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comment by Devac

I would much rather have neurotransmissions doing the talking, but here's my best shot. I hope for corrections.

    For instance, there was the part about how the technique could be used to control the fear centre of the brain. In what ways? How would that help people?

Amygdala is, to my understanding, not only about feeling fear but also about conditioning it. My bet for applications would be about allowing people to better deal with phobias or PTSD.

    If this technology could be used to control someone's brain in ways that would change their behavior, should this technology be pursued?

But that's how most drugs and medications work already. Anti-depressant work because they force certain preference and concentration of serotonin between synapses and such. More serotonin == forcing you to be happier. Amphetamines for ADD/ADHD? More dopamine and adrenaline-like compounds == forcing you to be more alert. Antipsychotic medications? Forcing lower levels of dopamine == brain that isn't going haywire and making up stuff that isn't there. It's just less direct and it might be the cause behind the bulk of their side effects.

Sorry for an almost insulting way to boil it down, with disregard to the details on top of it, but that's the gist of it.

That said, I would not want to see MKUltra that works.

jadedog  ·  599 days ago  ·  link  ·  

    Amygdala is, to my understanding, not only about feeling fear but also about conditioning it. My bet for applications would be about allowing people to better deal with phobias or PTSD.

I don't know enough about it either, but I know that fear is a necessary response. Without fear, people would do a lot of crazy and dangerous things.

Let's say, for discussion sake, that the neuron firing technique could control excess fear. But then we'd have to discuss what is excess fear. Many people who have PTSD have gotten it as a result of going to war. It's not excessive fear to have fear of a place where you're killing people and your life is in danger all the time. Should that be removed from people? It doesn't seem like a maladaptive response. It may be that it's not working when the person is no longer at war. But there's also the possibility that if enough people had that response, more people would speak up about going to war. Taking that away may not make society better.

Another example. The opioid crisis in the US. People are taking opioids in massive quantities to alleviate their physical and emotional pain of dealing with lives that don't match what society is telling them. If the neuron technique worked, maybe people would lose this pain. But should they? Maybe the crisis is a big red flag to an issue in society that needs to be fixed, not a sign that people need to be fixed to accept things that aren't acceptable.

    But that's how most drugs and medications work already.

Yes, and to the extent that it does, it might not be such a great thing.

For some people, medication is a necessity. They have issues that need to be controlled. That's not the issue in this case.

But just like opiods, some of the medications are overused for the wrong purposes. The reason more people don't take them is because they generally wear off after a while for a lot of people and because of the side effects.

If the neuron technique does away with these issues, then even more people would rely on these methods. I'm not convinced that's such a good thing.

It may be the case that humans have complicated brain wiring for a reason. Bypassing that wiring might seem advantageous on an individual basis but might pose more problems on a more societal level.

I tend to think that when people feel pain, it's not easily dismissed. If it can be eliminated through the use of an easy technique, it might not be better for the person in the long run.

Devac  ·  599 days ago  ·  link  ·  

I don't think that I'm a good person to discuss anything relating to ethics. I guess that like anything else in the world of medicine it's:

1. a good option/possibility to have for drug-resistant cases;

2. best to be used in moderation and (at least initially) under a strict control;

3. something that sooner or later will just have to be tested "because there has to be a better solution than X we have now."

Again, sorry for being somewhat dismissive, but I'm just too, for a lack of a better word, 'simple-minded' and pragmatic to discuss ethics. There might be problems, I guess that's why we have all of those committees, ethical boards, codes of conduct etc. As always, not all people are going to use it nicely.

Will it impact the society? I don't really see that happening. Do we need to suffer? I would say: "fuck no" but, as someone with debilitating headaches, I'm biased as all hell. I'll just point out that things that we, in general, barely even notice today, like organ transplants, were a major source of controversy around the time it all started. The heart transplants being suddenly a thing even caused a change of the medical definition of death. I bet that there were questions about people prolonging their life against one thing or another, how it will impact the society, will people be killed for organs (yeah, that actually does happen)… I bet some of those discussions were terrifying to even listen. Ethicists probably had field-decade on that one. Perhaps still have, I don't have a clue.

But the society hasn't really collapsed, right? We are still here, despite all the fears, drawbacks and the emergence of yet another venue in the black market.

neurotransmissions  ·  599 days ago  ·  link  ·  

Hey y'all! Thanks so much for watching and asking great questions. I'll try my best to reply to the concerns that were brought up and go from there.

First, it's important to say that optogenetics likely has no plans for human use. In order for optogenetics to work, your genetic code has to be manipulated. That means that someone would need to modify the genetic code of an embryo. Considering the level of controversy surrounding genetic modification of humans, this is extremely unlikely. If it were ever to be considered for human use, it would (of course) bring up a ton of ethical concerns. However, if you were to modify all neurons, it would be difficult to get a specific response. I guess I'm trying to say that optogenetics doesn't have many practical uses at this time.

So you might be asking, "well then why is optogenetics useful for humans?" This gets to your implications question. If we are able to identify the neuronal pathway of a mental health disorder, then we can better develop therapeutic interventions for it. For example, we could create better medications that target those specific neurons or more accurately use deep brain stimulation. Imagine having a medication that affects only the neurons in your amygdala and reduces your panic response to normal levels. The more we know about these pathways, the better treatment we can provide!

As a footnote, since it was mentioned, ethical considerations are extremely important. Unfortunately, there are plenty of examples of horrible, unethical studies conducted by researchers in the name of science. However, today, all scientists are responsible for ethical, responsible research. Almost all professional associations, government agencies, and universities have adopted specific codes, rules, and policies relating to research ethics. Additionally, funding and approval processes are set up in a way to require ethical conduct in research and it eliminates studies where the benefits do not outweigh the damages. Failure to uphold an ethical code can result in loss of employment, formal disciplinary action, and criminal charges. It is not something that is taken lightly!

In any case, thanks again for watching! I'm glad you all liked it and I look forward to any other questions you may have!!