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Essay Neuroscience, Ethics, and National Security: The State of the Art Michael N. Tennison1, Jonathan D. Moreno2* 1Wake Forest University, Winston-Salem, North Carolina, United States of America, 2University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States of America Abstract: National security orga- nizations in the United States, including the armed services and the intelligence community, have developed a close relationship with the scientific establishment. The latest technology often fuels war- fighting and counter-intelligence capacities, providing the tactical advantages thought necessary to maintain geopolitical dominance and national security. Neuroscience has emerged as a prominent focus within this milieu, annually receiv- ing hundreds of millions of Depart- ment of Defense dollars. Its role in national security operations raises ethical issues that need to be addressed to ensure the pragmatic synthesis of ethical accountability and national security. Introduction During the past decade, the US national security establishment has come to see neuroscience as a promising and integral component of its 21st century needs. Much neuroscience is ‘‘dual use’’ research, asking questions and developing technol- ogies that are of both military and civilian interest. Historically, dual use has often involved a trickle down of military tech- nology into civilian hands. The Internet, for example, originated as a non-local, distributed means to secure military infor- mation. In the case of neuroscience, however, civilian research has outpaced that of the military. Both National Re- search Council (NRC) reports and De- partment of Defense (DoD) funding reveal ongoing national security interests in neuroscience and indicate that the military is quite eager to glean what it can from the emerging science [1,2]. To pursue cogni- tive neuroscience research, the Pentagon’s science agency, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), re- ceived about US$240 million for the fiscal year of 2011, while the Army trails at US$55 million, the Navy at US$34 million, and the Air Force at US$24 million . The military establishment’s interest in understanding, developing, and exploiting neuroscience generates a tension in its relationship with science: the goals of national security and the goals of science may conflict. The latter employs rigorous standards of validation in the expansion of knowledge, while the former depends on the most promising deployable solutions for the defense of the nation. As a result, the exciting potential of high-tech devel- opments on the horizon may be over- hyped, misunderstood, or worse: they could be deployed before sufficiently validated. Current state-of-the-art neuroscience, including new forms of brain scanning, brain–computer interfaces (BCIs), and neuromodulation, is being tapped for warfighter enhancement, deception detec- tion, and other cutting-edge military applications to serve national security interests. Brain–Computer Interfaces BCIs exemplify the dual use nature of neuroscience applications. BCIs convert neural activity into input for technological mechanisms, from communication devices to prosthetics. The military’s interests in BCIs are manifold, including treatment modalities, augmented systems for con- trolling vehicles, and assistance for detect- ing danger on the battlefield. In the late 1990s, scientists demonstrat- ed neurological control of the movement of a simple device in rats, and soon thereafter, of a robotic arm in monkeys . More recently, a pilot study of BrainGate technology, an intracortical microelectrode array implanted in human subjects, confirmed 1,000 days of contin- uous, successful neurological control of a mouse cursor . Non-invasive technolo- gies for harnessing brain activity also show promise for human use. Progress has recently been reported on a ‘‘dry’’ EEG cap that does not require a gel to obtain sufficient data from the brain. The ‘‘brain cap’’ is reported to reconstruct movements of humans’ ankle, knee, and hip joints during treadmill walking in order to aid rehabilitation . DARPA’s Augmented Cognition (Aug- Cog) program sought to find ways to use neurological information gathered from warfighters to modify their equipment accordingly. For example, the ‘‘cognitive cockpit’’ concept involved recording a pilot’s brain activity to customize the cockpit to that individual’s needs in real time, from selecting the least burdened sensory organ for communicating infor- mation to prioritizing informational needs and eliminating distractions . Although the Augmented Cognition moniker (and funding mechanism) seem to have been dropped, its spirit lives on in other DARPA projects. For example, the Cog- nitive Technology Threat Warning Sys- tem is developing portable binoculars that Essays articulate a specific perspective on a topic of broad interest to scientists. Citation: Tennison MN, Moreno JD (2012) Neuroscience, Ethics, and National Security: The State of the Art. PLoS Biol 10(3): e1001289. doi:10.1371/journal.pbio.1001289 Published March 20, 2012 Copyright: 2012 Tennison, Moreno. