Public Release: 

Penn bioethics researcher gives talk on the neuroscience of ethics at AAAS Meeting

University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine

Paul Root Wolpe, PhD, Professor of Bioethics at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, will be presenting "Neuroscience and the Material Foundations of Ethics" at the 2006 American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) Annual Meeting in St. Louis, MO, being held this Thursday through Monday, February 16-20th. As part of the Sunday, February 19th symposium "Neuroscience of Ethics: Material Foundations of Moral Agency," Wolpe will discuss the implications for ethical thinking and action as discoveries about the relationship between brain structure and function and ethical decision-making begin to surface.

He asks: "Does it really matter if neuroscience points out the various ways we make ethical decisions neurologically? Could it lead to better ways to teach ethics?" Or, might it lead to forensic outcomes: "If we discover that ethical decisions are made in a particular part of the brain, could lawyers show a brain scan to a jury claiming that a client's brain has a lesion or dysfunction that may impair ethical decision-making?

"The ability to peer into the brain through scanning technologies raises these issues, as well as concerns about privacy and cognitive liberty," he adds. Wolpe is also a professor in the Departments of Psychiatry and Sociology at Penn, as well as Chief of Bioethics for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.


PENN Medicine is a $2.7 billion enterprise dedicated to the related missions of medical education, biomedical research, and high-quality patient care. PENN Medicine consists of the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine (founded in 1765 as the nation's first medical school) and the University of Pennsylvania Health System.

Penn's School of Medicine is ranked #2 in the nation for receipt of NIH research funds; and ranked #4 in the nation in U.S. News & World Report's most recent ranking of top research-oriented medical schools. Supporting 1,400 fulltime faculty and 700 students, the School of Medicine is recognized worldwide for its superior education and training of the next generation of physician-scientists and leaders of academic medicine.

The University of Pennsylvania Health System comprises: its flagship hospital, the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, consistently rated one of the nation's "Honor Roll" hospitals by U.S. News & World Report; Pennsylvania Hospital, the nation's first hospital; Penn Presbyterian Medical Center; a faculty practice plan; a primary-care provider network; two multispecialty satellite facilities; and home health care and hospice.

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