Neuroscience: The risks of reading the brain

13th Jan 2017

UK neuropsychologist Barbara Sahakian and UK neuroscientists Julia Gottwald have written a book entitled 'Sex, Lies and Brain Scans: How fMRI reveals what really goes on in our minds'.

fMRI has changed the ability to view the human brain in action and understand the processes that underlie mental functions, such as decision-making. The book explores some ways in which neuroimaging has began to affect views on human behaviour and society. Barbara Sahakian and Julia Gottwald explain the science, and consider the ethical implications of using these techniques.

Some topics include:

  • How fMRI allows us to see inside the living brain, giving us the ability to attempt to read minds, guess purchasing choices in advance, and check whether people are lying, or biased
  • Explains what recent neuroimaging studies have revealed 
  • Considers the possibilities opening up for understanding the brain, motivation, thoughts, and behaviour 
  • Looks at the ethical issues raised by the use of fMRI, such as uncovering racial bias, or false memories

They also consider the important ethical questions these techniques raise. Should brain scans be allowed at airports to screen for terrorists? Should they be used to vet future judges and teachers? How far will we allow neuroscience to go?

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