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Disorders of Consciousness: Neurotechnologies and Neuroethics

14 May 2018
San Francesco Complex - Piazza San Francesco 19 (Classroom 1)

In this talk I will explain the current state of neuroimaging experiments that enable researchers to assess levels of consciousness in unresponsive, brain-damaged patients diagnosed to be in a Persistent Vegetative State (PVS). These have shown that a significant proportion of clinically diagnosed patients are misdiagnosed, because even though they lack behavioral abilities, they retain consciousness and higher cognitive capacities. Using this technology, we now have the possibility of engaging in two-way communication with these patients. However, there are significant limitations associated with these communicative technologies, and these complicate dealing with the moral issues surrounding the care of these patients. I discuss the ethical issues surrounding patients with disorders of consciousness and suggest a potential way to augment current experimental approaches to assessing levels of consciousness and cognitive competence in these patients.

Adina Roskies, Dartmouth College