Panel 44

Exploring Promising Technologies in Neuroscience

Organizers: Barbara Morsello

University of Padova, Italy

Topics: Technoscientific promises, imaginaries and expectations; Innovation imaginaries, practices and policies

Keywords: neurotechnology, innovation, embodiment, promises, ai

The aim of the panel is to host empirical case studies and theoretical reflections on the technological promises, future visions, and expectations embodied in recent trend in neuroscience. The study of the brain is a powerful activity in providing new ways for understanding ourselves and societies, (Pickersgill and Cunningham-Burley et al 2011). Understanding the formation and mobilization of expectations is crucial to analyze emerging technology concerning biomedicine (van Lente, 1993) where knowledge is coproduced by new socio-technical relations (Hedgecoe, Martin 2003) among heterogenous actors. This is particularly true when it comes to neuroscience where, for example, artificial intelligence opens multiple scenarios and possibilities ranging from advanced diagnostics, treatment of certain diseases, as well as human enhancement. In this context, promises and imaginaries are fundamental feature to examine the “horizons of hope” where expectations of technoscientific actors arise (Robinson, Audétat et al 2021). There are, in fact, several “promising innovations” in neuroscience. Ai in neuroscience has a high potential in several fields: as a treatment for Parkinson disease, to control eating disorders or – potentially – to manage kids with ADHD and other compulsivity or movement disorders. Machines can assist human brain, when necessary, while neurostimulation uses electromagnetic approaches to affect the nervous system, but also research and innovation in mind-controlled robotics and intelligent prosthetics are growing. The emerging technology in neuroscience open up promising scenarios in biomedicine and beyond but also elicits fears and doubt by stakeholders, based in the idea that technology will replace the role of neurologists, of physicians or, more in general, of an idealized form of natural cognitions. An example can be the recent research on AI and deep brain stimulation that may enables a more personalized treatments by tracing and recording patients’ cerebral activity, however, it has been characterized by challenges and tensions among clinical teams and patients due to its “technical opacity” (Burrell 2016). In addition, neurotechnologies are often present in the popular culture, as the case of science fictions, cyborg imaginaries, thus giving rise to sometimes dystopian scenarios from which specific visions of the future emerge. Imaginaries related to neurotechnologies are interesting elements in understanding the frames in which innovation takes shape. Thus, exploring recent innovations in neurotechnology allows to examine the conflicts that shaped the arena of biomedical innovation over time; and to explore future scenarios of living with technologies.

Contributions may cover, but are not limited to, the following topics:

  1. Emerging innovation in neuroscience and/or AI;
  2. Biomedicine, neurological conditions and neurodiversity;
  3. Controversies among stakeholders;
  4. The role of patients and lays in shaping technological innovation;
  5. Subjective experience and embodiment;
  6. Implantable technology and closed-loop stimulation;
  7. Brain-computer Interfaces;
  8. Futures, promises and expectations of AI and neuroscience;
  9. Science fiction on neurotechnology and cyborg imaginaries.