb) in Tübingen since 1996. An expert in visual reception, Logothetis studies how the brain makes sense of the world, and used to run a primate laboratory at MPI-Biocyb. The MPS, which has an annual public budget of €1.8 billion (US$2.1 billion), is Germany’s most prestigious research organization, and runs 84 research institutes and facilities. The struggle began in September 2014, when a German television channel aired footage taken by an undercover animal-welfare activist who had infiltrated Logothetis’s lab, purporting to show mistreatment of research monkeys. Death threats and insults to Logothetis and his family followed — and in 2015, Logothetis decided to wind down his primate lab and replace it with a rodent facility. Events came to a head on 20 February this year, when Logothetis was indicted for allegedly violating animal-protection laws, after an animal-welfare group made complaints to police on the basis of the 2014 footage. Logothetis denies the charges. A trial date has not yet been set. © 2018 Macmillan Publishers Limited,

Keyword: Animal Rights
Link ID: 25039 - Posted: 05.31.2018

By Victoria Gill Science correspondent, BBC News Scientists working with dolphins at a marine park near Paris have attempted to measure how the animals feel about aspects of their lives in captivity. In what researchers say is the first project to examine captivity "from the animals' perspective", the team assessed what activities dolphins looked forward to most. They found that the marine mammals most keenly anticipated interacting with a familiar human. The results, they say, show that "better human-animal bonds equals better welfare". The study, published in the journal Applied Animal Behaviour Science, was part of a three-year project to measure dolphin welfare in a captive setting. Lead researcher Dr Isabella Clegg worked at Parc Astérix, a theme park with one of France's largest dolphinariums. With colleagues at the University of Paris animal behaviour lab, she designed experiments to decode dolphin behaviour - essentially looking for physical postures that indicate how the animals were feeling. "We wanted to find out what activities in captivity they like most," Dr Clegg told the BBC. To work this out, she tested three activities: a trainer coming and playing with dolphins; adding toys to the pool; and a control, which meant leaving the dolphins to their own devices. "We found a really interesting result - all dolphins look forward most to interacting with a familiar human," Dr Clegg said. The animals showed this anticipation by "spy hopping", the action of peering above the surface and looking in the direction that trainers usually approached from. The dolphins would also increase their level of activity in the pool and spend more time at the edge. "We've seen this same thing in other zoo animals and in farm animals," said Dr Clegg, adding: "Better human-animal bonds equals better welfare." © 2018 BBC.

Keyword: Animal Rights; Emotions
Link ID: 25028 - Posted: 05.29.2018

By Ashley Yeager Finding food and lighting fires might explain why humans have such big brains, researchers report yesterday (May 23) in Nature. Humans’ brains are six times as large as those of similarly sized mammals, an observation that has led scientists to ponder for decades what led to such big noodles. Studies suggest social challenges, such as cooperating to hunt, or sharing cultural knowledge spurred the expansion, but a mathematical model to explain human brain evolution finds the environment had a stronger influence. Study coauthors Mauricio González-Forero and Andy Gardner of the University of St. Andrews developed a computer model to simulate the effects of social, environmental, and cultural challenges on brain size over time. “We were expecting social challenges to be a strong promoter of brain size,” González-Forero tells New Scientist. Surprisingly, environmental challenges won out. About 60 percent of the increase in brain size over our ape ancestors came as a result of surviving in the environment, finding and caching food, for example. Another 30 percent came from banding together to survive, and the final 10 percent came from competing with other human groups, the researchers report. If left alone to survive, humans’ brains would be even bigger, according to the model, González-Forero tells The Los Angeles Times. Increasing the cooperative challenges in the model to greater than 30 percent decreased brain size, the team found. “Cooperation decreases brain size because you can rely on the brain of other individuals and you don’t need to invest in such a large and expensive brain,” González-Forero says. The Scientist

Keyword: Evolution
Link ID: 25019 - Posted: 05.25.2018

by Lindsey Bever A rare, brain-damaging virus has killed at least 10 people in southern India, where medical crews are scrambling to manage the spread of the deadly disease — and to minimize panic. Health officials said Tuesday that 10 people who were exposed to the Nipah virus and showed symptoms have died. Two others have tested positive for Nipah and are considered critically ill, and more than three dozen people have been put into quarantine since the outbreak began in the Indian state of Kerala, according to BBC News. “This is a new situation for us; we have no prior experience in dealing with the Nipah virus,” said K.K. Shailaja, health minister of the state, according to Reuters. “We are hopeful we can put a stop to the outbreak.” Shailaja had said earlier the outbreak had been “effectively” contained and that there was no need for the public to panic. But the virus's spread — and the rapidly rising death toll — have prompted concern in the outbreak's epicenter, Kozhikode, a coastal city in Kerala, where people have been “swarming” hospitals with fevers and other illnesses to ensure they do not have the virus, a local government official told Reuters. “We’ve sought the help of private hospitals to tide over the crisis,” said the official, U.V. Jose. Gulf News reported that Kerala “is in a state of panic after many cases of the killer Nipah virus were detected.” © 1996-2018 The Washington Post