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited. Funding: The authors received no specific funding for this work. Competing Interests: The authors have declared that no competing interests exist. Abbreviations: BCI, brain–computer interface; DARPA, Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency; NRC, National Research Council; TMS, transcranial magnetic stimulation * E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org PLoS Biology | www.plosbiology.org 1 March 2012 | Volume 10 | Issue 3 | e1001289 convert subconscious, neurological re- sponses to danger into consciously avail- able information . Such a system could reduce the information-processing burden on warfighters, helping them to identify and respond to areas of interest in the visual field more quickly. Via intracortical microstimulation (ICMS), a neurologically controlled pros- thetic could send tactile information back to the brain in nearly real time, essentially creating a ‘‘brain-machine-brain inter- face’’ . The technology underlying this concept is already evolving, and some researchers hope that optogenetics, which both enables ‘‘precise, millisecond control of specific neurons’’ and ‘‘eliminates most of the key problems with ICMS,’’ will ultimately supplant the ICMS for sensory feedback . In addition to devising prosthetics that can supply sensory infor- mation to the brain, brain-machine-brain interfaces may directly modify neurologi- cal activity. Portable technologies like near infrared spectroscopy (NIRS), for exam- ple, could detect deficiencies in a warfigh- ter’s neurological processes and feed that information into a device utilizing in- helmet or in-vehicle transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) to suppress or enhance individual brain functions . Much of the technological evolution of warfare has introduced a distance between the parties involved. From the advent of firearms to airplanes, aerial bombs to remotely operated drones, the visceral reality of combat afforded by the physical proximity to one’s enemy has steadily eroded. In 2007, researchers taught a monkey to neurologically control a walk- ing robot on the other side of the world by means of electrochemical measurements of motor cortical activity . Considering this in light of the work on robotic tactile feedback, it is easy to imagine a new phase of warfare in which ground troops become obsolete. Warfighter Enhancement The therapeutic paradigm of medical practice aims to heal and reduce suffering, to return the ill to a state of normal health. Yet, many interventions can be used by the healthy to enhance specific traits or capacities beyond the physiological or statistical norm . For example, BCIs can operate prosthetics for therapeutic purposes, but they could also connect to orthotic exoskeletons that enhance strength and endurance. Similarly, thera- peutic drugs like methylphenidate can help patients recover focus and attention, but they are also used, for example, by healthy college students looking to maxi- mize academic performance . Wheth- er they do in fact improve performance is open to disagreement [11,12]. Military pharmaceutical neuroenhancement came to the public’s attention in 2003 when ‘‘two American pilots accidentally killed four Canadian soldiers and injured eight others in Afghanistan’’ . It turned out that the pilots had been taking Dexedrine, the amphetamine-based ‘‘go pills’’ often used to reduce the fatigue induced by long missions. In 2008, a report for the US Army compared the effects of amphetamines with those of modafinil, a drug typically used and approved to treat narcolepsy, in combination with sleep-aiding drugs. De- spite the controversy over ‘‘go pills’’, the study found that for long-duration mis- sions, both amphetamines and modafinil have statistically similar effects of reducing the cognitive decline associated with fatigue . Other reports state that modafinil significantly outperforms meth- ylphenidate for cognitive enhancement in healthy individuals, ‘‘especially on people undergoing sleep deprivation’’ . Re- lated research has investigated other ways to combat fatigue as well. Published in 2007, a DARPA-sponsored study showed that nasally administered orexin-A, a neuropeptide, restored the short-term memory of sleep-deprived monkeys . In its 2009 report for the US Army, the NRC recommends that TMS should also be a part of further research on central nervous system fatigue . Studies suggest that TMS can enhance a variety of neurological functions in healthy individu- als, from mood and social cognition to working memory and learning . An- other noninvasive neuromodulation tech- nology, transcranial pulsed ultrasound, was demonstrated to have a number of prom- ising effects, from being ‘‘useful for sono- poration in gene therapy’’ to ‘‘promoting nerve regeneration’’ . With the aid of both DARPA and US Army funding, researchers envision and work toward developing portable, in-helmet ultrasound transducers capable of stimulating neural circuits with a better precision and depth than TMS . Direct current polariza- tion, or transcranial direct current stimula- tion (TDCS), is another noninvasive, DARPA-supported technology for neuro- modulation. ‘‘As might be expected, TDCS can enhance cognitive processes occurring in targeted brain areas’’ , including learning and memory . While cognitive augmentation will en- hance performance on some tasks, other situations call for the reduction of neurolog- ical capacity. For example, if a memory of a traumatic event could be dampened, one may be less likely to experience post- traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) as a result. In 2002, scientists produced preliminary evidence that