For many years Penn has been home to an active program of research and teaching on neuroscience and society. Our faculty published many of the earliest papers on neuroethics and neurolaw, pioneered fMRI lie detection, and addressed presidential and congressional committees on the societal impact of neuroscience. Starting in 1999 Penn’s Core Curriculum included Perspectives on Cognitive Neuroscience: Mind, Brain and Society, team taught by professors of neuroscience, philosophy and law.
In February of 2002 we held the first national conference on the emerging ethical, legal and social implications of neuroscience. Sponsored by the Greenwall Foundation, “Bioethics and the Cognitive Neuroscience Revolution” brought Joshua Greene, Steven Hyman and Steven Pinker together with our own Art Caplan, Anjan Chatterjee, Martha Farah, Stephen Morse, Chuck O’Brien and Paul Root Wolpe for a day of lectures and discussion.
Noting the need for a comprehensive and accessible source of information about the emerging ethical, legal and social implications of neuroscience (aka “neuroethics”), in 2004 we created NEUROETHICS.UPENN.EDU, a website that soon became Google’s top-ranked site for the search term “neuroethics.” The site was redesigned in 2009 with the founding of the Center for Neuroscience & Society, but retains an updated version of the resources from the original site under the “Neuroethics Briefings” tab.
Over the subsequent years we worked with each other and with colleagues elsewhere as members of the Penn Neuroethics Program. Our faculty played a key role in the founding of the Neuroethics Society and continue to hold positions on its governing board. We also serve on the editorial boards of the journals Neuroethics and AJOB-Neuroscience, and provide the Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience with its Associate Editor for Neuroethics.
In July of 2009, the Penn Neuroethics Program became the Center for Neuroscience and Society, a development that has enabled us to continue to expand our work on the ethical, legal and social implications of neuroscience. In recognition of the interdisciplinary nature of our mission, we are a cross-school Center, administered through the Office of the Provost.