Keyword: Miscellaneous
Link ID: 25009 - Posted: 05.23.2018

by Karin Brulliard For several years, an animal rights organization has sought to convince New York courts that chimpanzees kept by private owners are “legal persons” with a right to be free. For several years, the courts have rejected that argument. New York’s highest court did the same on Tuesday, denying an appeal of a lower court’s refusal to grant writs of habeas corpus to two caged chimps named Tommy and Kiko. But in a striking concurring opinion that was cheered by the chimps’ advocates, one judge wrote that the legal question at the heart of the case — whether all animals are mere property or things — is far from settled. “Does an intelligent nonhuman animal who thinks and plans and appreciates life as human beings do have the right to the protection of the law against arbitrary cruelties and enforced detentions visited on him or her?” wrote Eugene Fahey, one of five Court of Appeals judges who ruled on the matter. “This is not merely a definitional question, but a deep dilemma of ethics and policy that demands our attention.” The 5-to-0 vote upheld a June decision by a lower appeals court that, like courts before it, ruled that chimpanzees could not be legal persons because they cannot take on legal duties. The Nonhuman Rights Project, which has asked courts to move Tommy and Kiko to a sanctuary, says the interpretation is flawed. The group’s director, Steven M. Wise, has noted in interviews that both infants or comatose people possess rights despite an inability to assume legal duties and that primate experts say chimps have rights and responsibilities within peer groups and in settings with humans. © 1996-2018 The Washington Post

Keyword: Animal Rights
Link ID: 24956 - Posted: 05.10.2018

By Vanessa Zainzinger Two years ago, when the U.S. Congress approved a major rewrite of the nation’s chemical safety law, lawmakers ordered federal regulators to take steps to reduce the number of animals that companies use to test compounds for safety. But a recent analysis by two animal welfare groups found that the number of animal tests requested or required by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) jumped dramatically last year, from just a few dozen tests involving fewer than 7000 animals in 2016, to more than 300 tests involving some 75,000 rats, rabbits, and other vertebrates. The cause of the increase isn’t clear. But the new law imposes stricter requirements on a broader array of chemicals than its predecessor, including both new products and ones already on the market, and experts say EPA staff may be trying to comply by gathering more test data from companies. Both industry and animal welfare groups are alarmed by the trend, and are asking agency officials to clarify why they are requesting the tests—and how they plan to reduce the number in the future. In a 27 March letter to EPA officials, the two Washington, D.C.–based groups that produced the analysis—People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) and the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM)—wrote that the “appalling” number of animals being used in tests “indicates EPA is failing to balance” its responsibility to evaluate chemicals’ risks against its obligation to pursue alternatives to animal testing. © 2018 American Association for the Advancement of Science.

Keyword: Animal Rights
Link ID: 24954 - Posted: 05.09.2018

Nicola Davis Brain tumour research is to get an £18 million injection of funding to aid projects ranging from exploring how such cancers begin to developing new ways to treat them. More than 250,000 people worldwide, including 11,400 people in the UK alone, are diagnosed with a brain tumour every year and often the prognosis is bleak. According to Cancer Research UK figures, just 14% of those diagnosed survive for 10 years or more, while less than 1% of brain tumours are preventable. The disease was recently thrown into the spotlight after Tessa Jowell, the former Labour minister, revealed she has terminal brain cancer. Among the reasons why treatments have proved elusive, experts say, are that brain tumours show a lot of variation from person to person, are often diagnosed at an advanced stage, and are often resistant to treatments used for other cancers, with the blood-brain barrier also preventing some drugs from reaching the cancer. Also, as the cancer is in the brain, it is not possible to remove large amounts of tissue during surgery. “The human brain has about 100bn neurons and each of those neurons connects to tens of thousands of other neurons – it is incredibly complex,” said Dr Iain Foulkes, CRUK’s executive director of research and innovation. “What we are trying to do here is understand one of the most complex diseases known to humankind, which is cancer, in the most complex of organs. So it is a big challenge.” © 2018 Guardian News and Media Limited

