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Large-scale brain simulation and disorders of consciousness: Mapping technical and conceptual issues
Uppsala University, Disciplinary Domain of Medicine and Pharmacy, Faculty of Medicine, Department of Public Health and Caring Sciences, Centre for Research Ethics and Bioethics. Science and Society Unit, Biogem Genetic Research Centre, Ariano Irpino (AV), Italy. (Neuroethics)ORCID iD: 0000-0002-3298-7829
Science for Life Laboratory, School of Computer Science and Communication, KTH Royal Institute of Technology, Stockholm, Sweden; Department of Neuroscience, Karolinska Institute, Solna, Sweden. (Neuroscience)
Uppsala University, Disciplinary Domain of Medicine and Pharmacy, Faculty of Medicine, Department of Public Health and Caring Sciences, Centre for Research Ethics and Bioethics.
2018 (English)In: Frontiers in Psychology, ISSN 1664-1078, E-ISSN 1664-1078, Vol. 9, article id 585Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Modelling and simulations have gained a leading position in contemporary attempts to describe, explain, and quantitatively predict the human brain's operations. Computer models are highly sophisticated tools developed to achieve an integrated knowledge of the brain with the aim of overcoming the actual fragmentation resulting from different neuroscientific approaches. In this paper we investigate plausibility of simulation technologies for emulation of consciousness and the potential clinical impact of large-scale brain simulation on the assessment and care of disorders of consciousness (DOCs), e.g. Coma, Vegetative State/Unresponsive Wakefulness Syndrome, Minimally Conscious State.Notwithstanding their technical limitations, we suggest that simulation technologies may offer new solutions to old practical problems, particularly in clinical contexts. We take DOCs as an illustrative case, arguing that the simulation of neural correlates of consciousness is potentially useful for improving treatments of patients with DOCs.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2018. Vol. 9, article id 585
Keywords [en]
Consciousness, Consciousness Disorders, brain modeling, Neuroethics, brain simulation
National Category
Computer Systems Ethics Philosophy Neurology Bioinformatics and Systems Biology
Research subject
Neuroscience; Philosophy
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-347782DOI: 10.3389/fpsyg.2018.00585ISI: 000430833800001PubMedID: 29740372OAI: oai:DiVA.org:uu-347782DiVA, id: diva2:1195844
Projects
The human brain project
Funder
EU, Horizon 2020, 720270Available from: 2018-04-06 Created: 2018-04-06 Last updated: 2019-08-30Bibliographically approved
In thesis
1. Brain, consciousness and disorders of consciousness at the intersection of neuroscience and philosophy
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Brain, consciousness and disorders of consciousness at the intersection of neuroscience and philosophy
2019 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

The present dissertation starts from the general claim that neuroscience is not neutral, with regard to theoretical questions like the nature of consciousness, but it needs to be complemented with dedicated conceptual analysis. Specifically, the argument for this thesis is that the combination of empirical and conceptual work is a necessary step for assessing the significant questions raised by the most recent study of the brain. Results emerging from neuroscience are conceptually very relevant in themselves but, notwithstanding its theoretical sophistication, neuroscience is not sufficient to provide a complete interpretation or an appropriate understanding of their impact. Consequently, the present thesis starts from the need for an interdisciplinary and hybrid field of research, i.e. fundamental neuroethics.

Within this framework, the thesis takes consciousness and related disorders (i.e. Vegetative State/Unresponsive Wakefulness Syndrome, Minimally Conscious State and Coma) and the addicted brain as illustrative cases of the potential fruitful collaboration between empirical and conceptual investigations.

The general goal of the thesis is to contribute to the overall development of bridging the gap between empirical and conceptual understandings of consciousness. The first paper sets the theoretical framework, providing an empirically-based description of the brain with significant philosophical implications for an understanding of consciousness. The last three papers of the thesis try to apply the theoretical framework to illustrative cases. Papers II and III analyse the possible application of science and technology for an easier detection and clinical care of patients with disorders of consciousness, with particular attention to communication mediated by neurotechnology and the simulation of the conscious brain, respectively; paper IV provides a potentially new ethical analysis of addiction within the elaborated general conceptual framework.

The conclusion of the thesis is that the impact of neuroscientific results needs that a dedicated conceptual approach reveals and investigates their conceptual meaning. This conceptual analysis is not exclusive but integrative and complementary to the empirical science. The case of consciousness, analysed from both an ethical and conceptual point of view, is highly illustrative in this respect. In the end, a conceptual/linguistic work of clarification is urgently needed.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Uppsala: Acta Universitatis Upsaliensis, 2019. p. 63
Series
Digital Comprehensive Summaries of Uppsala Dissertations from the Faculty of Medicine, ISSN 1651-6206 ; 1597
Keywords
Brain; consciousness; disorders of consciousness; neuroethics; neurophilosophy
National Category
Neurology Medical Ethics Philosophy Ethics
Research subject
Philosophy; Neuroscience
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-392187 (URN)978-91-513-0749-7 (ISBN)
Public defence
2019-10-30, Sal IX, Universitetshuset, Biskopsgatan 3, Uppsala, 09:00 (English)
Opponent
Supervisors
Projects
Human Brain Project
Funder
EU, Horizon 2020, 785907
Available from: 2019-10-07 Created: 2019-08-30 Last updated: 2019-10-15

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Farisco, MicheleEvers, Kathinka

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