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March 11, 2013

Brain Awareness Week: Mini Q&A with Robert H. Blank

We interviewed a few of our authors in honor of Brain Awareness Week (March 11-17), and we'll post them throughout the week. Our first mini Q&A is with Robert H. Blank, author of Intervention in the Brain: Politics, Policy, and Ethics, which comes out in April. Robert H. Blank is affiliated with the University of Canterbury in New Zealand.


What sparked your interest in researching intervention in the brain?

From 1988-1992, I was a member of the Advisory Committee on Neuroscience for the Congressional Office of Technology Assessment. As the only social scientist on the Committee, I was astonished by the many potential public policy issues raised by neuroscience. In response to a near absence of interest in social science (particularly in my field political science) at the time, I began to research and publish on the political policy implications of the brain sciences.


How have your research topics and/or methods changed over the course of your career?

Prior to my shift to neuroscience policy and the publication of Brain Policy in 1999, I was most active in human genetic and reproductive policy issues and in studying comparative health systems. Since that time, I have focused one stream of my research on the implications of the mounting knowledge of the role of the brain in our understanding of human behavior, especially from rapid advances in brain imaging and other noninvasive techniques.


What kinds of changes do you think we need to make in brain science education?

I see a need for further interdisciplinary collaboration on the brain. The emergence of the social and cultural neuroscience fields as well as the evolving neurogenetics area are useful steps to that end. However, while there has been considerable activity surrounding the ethical issues of intervention in the brain, knowledge among mainstream social scientists and policy scholars remains limited despite the far-reaching political and social policy repercussions of brain research. Intervention in the brain also has major implications for law, health care, education and commerce that require thoughtful, impartial and well researched multidisciplinary discourse on how best to use this new knowledge flowing from neuroscience research.


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