Keyword: Miscellaneous
Link ID: 24929 - Posted: 05.02.2018

By Neuroskeptic | I’ve been thinking lately about the question of what leads scientists to choose a discipline. Why does someone end up as a chemist rather than a biologist? A geneticist as opposed to a cognitive neuroscientist? We might hope that people choose their discipline based on an understanding of what doing research in each discipline involves, but I don’t think this often happens. I know it didn’t happen in my case. Here, then, is how I became a neuroscientist. As far back as I can remember, I had always wanted to be a scientist. As a young child there was no doubt in my mind about that. But back then I didn’t know what kind of science I was most interested in. I didn’t even know that I would eventually have to pick one. When I got to high school, I did well in both chemistry and biology, and I enjoyed studying both. (The less said about physics the better). But it was biology that really held my attention. Chemistry, it seemed to me, was pretty much finished. The big discoveries had all been made already. Only biology was still a work in progress. I realize now that this was a superficial view, but that was how I saw it at 17. So biology it was. But which kind of biology? Here, I didn’t really have a clue. When I arrived at university, I thought vaguely that my future lay in some kind of molecular biology. I dreamed of curing cancer or malaria one day. But this dream did not survive my first year classes in biochemistry and cell biology, which I found dry and, like chemistry, just too well understood. However many lives might be saved by finding out which gene codes for which protein, I couldn’t see myself being interested in this, so I callously abandoned my plan to save the world.

Keyword: Miscellaneous
Link ID: 24921 - Posted: 04.30.2018

/ By Cathleen O'Grady Growing up in Saudi Arabia, Aciel Eshky didn’t get the memo that science was for boys. When she was around 10 years old, her aunt started to teach her basic computer programming. From there, going on to a degree in computer science seemed like a natural fit. So when a classmate in her master’s program abroad told her that women were weaker than men at math, it came as a shock. “I was really annoyed,” Eshky says. “I felt like I was being bullied.” “If that means that you get fewer women in certain subjects, and more women in other subjects like psychology, it’s not necessarily a catastrophe.” Despite its dismal reputation for gender equality, Saudi Arabia has a surprising level of female graduates in the so-called STEM fields (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics). Ranked among the bottom 20 countries in the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Index in 2015, women nonetheless made up 39 percent of graduates in a cluster of “core” STEM subjects. This number is higher than Iceland’s 35 percent, even though the Nordic country ranks number one for gender equality. Norway, which has the second-highest level of gender equity, sees only 26 percent of women graduating with STEM degrees. Taken together with these numbers, Eshky’s experience is illustrative of the so-called “gender-equality paradox” reported in a recent headline-grabbing paper: Countries ranking higher on measures of gender equality, the study found, tend to have fewer women pursuing a STEM education than those further down the gender equality ranks. Copyright 2018 Undark

Keyword: Sexual Behavior
Link ID: 24910 - Posted: 04.27.2018

by Anne Ewbank By day, Janelle Letzen is a postdoctoral research fellow in clinical psychology at Johns Hopkins University. There, she researches the sobering subject of chronic pain. But in January of this year, Letzen decided to combine science with her hobby: sushi art. Using brightly colored tuna, avocado, and “krab” meat, her Instagram account the_sushi_scientist visually explains topics ranging from neuroscience to geology. The sections of the brain that control language, depicted in fish and rice. The sections of the brain that control language, depicted in fish and rice. Her sushi-making habit began in 2017 as a New Year’s resolution to learn a new skill. She settled on sushi, but as an edible medium for art. It wasn’t long before she fell in love with it. She recalls thinking that her two passions, science and sushi, could be combined. On Instagram, she began explaining neuroscience topics with fish and rice. Cucumber rolls stand in as synaptic terminals, and short videos of sushi rolls darting around a plate explain subjects such as how neurons chemically communicate. Her work is part of a larger movement, Letzen explains. Researchers and teachers are using what she calls “scienstagrams” to inform audiences visually. Letzen and other “science communicators” make science approachable and understandable. In this day and age, Letzen says, that’s especially important in a world of abundant information and misinformation. She believes that her followers are mostly medical professionals and students interested in biopsychology and neuroscience, her own fields of study. “But I’m also trying to target more informal learners as well, by making science more tangible,” she says. Professors have been using her work to explain concepts to their students, “which has been great.” © 2018 Atlas Obscura.

