Judy Illes


Judy Illes is Director of the Program in Neuroethics and Senior Research Scholar at the Stanford Center for Biomedical Ethics with a joint appointment in the Department of Radiology at Stanford University. Dr. Illes received her B.A. from Brandeis University in Massachusetts in Physiological Psychology (1979), and an M.A. in Physiological Psychology from McGill University (1983) in Montreal, Canada. In 1987, Dr. Illes received her doctorate in Hearing and Speech Sciences from Stanford University, with a specialization in Experimental Neuropsychology.

Dr. Illes returned to Stanford University in 1991 to help build the research enterprise in imaging sciences in the Department of Radiology. She also co-founded the Stanford Brain Research Center (now the Neuroscience Institute at Stanford), and served as its first Executive Director between 1998 and 2001.

Today, Dr. Illes directs a strong research team devoted to neuroethics, and issues specifically at the intersection of medical imaging and biomedical ethics. These include ethical, social and legal challenges presented by advanced functional imaging capabilities, the emergence of cognitive enhancement technologies and pharmacology, the commercialization of cognitive neuroscience, and clinical findings detected incidentally in research. New initiatives in international neuroethics are underway.

Dr. Illes has written numerous books, edited volumes and articles. She is the author of The Strategic Grant Seeker: Conceptualizing Fundable Research in the Brain and Behavioral Sciences (1999, LEA Publishers, NJ), Special Guest Editor of Topics of Magnetic Resonance Imaging, "Emerging Ethical Challenges in MR Imaging" (2002), and Brain and Cognition, "Ethical Challenges in Advanced Neuroimaging" (2002). Her latest book, Neuroethics: Defining the Issues in Theory, Practice and Policy, has just been published Oxford University Press (2006).


From Genetics to Neuroethics: Is Imaging "Visualizing" Human Thought"?

In the first ever Neuroethics address to the Society for Neuroscience that met in San Diego, California in 2003, Professor Don Kennedy said: "Far more than our genomes, our brains are us, marking out the special character of our personal capacities, emotions and convictions. As for my 'brainome', I don't want anyone to know it for any purpose whatsoever."

Most would agree with Kennedy's thinking about the uniqueness of our being. Not everyone would agree, however, with his cautions about pursuing the "brainome", even in a technological and political climate in which confidentiality cannot be assured. There may be risks, but significant progress in neuroscience today supports an unrelenting human curiosity about the neurobiology of who we are and an ever increasing hunger for innovation toward self-improvement, quality of life, and longevity.

In this presentation, I will discuss the momentum in international neuroethics as it draws on lessons learned from genetics. I will argue that functional neuroimaging, as one model, plays a special role in this progress and that it has moved us, in many different ways, from imaginations to images about the human self. I will discuss how this has had an impact on privacy and personal identity in research and medicine, and the groundwork it lays for the next generation of neuroethics discussions about emerging interventions for the central nervous system, including cellular, molecular and nanotechnologies.