Sponsoring Organizations


Center for Neurotechnology Studies:
Potomac Institute for Policy Studies



Krasnow Institute for Advanced Studies of George Mason University




Sandia National Laboratories


NELSI-3: Ethical Issues in the Use of Neuroscience and Neurotechnology in National Defense

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Neuroscience and neurotechnology (so-called NeuroS&T) can, and will be used in service of national defense and security, but such use raises several important points that warrant further discussion. First is that NeuroS&T are nascent fields, and are prone to misinterpretation, and misuse. Second is that NeuroS&T, as endeavors that “push the envelope” to engage the boundaries of what is known, unknown and perhaps not knowable entails burdens of uncertainty, false expectation, possibility for unanticipated or runaway consequences, and frank risks.


In light of this it is critical to address, explicate and examine the ethical, legal and social issues that arise in, and from such research and applications if we are to assert and maintain 1) ongoing moral integrity both domestically and on the global stage, and 2) consider and/or advance these fields in national security, defense, and intelligence (NSDI) so as to ensure against their purloinment, corruption and frank misuse – both domestically and by other nations and/or groups.


Toward these ends, this year’s Neuroscience, Ethics, Legal and Social Issues (NELSI-3) Conference conjoins a group of preeminent scholars to engage a discursive and dialectical approach to these important, provocative, and sometimes controversial issues.


The NELSI-3 Conference specifically focuses upon:

(1) Identifying and analyzing extant gaps in neuroscience, neurotechnology and the knowledge these disciplines afford, as relevant to ethical, legal and social issues in their use in national security, intelligence and defense.

(2) Explication of specific neuroethical, legal and social issues arising in, and from NeuroS&T in NSDI

(3) Explication and discussion of possible strategies, tactics and processes toward preventing and resolving ethical, legal and social issues generated by the use and/or misuse of NeuroS&T in national defense and security.

(4) Discussion and recommendations for NELSI guidelines and policies that can be operationalized in national defense and security applications.


Featured Speakers Include:

James Canton, PhD, Institute for Global Futures, CA

LtCol William Casebeer, PhD, USAF Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency

Chris Forsythe, PhD, Sandia National Laboratory, NM

James Giordano, PhD, Center for Neurotechnology Studies, VA, and University of Oxford, UK

Jonathan Marks, PhD, Pennsylvania State University, PA, and Harvard University, MA

Jonathan Moreno, PhD, University of Pennsylvania, PA

James Olds, PhD, Krasnow Institute for Advanced Studies of George Mason University, VA

John Shook, PhD, Center for Inquiry, and University of Buffalo, NY

James Tabery, PhD, University of Utah, UT


The NELSI Conference Series

There is growing interest – both within science and the public at large - in the intersection of brain science and the use of novel technologies. This field, “neurotechnology”, is based upon our understanding of the brain, and reciprocally contributes to it. Neuroscience and neurotechnology work at the boundaries of what is known and unknown, and what may be unknowable. Yet, we continue to surge ahead, developing new technologies that are being employed in several sectors of public life. Simply put, neuroscience and neurotechnology are being integrated into the fabric, conduct and values of daily existence, and questions arise regarding the ethical and legal issues that arise from neuroscientific research, its applications, and the responsibility to use new knowledge and tools in ways that fulfill social good. As a component of the Decade of the Mind project, the NELSI Conference Series seeks to directly address these issues, questions and problems, and in this way provide objective, in-depth consideration of the moral, judicial and cultural ramifications that are generated from studies of the brain~mind.

The task is not easy, and as we move toward realizing a Decade of the Mind, it becomes ever more important to engage inter-disciplinary discourse that involves neuroscience, the natural, physical and social sciences, the humanities and the public and governmental sectors. The challenge – and opportunity -  is to use the information we have in ways that allow critical reflection, identification and analysis of gaps in knowledge and capability, and ultimately evaluation of the ethical, legal and social implications of neuroscientific research and its potential uses. It is this spirit of reflection, analysis, discourse and prudence that compels, guides, and sustains the NELSI Conference Series. We invite and welcome your participation.

For addtional information, please contact Prof. James Giordano, PhD, Chair, Neuroscience, Ethics, Legal and Social Issues (NELSI) Conference Series, at: jgiordano@neurobioethics.org.