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Center for Neuroscience and Society
September 15, 2009, Volume 56, No. 03


Farah, Martha

The University of Pennsylvania has launched the Penn Center for Neuroscience and Society (CNS), a cross-disciplinary endeavor to increase understanding of the impact of neuroscience on society through research and teaching and to encourage the responsible use of neuroscience for the benefit of humanity. The Center will confront the social, legal and ethical implications of increasingly rapid advances in neuroscience. The announcement was made by President Amy Gutmann and Provost Vincent Price.

“For more than a half-century, Penn has been driving the brain sciences revolution, whose impact can be felt in every sphere of human endeavor, from enhancing human performance to treating anti-social behavior to understanding neurodegenerative diseases,” President Gutmann said. “The new Penn Center for Neuroscience and Society typifies our resolve to integrate and to apply knowledge for humanity’s benefit.”

Penn cognitive neuroscientist Dr. Martha J. Farah will lead the Center as director. Dr. Farah, the Walter H. Annenberg Professor of Natural Sciences in the department of psychology at Penn, is the author of more than 100 peer-reviewed journal articles and six books on cognitive neuroscience and its societal impact, including the forthcoming Neuroethics: An Introduction with Readings, to be published in the spring of 2010. Dr. Farah is the director of the Center for Cognitive Neuroscience at Penn and a frequent speaker on emerging trends in neuroscience.

“Neuroscience is giving us increasingly powerful methods for understanding, predicting and manipulating behavior,” Dr. Farah said. “Every sphere of life in which the human mind plays a central role will be touched by these advances. We are fortunate at Penn to have the largest and most accomplished group of scholars anywhere in the world working on issues of neuroscience and society.”

The Penn Center for Neuroscience and Society will draw its faculty from the schools of Arts and Sciences, Medicine, Law and Engineering and Applied Science and will be one of the few centers located under the provost on the organizational chart of the University, in recognition of the highly interdisciplinary nature of its mission.
“The CNS will vitally enhance Penn’s leadership at the frontiers of neuroscience,” Provost Price said. “It is designed to bring together a wide range of perspectives, from across the University, to help illuminate the changes created by advances in neuroscience research.”

Drs. Anjan Chatterjee and Stephen J. Morse will serve as associate directors.

Dr. Chatterjee is a cognitive neuroscientist, practicing neurologist, professor in the department of neurology and a member of the Center for Cognitive Neuroscience. In his 2004 Neurology article in which he coined the term, “cosmetic neurology,” he sounded the first call for physicians to consider the ethics of brain enhancement, and he has continued as a leader on the clinical side of neuroethics. He is co-editor, with Dr. Farah, of the book Neuroethics in Practice, to be published next year.

Dr. Morse is the Ferdinand Wakeman Hubbell Professor of Law and a professor of psychology and law in psychiatry at Penn. He is an expert in criminal and mental-health law whose work emphasizes individual responsibility in criminal and civil law. He has written extensively on the relation of neuroscience to law and is currently legal coordinator of the MacArthur Foundation Project on Neuroscience and the Law and co-director of the Project’s Network on Criminal Responsibility and Prediction.

The reach of the CNS will extend beyond academia and engage policy makers, advocacy groups, industry and professionals in the full range of fields affected by progress in neuroscience such as business, the military, law and education.

In 1953, Penn founded the nation’s first university-wide institute devoted exclusively to neuroscience research, the Mahoney Institute of Neurological Sciences. Today, Penn supports one of the world’s leading neuroscience research communities, which includes the Center for Cognitive Neuroscience, the Center for Functional Neuroimaging and the Penn Comprehensive Neuroscience Center.

Penn recently announced plans to build a new Neural and Behavioral Sciences Building (Almanac February 12, 2008) and has launched a $50 million initiative to recruit Penn Integrates Knowledge professors who take an interdisciplinary approach to neuroscience (Almanac September 23, 2008).

Additional information on the Penn Center for Neuroscience and Society may be found at www.neuroethics.upenn.edu.

Almanac - September 15, 2009, Volume 56, No. 03