Bodies, places and neuroethics

13th December 2011, 12.00-13.00

Pearson (North East Entrance) G22 LT

Prof. Patrick Haggard

Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience and Department of Psychology

University College London, UK.

Technological innovations are placing increasing pressure on our concept of personal identity.  In this talk, I will describe some of the key pressure points.  First, several scenarios for VR embodiment can be seen as interposing in the link between self and body.  Any such intervention is likely to trigger plastic processes of adjusting the self, the body or both.  I will briefly review neural mechanisms of plasticity, and consider some challenges that these mechanisms raise, as well as some of the therapeutic benefits and potentially undesirable consequences.  Second, many VR scenarios involve virtual spaces distinct from physical space.  I will argue that the brain's representation of space forms a fundamental part of our personal identity, based on examples from research on touch and vestibular stimulation.  Finally, I shall consider some of the neuroethical issues that this developing field may encounter.

Patrick Haggard works at the Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience at UCL.  His major research interests are the sense of one's own body, and the brain basis of voluntary action.  He has published 190 peer-reviewed papers.  His research is funded by the EU, by ESRC, Wellcome Trust and Leverhulme Trust, among others.  He has numerous collaborations in Europe, North America and Asia. More about Patrick Haggard’s work on free will can be found on the Information Philosopher.