24 june 2008

Oxford University to launch UK’s first neuroethics centre

Professor Julian Savulescu, Director of the Oxford Uehiro Centre for Practical Ethics
Professor Julian Savulescu has received the award to start the Oxford Centre for Neuroethics

Oxford University is to launch the UK’s first neuroethics centre following an award of more than £800,000 from the Wellcome Trust.

The grant has been awarded to Professor Julian Savulescu, a member of the philosophy faculty and director of the Oxford Uehiro Centre for Practical Ethics, and will fund the establishment of the Oxford Centre for Neuroethics. The Centre will bring together researchers from a wide range of disciplines and address current advances in neurosciences and other areas of related clinical medicine.

Professor Savulescu said: ‘Neuroscience studies the brain and mind – so some of the most profound aspects of human existence. In the last decade, advances in imaging and manipulating the brain have raised ethical challenges, particularly about the moral limits of the use of such technology, leading to the new discipline of neuroethics.

‘The Oxford Centre for Neuroethics, led by experts from ethics, philosophy of mind, neuroscience, neurology, psychiatry and legal theory, will be the first international centre in the UK dedicated to neuroethical research. Research will focus on questions about the enhancement of cognition and mood; borderline consciousness and severe brain impairment; free will, criminal responsibility, and addiction; and the neural basis of moral decision-making.’

In the last decade, advances in imaging and manipulating the brain have raised ethical challenges

Professor Julian Savulescu, Director of the Oxford Uehiro Centre for Practical Ethics

The Centre for Neuroethics will be located within the existing Oxford Uehiro Centre for Practical Ethics - one of the world’s leading centres for work in applied ethics.

Head of Humanities, Professor Sally Shuttleworth, said: ‘The award is a tribute to the work of Professor Savulescu and his colleagues, and will establish Oxford as a world-leading centre in the rapidly emerging field of neuroethics.

‘The Centre will bring together researchers from Europe, Australia and USA, across a wide range of disciplines, from ethics, philosophy of mind, law, psychiatry, and neurosciences to address current advances in neurosciences and areas of related clinical medicine.  It will link relevant research groups around the world and seek to engage policy makers and the general public.’

Clare Matterson, the Wellcome Trust’s Director of Medicine, Society and History, said: ‘The nature of biomedical research means it is constantly challenging our ideas about the world, ourselves and our health. Research into ethical issues surrounding medical science and healthcare is essential so our society can make informed decisions about research and medicine.

‘This significant and strategic grant will allow the group to build on their impressive track record in biomedical ethical research. By providing this level of funding, we expect them to develop future generations of researchers, extend their existing UK and international collaborations, as well as develop new ways of multidisciplinary working.’