OCN Key Events

2014 Wellcome Lecture in Neuroethics

'Implicit Moral Attitudes'
30 October 2014
Professor Walter Sinnott-Armstrong of Duke University

Most moral philosophers and psychologists focus on explicit moral beliefs that people give as answers to questions. However, much research in social psychology shows that implicit moral attitudes (unconscious beliefs or associations) also affect our thinking and behavior. This talk will report our new psychological and neuroscientific research on implicit moral attitudes (using a process dissociation procedure) and then explore potential implications for scientific moral psychology as well as for philosophical theories of moral epistemology, responsibility, and virtue. If there is time, I will discuss practical uses of these findings in criminal law, especially regarding the treatment of psychopaths and prediction of their recidivism.

Audio: http://media.philosophy.ox.ac.uk/neuro/MT14_WLN_WSA.mp3

2013 Wellcome Lectures in Neuroethics (double lecture)

27 November 2013

The Oxford Centre for Neuroethics & International Neuroethics Society are pleased to present a set of two Wellcome Lectures in Neuroethics for 2013:

'Brain mechanisms of voluntary action: the implications for responsibility'
Prof. Patrick Haggard, University College London
No abstract or audio recording available.

'The irresponsible self: Self bias changes the way we see the world'
Prof. Glyn Humphreys, Department of Experimental Psychology, Oxford University

Humans show a bias to favour information related to themselves over information related to other people. How does this effect arise? Are self biases a stable trait of the individual? Do these biases change fundamental perceptual processes? I will review recent work from my laboratory showing that self-biases modulate basic perceptual processes; they are stable for an individual and are difficult to control; they reflect rapid tuning of brain circuits to enhance the saliency of self-related items. I discuss the implications of this work for understanding whether perceptual processes are informationally encapsulated, and whether perception changes as a function of social context. 

Audio: http://media.philosophy.ox.ac.uk/Neuro/MT13_WELL_GH.mp3

2011 Wellcome Lecture in Neuroethics

'Moral Enhancement? Evidence and Challenges'
18 November 2011
Dr Molly Crockett, University of Zürich

Can pills change our morals? Neuroscientists are now discovering how hormones and brain chemicals shape social behaviour, opening potential avenues for pharmacological manipulation of ethical values. In this talk, I will present an overview of recent studies showing how altering brain chemistry can change moral judgment and behaviour. These findings raise new questions about the anatomy of the moral mind, and suggest directions for future research in both neurobiology and practical ethics.

Audio: http://media.philosophy.ox.ac.uk/Neuro/Audio/Crocket.mp3

2011 2nd Annual Wellcome Lecture in Neuroethics

'New Imaging Evidence for the Neural Bases of Moral Sentiments, Prosocial and Antisocial Behavior'
18 January 2011
Professor Jorge Moll, Cognitive and Behavioral Neuroscience Unit, Director, D’Or Institute for Research and Education (IDOR), Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Important advances have been made on the understanding of the neurobiological bases of moral cognition and behavior and their impairments. Novel findings from fMRI studies addressing the neural correlates of specific moral sentiments, social values and altruistic decisions will be discussed, as well as recent results from imaging studies in psychopathy and in fronto-temporal dementia. Together, lesion and functional imaging evidence point to a critical role of a consistent distributed fronto-temporal network in enabling moral experience and behaviour, including moral sentiments, values and decisions. Damage to parts of this network underlies severe impairments of social behavior, as observed in neuropsychiatric conditions such as psychopathy and fronto-temporal dementia. These lines of evidence pose new levels of complexity but, at the same time, point to new ways for the investigation of human moral nature.

