University of Pittsburgh
October 19, 2003

The Brain on Ethics

Pioneer in cognitive neuroscience to speak at Pitt

EDITORS: Michael Gazzaniga is available for interview after Oct. 22.

PITTSBURGH—Should drugs that increase intelligence be developed? At what point can Alzheimer's patients no longer give informed consent? Should brain imaging be used to detect lying in criminals or terrorists? If you have a brain, then these questions raised by neuro-ethics affect you.

Renowned cognitive neuroscientist Michael Gazzaniga will explore "Neuro-ethical Issues: Stem Cells and Free Will" in a lecture for both scientists and nonscientists at 5:30 p.m. Oct. 30 in the Frick Fine Arts Auditorium, Schenley Drive, in Oakland. The lecture was initiated to increase dialogue between its two sponsors—University of Pittsburgh's Graduate Program in Cultural Studies and the Center for the Neural Basis of Cognition (CNBC).

"Neuroscience is producing new research all the time that raises interesting issues for one's personal moral view of the world," said Gazzaniga, director of the Center for Cognitive Neuroscience at Dartmouth University. "Issues ranging from when life commences to free will to using drugs for personal enhancement abound, and now is the time to discuss them."

Gazzaniga is best known for his pioneering work with Roger Sperry on split-brain patients. This research, for which Sperry received the Nobel Prize, was the first to show that each hemisphere of the brain housed different functions. Researching the split brain for more than 35 years, Gazzaniga has continued to fine-tune our understanding of brain organization.

"Through his research, teaching, and administration, Michael Gazzaniga is truly one of the founding fathers of the field of cognitive neuroscience," said Peter Strick, professor in the Department of Neurobiology and codirector of CNBC.

Gazzaniga has been featured in the PBS series The Brain and its sequel, The Mind, and his research has been presented on NBC Nightly News and The Today Show. He also was featured in a Nova television special and in the Scientific American television series on the brain. He serves on the President's Council on Bioethics convened by President George W. Bush, and is Dean of the Faculty at Dartmouth College.

"This lecture provides an opportunity for people from a broad range of disciplines to engage in intellectual exchange around a controversial issue that will have profound consequences for health policy in the 21st century," said Nancy Condee, associate professor of Russian literature in the Department of Slavic Languages and Literatures, and director of the Graduate Program in Cultural Studies.