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Unpicking the brain

Scientists have advanced brain research deep into territory usually occupied by philosophers. Can their findings act as a guide to public policy?

By Dan Jones   March 2010

In August 2009, the Royal Society—Britain’s most prestigious scientific society—convened a meeting of the country’s leading brain scientists. Gathered round the table were ten experts in areas ranging from neurophysiology and neural plasticity to neural hermeneutics. For some time, those studying the brain have revealed a marvel of evolutionary engineering. But now something else is happening: business and the military are looking to apply this research for their own ends, while politicians, science writers and journalists are making ever bolder claims for what it tells us about human behaviour. “There are so many speculative claims being made about the implications…

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