Audio: http://media.philosophy.ox.ac.uk/Neuro/Audio/Moll.mp3

2010 Special Lecture

'Should we consider trialling Deep Brain Stimulation as a treatment for addiction?'
29 October 2010
Professor Wayne Hall, Center for Clinical Research, University of Queensland

Deep  brain  stimulation  (DBS)  has  been  proposed  as  a  potential  treatment  of  drug  addiction  on  the basis of its effects on drug self-administration in animals and case reports of reductions in addictive behaviours in some patients treated with DBS for other psychiatric or neurological conditions. DBS is seen as a more reversible intervention than ablative neurosurgery but it is nonetheless a treatment that carries significant risks.   A review of preclinical and clinical evidence for the use of DBS to treat addiction suggests that much more animal research is required to establish the safety and efficacy of the technology and to identify optimal treatment parameters before investigating its use in addicted persons.  Severely  addicted  persons  who  try  and  fail  to  achieve  abstinence  may,  however, be desperate  enough  to  undergo  such  an  invasive  treatment  if  they  believe  that  it  will  cure  their  addiction.  History  shows  that  the  desperation  for  a  “cure”  of  addiction  can  lead  to  the  use  of  risky  medical  procedures  before  they  have  been  rigorously  tested.  In  the  event  that  DBS  is  used  in  the  treatment of addiction, I discuss some minimum ethical requirements for clinical trials of DBS in the treatment of addiction. These include: restrictions of trials to severely intractable cases of addiction; independent oversight to ensure that patients have the capacity to consent and give that consent on the  basis  of  a  realistic  appreciation  of  the  potential  benefits  and  risks  of  DBS;  and rigorous assessments  of the effectiveness and safety  of  this  treatment  compared  to  the  best  available  treatments for addiction.

Audio: http://media.philosophy.ox.ac.uk/Neuro/Audio/Hall.mp3

2010 Conference: The Mechanisms of Self-Control: Lessons from Addiction

13-14 May saw a very successful, oversubscribed conference on ‘The Mechanisms of Self-Control: Lessons from Addiction,’ organised by Dr Nick Shea and Professor Neil Levy, held at Christ Church College, Oxford. Giving talks were a world class line-up: Professor George Ainslie, Professor Kent Berridge, Drs Hanna Pickard and Steve Pearce, Dr Natalie Gold, Professor Mark Muraven and Professor Richard Holton. Each speaker had a discussant, and there was fruitful discussion following each talk. The audience spanned the UK, Europe and the US.

Conference abstract

Loss of control over some aspects of behaviour is usually held to be a defining feature of addiction. But the loss of control envisaged is somewhat mysterious. The series of actions in which addicts engage in order to procure and consume their drug is not reflexive; should it nevertheless be properly seen as uncontrolled? What mechanisms are impaired in the addict’s behaviour, and how can those impairments illuminate normal agency? This conference will bring together leading thinkers in neuroscience, psychology, psychiatry and philosophy to explore and advance our understanding of the mechanisms of self-control and the way in which they are weakened in addiction.

Audio of each talk where possible can be found within the programme below.

Video of the talk, courtesy of the Science Network, is available here.


Public Lecture: Steven Hyman (Provost, Harvard University)
Meditations on Self-Control: Lessons from the Neurobiology of Addiction
Podcast and video

George Ainslie (Coatesville Veterans Affairs Medical Center)
Money as MacGuffin: How Gambling Conjures Utility out of Thin Air
Discussant: Pat Churchland (UCSD)

Kent Berridge (University of Michigan)
Wanting and Liking: Phenomena for Addiction and Philosophy
Discussant: Matthew Rushworth (University of Oxford)

Steve Pearce (Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Mental Health Trust) and Hanna Pickard (University of Oxford)
Addiction in Context: Philosophical Lessons from the Clinic
Discussant: Walter Sinnott-Armstrong (Duke)

Natalie Gold (University of Edinburgh)
Framing, Decision-Making and Self-Control
Discussant: John Broome (University of Oxford)

Mark Muraven (SUNY Albany)Self-Control Failure: Depletion and Motivation
Discussant: Owen Flanagan (Duke University)

Richard Holton (MIT)

Finding Space for an Addict's Self-Control
Discussant: Tim Bayne (University of Oxford)

2010 The Inaugural Wellcome Lecture in Neuroethics

'Meditations on Self-Control: Lessons from the Neurobiology of Addiction'
12 May 2010
Professor Steven Hyman, Provost, Harvard University

Loss of control over some aspects of behavior is usually held to be a defining feature of addiction. But the loss of control envisaged is somewhat mysterious. The series of actions in which addicts engage in order to procure and consume their drug is not reflexive; should it nevertheless be properly seen as uncontrolled? What mechanisms are impaired in the addict’s behavior, and how can those impairments illuminate normal agency?

Podcast and video