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EMBL/EMBO Joint Conference 2006

Session III

The mind/body shop: behavioral drugs and new neurotechnologies

Neurotechnology refers to the set of tools that have been developed to analyse and influence the human nervous system, especially the brain. At the leading edge of neurotechnologies are neuropharmacology and various forms of brain imaging and scanning technologies.

In this session we would like to assess the uses that are being made, or could in the future be made, of new neurological knowledge and technologies. Such new tools may be of great biomedical utility for treating neurological and neurodegenerative diseases, but also for various forensic and commercial purposes. What is the current status in the development of applications of the neurosciences?

We would like to engage an inter-disciplinary group of experts in 'a reality-check' in regard to the scope, the real capabilities and social implications of such new technologies. What are the actual biomedical uses that are being made of these new technologies, and what are the future prospects? What are the consequences when biochemical solutions to behavioural problems such as depression, addiction, or eating disorders take precedence over attempts to repair defective inter-personal relations or ameliorate the sociocultural environment? How do we avert the risk of psychopharmacology being abused for neurochemical enhancement? How does psychopharmacology affect personal identity and sense of authenticity? Who benefits from the media hype that often accompanies the development of new technologies? What are the risks of the neurosciences engendering ambiguous/arbitrary categorizations of people? These are some of the questions that will be raised and pondered in this session.