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Caroline Feldman's picture

humans and choices

The concept of choice was an interesting topic when we discussed it on Thursday. Whether we have free will or if forces beyond our control determine our actions is difficult question to answer. But increasingly, as genetic science leaps forward and neuroscience pinpoints the brain loci of "choice" and even morality, determinism has been winning out. Advances in neuroimaging, such as functional MRI scans, mean that scientists can now visualize emotions and even predilections toward violence. Recently, cognitive neuroscientists Frank Tong and Yukiyasu Kamitani reported in Nature Neuroscience that they could, essentially, read the minds of subjects with a brain scanner. By imaging neural activity, they could determine the visual patterns on which a subject was focused. Such developments have applications that raise significant moral issues. If MRIs can image our deepest emotions and even our thoughts—sometimes before we can even know them—can there really be free will? Can personal responsibility and neuroscience coexist?

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