Brain Research Featured at AAAS Meeting
From new applications in brain-machine interfaces to breakthroughs in understanding primate cognition and psycho- pathology, neuroscience discoveries were front and center at the 2013 American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) annual meeting in Boston. As the world’s largest general scientific conference, the meeting provides a forum for promoting news about science and communicating that news to the press, the public, and policymakers. Each year, nearly 1,000 reporters attend the event.
The programs and speakers, selected by the AAAS Neuroscience Section, reflect a growing, increasingly inter- disciplinary field that reaches across a variety of subject areas. “This year we had a major symposium on the ‘connectome,’ which was extremely well attended,” said Joseph T. Coyle, the AAAS Neuroscience Section’s newly elected chair. Coyle holds the Eben S. Draper Chair of Psychiatry and Neuroscience at Harvard University. See page 4 for more information from Coyle about AAAS.
Panels focused on such topics as innovative efforts to help stroke patients regain speech, advances in brain-machine interfaces, and developments in understanding memory, using the legacy case of H.M. Several panels examined issues that arise with the intersection of neuroscience and society. For example, “The Elusive Common Good: What Moral Psychology and Neuroscience Now Tells Us” illuminated the science behind conscious and unconscious thought underlying moral choices. “Why Is Living Healthily So Difficult?” included a presentation on the neurobiological mechanisms of self-control on making dietary choices. One of the public lectures, “The Robotic Moment: What Do We Forget When We Talk to Machines?” reflected on how developments in automation may change societal norms.
The meeting largely focused on science and technology, and also featured discussions about public policy and the future of scientific research. Participating in an interdisciplinary event such as the AAAS meeting “is a way that we as neuroscientists can play a more important role in helping to shape policy based on our expertise in brain science,” said Coyle.
Both Coyle and David M. Holtzman, the Neuroscience Section’s past chair, said neuroscientists play an important role in shaping the discussion — both nationally and globally — about the direction of science.
“As scientists, we work to influence our society about the importance of funding for research, and AAAS helps coordinate that message among scientists in a variety of fields,” said Holtzman, who chairs the neurology department at the University of Washington in St. Louis.
Learn more about the AAAS Neuroscience Section and the 2013 annual meeting at aaas.org.