Keyword: Miscellaneous
Link ID: 24909 - Posted: 04.27.2018

Nita A. Farahany, Henry T. Greely and 15 colleagues. If researchers could create brain tissue in the laboratory that might appear to have conscious experiences or subjective phenomenal states, would that tissue deserve any of the protections routinely given to human or animal research subjects? This question might seem outlandish. Certainly, today’s experimental models are far from having such capabilities. But various models are now being developed to better understand the human brain, including miniaturized, simplified versions of brain tissue grown in a dish from stem cells — brain organoids1,2. And advances keep being made. These models could provide a much more accurate representation of normal and abnormal human brain function and development than animal models can (although animal models will remain useful for many goals). In fact, the promise of brain surrogates is such that abandoning them seems itself unethical, given the vast amount of human suffering caused by neurological and psychiatric disorders, and given that most therapies for these diseases developed in animal models fail to work in people. Yet the closer the proxy gets to a functioning human brain, the more ethically problematic it becomes. “We believe it would be unethical to stop the research at this point.” There is now a need for clear guidelines for research, albeit ones that can be adapted to new discoveries. This is the conclusion of many neuroscientists, stem-cell biologists, ethicists and philosophers — ourselves included — who gathered in the past year to explore the ethical dilemmas raised by brain organoids and related neuroscience tools. A workshop was held in May 2017 at the Duke Initiative for Science & Society at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina, with limited support from the US National Institutes of Health (NIH) BRAIN Initiative. A similar US meeting was held last month on related topics. Here we lay out some of the issues that we think researchers, funders, review boards and the public should discuss as a first step to guiding research on brain surrogates. © 2018 Macmillan Publishers Limited

Keyword: Development of the Brain
Link ID: 24907 - Posted: 04.26.2018

Ian Sample Science editor “I have never seen so many brains out of their heads before!” declares Dr Michael Hfuhruhurr, the world-renowned neurosurgeon played by Steve Martin who has a love affair with a brain in a jar in the 1983 movie, The Man with Two Brains. Thirty five years on, the prospect of falling for a disembodied brain is still looking slim, but researchers have made such progress in growing and maintaining human brain tissue in the lab that a group of scientists, lawyers, ethicists and philosophers have called for an ethical debate about the work. Writing in the journal Nature on Wednesday, 17 experts argue that it is time to consider what guidelines might be needed for dealing with lumps of human brain tissue, because the more complex they become the greater the chance that they gain consciousness, feel pleasure, pain and distress, and deserve rights of their own. “It’s not an imminent issue, but the closer these models come to being like human brains, the more we potentially edge towards the ethical problems of human experimentation,” said Prof Hank Greely, director of the Center for Law and the Biosciences at Stanford University in California. “Right now, I see no reason to be worried about consciousness in a six million neuron, half-a-centimetre-wide, hollow ball of cells, but we do need to be thinking about this,” he said. © 2018 Guardian News and Media Limited

Keyword: Development of the Brain
Link ID: 24906 - Posted: 04.26.2018

Mariarosaria Taddeo and Luciano Floridi. Cyberattacks are becoming more frequent, sophisticated and destructive. Each day in 2017, the United States suffered, on average, more than 4,000 ransomware attacks, which encrypt computer files until the owner pays to release them1. In 2015, the daily average was just 1,000. In May last year, when the WannaCry virus crippled hundreds of IT systems across the UK National Health Service, more than 19,000 appointments were cancelled. A month later, the NotPetya ransomware cost pharmaceutical giant Merck, shipping firm Maersk and logistics company FedEx around US$300 million each. Global damages from cyberattacks totalled $5 billion in 2017 and may reach $6 trillion a year by 2021 (see go.nature.com/2gncsyg). Countries are partly behind this rise. They use cyberattacks both offensively and defensively. For example, North Korea has been linked to WannaCry, and Russia to NotPetya. As the threats escalate, so do defence tactics. Since 2012, the United States has used ‘active’ cyberdefence strategies, in which computer experts neutralize or distract viruses with decoy targets, or break into a hacker’s computer to delete data or destroy the system. In 2016, the United Kingdom announced a 5-year, £1.9-billion (US$2.7-billion) plan to combat cyber threats. NATO also began drafting principles for active cyberdefence, to be agreed by 2019. The United States and the United Kingdom are leading this initiative. Denmark, Germany, the Netherlands, Norway and Spain are also involved (see go.nature.com/2hebxnt). © 2018 Macmillan Publishers Limited,

Keyword: Intelligence; Robotics
Link ID: 24873 - Posted: 04.17.2018