propranolol, when adminis- tered shortly after a traumatic event, could mitigate the long-term potential for internal cues to invoke post-traumatic stress . More recently, scientists demonstrated that propranolol can similarly reduce PTSD symptoms when administered ‘‘after retrieval of thememoryof apasttraumaticevent’’,not just immediately after the event itself . Human enhancement may benefit indi- viduals and society in myriad ways, but it also poses many risks. In the civilian world, if more and more people begin enhancing their minds and bodies, indi- viduals may eventually feel subtly coerced into enhancing themselves in order to remain competitive in school or the workplace . In the military context, the risk of coercion is much more pronounced : According to the Uniform Code of Military Justice, soldiers are re- quired to accept medical interven- tions that make them fit for duty. Experimental treatments are a hard- er case, but the US government has shown a tendency to defer to commanders in a combat situation if they think some treatment is likely to do more harm than good, even if unproven. If a warfighter is allowed no autono- mous freedom to accept or decline an enhancement intervention, and the inter- vention in question is as invasive as remote brain control, then the ethical implications are immense. As Peter W. Singer has observed, ‘‘the Pentagon’s real-world re- cord with things like the aboveground testing of atomic bombs, Agent Orange, and Gulf War syndrome certainly doesn’t inspire the greatest confidence among the first generation of soldiers involved [in human enhancement]’’ . Neuroscientific Deception Detection and Interrogation National security agencies are also mining neuroscience for ways to advance interrogation methods and the detection of deception. The increasing sophistication of brain-reading neurotechnologies has led many to investigate their potential appli- cations for lie detection. Deception has long been associated with empirically PLoS Biology | www.plosbiology.org 2 March 2012 | Volume 10 | Issue 3 | e1001289 measurable correlates, arguably originat- ing nearly a century ago with research into blood pressure . Yet blood pressure, among other modern bases for polygraphy like heart and breathing rates, indicates the presence of a proxy for deception: stress. Although the polygraph performs better than chance, it does not reliably and accurately indicate the presence of decep- tion, and it is susceptible to counter measures. Because of these problems with the polygraph, researchers are eagerly following up on preliminary successes in using new neurotechnological modalities for detecting deception. ‘‘Brain fingerprinting’’ utilizes EEG to detect the P300 wave, an event-related potential (ERP) associated with the percep- tion of a recognized, meaningful stimulus, and it is thought to hold potential for confirming the presence of ‘‘concealed infor- mation’’.Thetechnologyismarketedfor a number of uses: ‘‘national security, medical diagnostics, advertising, insurance fraud and in the criminal justice system’’ . Similarly, fMRI-based lie detection services are cur- rentlyofferedbyseveralcompanies,including No Lie MRI  and Cephos . DARPA funded the pioneering research that showed how deception involves a more complex array of neurological processes than truth- telling, and that fMRI arguably can detect the difference between the two . No Lie MRI also has ties to national security: they market their services to the DoD, Depart- ment of Homeland Security, and the intelli- gence community, among other potential customers . The Defense Intelligency Agency (DIA)- commissioned 2008 NRC report, Emerging Cognitive Neuroscience and Related Technologies, in which one of the present authors (JDM) participated, reiterates the conclusion of a 2003 NRC report  that ‘‘traditional measures of deception detection technology have proven to be insufficiently accurate’’ . While the NRC ultimately recommends pursuing ‘‘research on multimodal method- ological approaches for detecting and mea- suring neurophysiological indicators of psy- chological states and intentions’’, it cautions that like traditional polygraphy, neurological measurements do not directly reveal psy- chological states . In fact, many scholars and scientists dispute the validity of brain scan-based lie detection [24,32]. In addition to questions of scientific validity, these technologies raise legal and ethical issues. Legally required brain scans arguably violate ‘‘the guarantee against self-incrimination’’ because they differ from acceptable forms of bodily evidence, such as fingerprints or blood samples, in an important way: they are not simply physical, hard evidence, but evidence that is intimately linked to the defendant’s mind . Under US law, brain-scanning technologies might also raise implications for the Fourth Amendment, calling into question whether they constitute an un- reasonable search and seizure . Another neuroscientific field stimulating national security interest pertains to the hormone oxytocin, which has been shown to augment the expression of various virtues, from ‘‘trust and trustworthiness’’ to ‘‘generosity and sacrifice’’ . Without elaborating, the NRC’s 2008 report spec- ifies oxytocin as a ‘‘neuropeptide of inter- est’’ . If the interest in question relates to pharmacologically incapacitating the psy- chological defenses of interrogation sus- pects, this may conflict with