Neuroethics Session

In association with the International Neuroethics Society,  we are delighted to present a special neuroethics session on Monday, May 21 st, 20:45-22:00 .

Ethical Issues in BCI Research and Development: Recognition and Response

BCIs and other neurotechnologies establish interactions with the brain that are unprecedented in their potential intimacy and precision. They thereby raise difficult, often unique, ethical issues. Blaise Aguera y Arcas will address issues of privacy and consent, including protection of access to one’s neural data, prevention of unwanted influences on neural activity, and appropriate rules and procedures for allowing such access or influence. Jon Wolpaw will consider how BCIs modify concepts of identity and agency, how they are likely to affect personal and societal perceptions of identity and agency, and how these concepts and perceptions should influence,
and perhaps constrain, BCI research. Judy Illes will discuss the process of integrating ethical principles into BCI research, the progress of this endeavor to date, and the measures that can best ensure effective integration of ethical principles into future BCI research, development, and dissemination.

The session will feature the following speakers:


Blaise Agüera y Arcas
Machine Intelligence, Google

Blaise leads a team at Google focusing on Machine Intelligence for mobile devices—including both basic research and new products. His group works extensively with deep neural nets for machine perception, distributed learning, and agents, as well as collaborating with academic institutions on connectomics research. Until 2014 he was a Distinguished Engineer at Microsoft, where he worked in a variety of roles, from inventor to strategist, and led teams with strengths in inter­ac­tion design, pro­to­typ­ing, computer vision and machine vision, augmented reality, wearable com­put­ing and graphics. Blaise has given TED talks on Sead­ragon and Pho­to­synth (2007, 2012) and Bing Maps (2010). In 2008, he was awarded MIT’s prestigious TR35 (“35 under 35”).


Jonathan R. Wolpaw, M.D.
Director of the National Center for Adaptive Neurotechnologies
Professor, School of Public Health, Biomedical Sciences

The primary interest of Dr. Wolpaw’s laboratory is in development and use of a new model for defining the substrates of vertebrate learning. Their studies have demonstrated operant conditioning of the simplest behavior of the vertebrate CNS, the H-reflex, which is the electrical analog of the spinal stretch reflex. The responsible plasticity is in the spinal cord, so that H-reflex conditioning is a good model for studying the processes underlying a learned change in behavior. In addition, it is the basis for a new therapeutic approach to spasticity and other forms of abnormal reflex function. The laboratory’s  present goals are to define the spinal cord plasticity associated with H-reflex conditioning both physiologically and anatomically, and to determine how supraspinal control produces this plasticity.

In addition, they are developing brain-computer interface (BCI) technology to restore communication and control to people who are severely paralyzed by amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), strokes, or other devastating neuromuscular disorders. People learn to use their brain waves recorded from the scalp to select letters or icons on a computer screen or to move a cursor.  They have begun to take our BCI system out of the lab and into the homes of people with severe disabilities. The laboratory is testing its capacity to restore communication and control to them in their daily lives.


Judy Illes, CM, PHD
Board Member, International Neuroethics Society
Director of Neuroethics Canada, University of British Columbia

Dr. Judy Illes, Professor of Neurology and Canada Research Chair in Neuroethics at UBC, is Director of Neuroethics Canada at UBC, and faculty in the Brain Research Centre at UBC and the Vancouver Coastal Health Research Institute. Dr. Illes also holds affiliate appointments in the School of Population and Public Health and the School of Journalism at UBC, and in the Department of Computer Science and Engineering at the University of Washington in Seattle, WA, USA.

A pioneer and eminent scholar in the field of neuroethics, she has made groundbreaking contributions to ethical, social, and policy challenges at the intersection of biomedical ethics and neuroscience, with a specific focus on aging and dementia, addiction and mental health, neuroimaging, stem cells, cross-cultural values, and the commercialization of health care.

Dr. Illes was appointed to the Order of Canada in 2017. She is immediate past president of the International Neuroethics Society, Vice Chair of the Standing Committee on Ethics for the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR), and Vice Chair of the Internal Advisory Board of CIHR’s Institute of Neuroethics, Mental Health and Addiction. Dr. Illes is an inaugural member of the Michael Smith Foundation for Health Research Leadership Forum, and is an elected fellow of the Royal Society of Canada, of the Canadian Academy of Health Sciences, and of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

Thank you to the 2018 BCI Meeting sponsors