Neuro-Interventions and the Law: Regulating Human Mental Capacity

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Neuro-Interventions and the Law: Regulating Human Mental Capacity

September 12, 2014 - September 14, 2014

12-14 September 2014, Atlanta, GA, USA.
CALL FOR PAPERS (abstracts due March 30, 2014)
Should the criminal justice system use neuro-interventions (e.g. anti-psychotic drugs and medical procedures that putatively restore mental function) to make people fit or competent for trial, for punishment, or for release back into society? For instance, to make someone who currently lacks sufficient capacity into a fully responsible moral agent, or perhaps to make an irresponsible person more responsible? Should the state be permitted to forcibly administer one set of drugs to make an insane person on death row sane, or at least sane enough, so that they can then be executed by administering another set of life-ending medications?
Should people be allowed to use controlled substances like modafinil and methylphenidate, or uncontrolled substances like phenylpiracetam, and techniques like transcranial direct current stimulation of the brain – putative cognitive enhancement techniques – to improve their own mental abilities beyond normal levels, to get better grades at college, or to get a competitive advantage in the workforce? But maybe this question approaches the debate from completely the wrong angle. Maybe, rather, some people should be expected to enhance themselves, and maybe they would be negligent if they failed to do so. For instance, surgeons performing long, cognitively demanding, and tiring operations; pilots on long-haul flights; or anyone else for that matter whose job involves high stakes and demands the highest grade performance?
Modern neuro-interventions hold out the promise of non-invasively but directly, effectively, efficiently, and maybe even permanently altering people’s mental capacities, and this conference will interrogate a range of pertinent questions that this might raise for the law. For instance, how should society regulate the use of such diverse neuro-interventions? What may we legitimately expect of people whose mental capacities have been altered through such neuro-interventions? How should the criminal justice system be permitted to use such techniques to regulate people’s mental capacities to promote or to achieve its own internal aims? How are these techniques currently being used and regulated? Which of these techniques actually work, how do they work, what are their various costs, do they truly help us to achieve what we think or hope they do, and in general what can we learn about our own normative presuppositions by reflecting on neuro-interventions in such contexts?
These and related questions will be interrogated through panel discussions and talks by leading international scholars from a range of disciplines and professions.
• Judge Andre Davis (U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit)
• Justice David Nahmias (Supreme Court of Georgia)
• Walter Glannon (Calgary)
• Katrina Sifferd (Elmhurst)
• Francis Shen (Minnesota)
• Eddy Nahmias (GSU)
• Chris Ryan (Sydney)
We invite submission of abstracts of 500-750 words from researchers in relevant disciplines – e.g. neuroscience, psychology, medicine, law, philosophy, social science – and from policy makers, professionals (including legal and medical professionals), representatives of professional bodies, and government. Abstracts for oral and poster presentations (please indicate which) should be emailed to by March 30, 2014. Applicants will be notified by April 30, 2014 whether their abstract has been accepted.
Thanks to generous financial support from sponsors, attendance is free of charge, but registration is essential since places are limited. Details about how to register and the conference program will appear at in late March 2014.
A selection of presenters will be invited to contribute a chapter towards a peer-reviewed inter-disciplinary book that will be published in mid-2015 with a prestigious academic press. To ensure timeliness of publication, we request that authors interested in this project (a) let us know, and (b) plan to have a written draft of their paper ready by November 1, 2014.


September 12, 2014
September 14, 2014


Dr Nicole A Vincent