the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC). According to the CWC, a chemical that can cause ‘‘temporary incapacitation’’ is defined as a ‘‘toxic chemical’’ and is therefore banned from such use . Beyond this ethical concern, oxytocin is far from being con- firmed as a truth serum, and without further verification it should not be treated as such. The history of research on finding the ultimate truth serum is long and storied. Suffice it to say, ‘‘[T]he urban myth of the drugged detainee imparting pristine nug- gets of intelligence is firmly rooted and hard to dispel’’ . Recommendations This paper has detailed the national security establishment’s interest in and ability to fund a panoply of diverse neuroscientific studies. It has also reviewed the ethical, legal, and social issues that emerge from this relationship. Yet, discus- sions in themselves will not ensure that the translation of basic science into deployed product will proceed ethically or contrib- ute to the greater good. These consider- ations must be embedded and explored at various levels in society: upstream in the minds and goals of scientists, downstream in the creation of advisory bodies, and broadly in the public at large. Although they may receive funding from national security agencies, neuroscientists may not consider how their work contrib- utes to warfare. As we have seen, however, neuroscience does, and will continue to, play a role in military operations. This fact spawns a plenitude of ethical concerns, from which one may surmise that the sciences should divorce themselves from the military completely. However, the fact that the material explored in this paper is public information speaks to the possibility that a discussion about the role and limits of neuroscience in national security may be open and transparent. Bifurcating public science from national security may only drive the same research underground, undermining its current public account- ability . Thus, it would be impractical to try to circumvent the ethical problems simply by cutting ties between science and national defense. Many would agree with George Mason University anthropologist Hugh Gusterson that ‘‘[m]ost rational human beings would believe that if we could have a world where nobody does military neuroscience, we’ll all be better off. But for some people in the Pentagon, it’s too delicious to ignore’’ . In any case, as we have suggested, the dual use possibilities for neuroscience render such a world unlikely. Therefore, scientists themselves could become more aware of the dual use phenomenon, whether their work is specifically funded by national security bodies or not, in order to create a more self-conscious scientific enterprise. They could also involve themselves in constructing the parameters to guide and govern their relationships with national security agencies. Just as many nuclear scientists opposed the development of atomic weapons, contributing to the test- ban treaties of the 1960s and the drawdown of armed missiles in the 1980s , neuroscientists could consider and promul- gate their perspectives on the military implications and ethical issues associated with their work. References 1. Committee on Military and Intelligence Meth- odology for Emergent Neurophysiological and Cognitive/Neural Research in the Next Two Decades, National Research Council of the National Academies (2008) Emerging cognitive neuroscience and related technologies. Wash- ington (D.C.): National Academies Press. 214 p. 2. Committee on Opportunities in Neuroscience for Future Army Applications, National Research Council of the National Academies (2009) Opportunities in neuroscience for future army applications. 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Hamilton R, Messing S, Chatterjee A (2011) Rethinking the thinking cap: ethics of neural enhancement using noninvasive brain stimula- tion. Neurology 76(2): 187–193. 18. Tyler WJ (2011) Noninvasive neuromodulation with ultrasound? A continuum mechanics hy- pothesis. Neuroscientist 17(1): 25–36. 19. Tyler WJ (2010) Remote control of brain activity using ultrasound. Armed with Science, Available: http://science.dodlive.mil/2010/09/01/remote- control-of-brain-activity-using-ultrasound/. Ac- cessed 21 July 2011. 20. Ukueberuwa D, Wassermann EM (2010) Direct current brain polarization: A simple, noninvasive technique for human neuromodulation. Neuro- modulation 13(3): 168–173. 21. Pitman RK, Sanders KM, Zusman RM, Healy AR, Cheema F, et al. (2002) Pilot study of secondary prevention of posttraumatic stress disorder with propranolol. Biol Psychiatry 51(2): 189–192. 22. Brunet A, Orr SP, Tremblay J, Robertson K, Nader K, et al. (2008) Effect of post-retrieval propranolol on psychophysiologic responding during subsequent script-driven traumatic imag- ery in post-traumatic stress disorder. J Psychiat Res 42(6): 503–506. 23. Singer PW (2009) Wired for war: The robotics revolution and conflict in the 21st century. New York: Penguin Group. 512 p. 24. Greely HT, Illes J (2007) Neuroscience-based lie detection: The urgent need for regulation. Am J Law Med 33: 377–431. 25. Ganis G, Rosenfeld JP (2011) Neural correlates of deception. In: Illes J, Sahakian BJ, eds. The Oxford handbook of neuroethics. Oxford: Oxford University Press. pp 101–117. 26. Brain Fingerprinting Laboratories (n.d.) Brain Fingerprinting Laboratories executive summary. Available: http://www.brainwavescience.com/ ExecutiveSummary.php.