Home | Help | » Navigation « | Credits | Feedback

Course Description

Welcome to Neuroethics: Implications of Advances in Neuroscience, brought to you by the Center for Bioethics at the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Columbia University, thanks to a generous grant from The Dana Foundation, a private philanthropic foundation with principal interests in brain science, immunology, and arts education.

The main welcome page offers:

  • An Introduction to the Course
  • Navigation tools to access the rest of the Course
  • A link to the Help page that offers readers help with troubleshooting, as well as browser and system requirements
  • A link to the Credits page that provides information on the many people who worked to create and perfect this Course: authors, scientific reviewers, web designers, and, of course, thanks to The Dana Foundation for their valuable funding that enabled the creation of the Course.
  • A Feedback link through which readers can contact Dr. Ruth Fischbach, Project Director, at the Center for Bioethics at the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Columbia University with any questions or comments

When navigating through the modules, readers can always return to the Home Page by clicking on the Introduction in the left-hand panel, or by clicking on the "Back to Home" link that is found at various places in the course.

The Course is comprised of four modules:

  1. Neuroimaging: Visualizing Brain Structure and Function
      1a. Coma to Brain Death: Recognizing Disorders of Consciousness
  2. Neurogenetics: The Complexity of Individuality
  3. Neuropharmacology and Chemical Neuroenhancement
  4. Neurotechnology: New Tools for Stimulating and for Responding to Brain Activity

For the module, Neuroimaging: Visualizing Brain Structure and Function, we created an additional section that could almost stand alone as its own module: Coma to Brain Death: Recognizing Disorders of Consciousness. This timely addendum offers definitions, diagnostic criteria, and inclusion categories for the different disorders of consciousness which are changing as neurologists and scientists gain a greater understanding of levels of consciousness, their duration, and their progression.

Each of the four main modules begins with a significant quotation that alludes to the scientific information and ethical dilemmas contained within the module. Modules are designed to present both a brief series of representative examples of scientific advances and technologies, followed by comprehensive discussions of the myriad ethical, legal, and social implications raised by these advances.

Each module has a Table of Contents that is linked to each of the sections. This allows the reader to proceed to a section of particular interest if he or she does not want to read through the entire module.

All modules in the Course, Neuroethics: Implications of Advances in Neuroscience, share a common Introduction. The Introduction offers basic information about the history and development of the field of neuroethics, and presents the reader with an overview of the Course as a whole, as well as information on each module individually.

The Foundation Text includes all of the relevant text material for the topic of the module. This material includes a rich panoply of learning resources, including definitions, examples, policy statements, and ethical exploration. Essentially, this text can be considered the traditional "textbook" chapter for the module. Yet it is supplemented with all of the pieces of information, including relevant images, the module creators have decided are necessary to gain a thorough understanding of the topic.

Along the left side of the page the reader will occasionally find a Sidebar. The Sidebar will contain additional information about issues raised in the text. The Sidebar should complement what the reader is learning in the text and broaden the reader's understanding. The Ethics Wizard, represented by this icon: , is a character who serves as the voice of the many experts working in relation to the subject of the module. The Wizard will point out ethical issues, but even more, will provide further insight, opinions, commentary, ideas on how to handle situations, links to resources, etc.

The use of Sidebar material and the Ethics Wizard serve to break up long passages of text. Readers have the option of jumping around the text via a linked table of contents. Those who read the material in its entirety, including the sidebars and Wizard comments, will get a comprehensive overview of the topic. All readers will, of course, have the option of saving and/or printing out the material.

The Foundation Text of each module is well-researched and comprehensively referenced. Each of the reference numbers is linked to the specific citation. Clicking on the up arrow, , found next to each citation in the References section, brings the reader back to the referring section in the text. This allows the reader to see where the information comes from without losing one's place in the text.

Course modules offer clinical Case Studies that explore issues of neuroethics that may arise when caring for individuals with a variety of clinical and social problems. The situations in these cases reflect the reality of medical practice for many physicians who must deal with complex patient, social, and ethical issues in their regular medical encounters. The cases also reinforce the notion that knowing the basic tenets of neuroethics and neuroethical practice must be combined with the ability to apply this knowledge in the many different and varied cases practitioners are likely to encounter. The cases are annotated, enhanced by practical Questions, Sidebars with additional information, and ethics Wizards.

Within the Case Studies, the icon indicates a challenging Question posed about the case. Clicking on the icon will reveal the question. In order to see the suggested Answer to the question, the reader must click [Read Answer]. By not immediately revealing the answer, the reader has the opportunity to think for him- or herself what the answer should be, and what elements need to go into this consideration. This separation between the Question and the Answer allows for more thoughtful consideration of the implications of practice and how this impacts neuroethics.

The References page provides all the references included in each module's Foundation Text and supporting materials in one convenient location. There is also a Resources page accessed through the Introduction and the modules that contains all references cited in all the modules. This provides the reader with a comprehensive list of sources for the broad subject of Neuroethics.

The Conclusion, like the Introduction, is shared by all four learning modules in this Course on Neuroethics. It is assumed that the readers' interest in Neuroethics will not end with the completion of these modules, but will stimulate an enduring interest and perspective the reader will take with him or her in all future interactions and encounters that warrant neuroethical consideration. To that end, the Conclusion offers an overview of the whole Course, Neuroethics: Implications of Advances in Neuroscience, as well as some questions designed for further consideration by the readers.

We trust that the readers of this educational, distance-learning Course will gain an increased appreciation of both the importance - and the challenges - posed by the exciting advances in Neuroscience along with their concomitant Neuroethical dilemmas and considerations. We anticipate our readers will carry this appreciation with them through their future endeavors.