Seeing Consciousness image

September 29, 2015 4:00 - 5:30 PM
Lectures and Panels
Armenise Building, D Amphitheatre
Harvard Medical School, 180 Longwood Ave., Boston, MA

VIDEO: Watch the Full Event Online!

Event Description

Modern neuroimaging technology such as functional MRI can now sometimes detect conscious awareness in patients who otherwise appear unconscious. Such a finding may or may not have major implications for how we treat patients with disordered consciousness (e.g. coma, the vegetative state, the minimally conscious state).

How reliable are these technologies? What are the implications of detecting consciousness in someone who looks and acts unconscious? Can and should this information be used to treat patients and manage expectations of caregivers? If so, how?

The use of technology to detect consciousness raises a host of questions not only pertinent to medicine and science, but also to law, philosophy, ethics and beyond - questions at the heart of what it means to be conscious, and to recognize consciousness in others.


  • James Bernat, MD, Director of the Program in Clinical Ethics, Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center

  • Joseph Fins, MD, Chief of the Division of Medical Ethics, Weill Cornell Medical College

  • Joseph Giacino, PhD, Director of Rehabilitation Neuropsychology, Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital

Follow the conversation on Twitter @HMSbioethics and chime in using #neuroethx.

Neuroethics Seminar Series

This event is part of a series hosted by the Center for Biothics at Harvard Medical School. For more information, visit the website.


  • The International Neuroethics Society

  • The Petrie-Flom Center for Health Law Policy, Biotechnology, and Bioethics, HLS

  • Center for Law, Brain, and Behavior, MGH

  • Institute for the Neurosciences, BWH

  • Center for Brain Science, Harvard University

  • Department of Neurobiology, HMS

With funding from

  • Mind Brain Behavior Interfaculty Initiative, Harvard University

  • The Harvard Brain Initiative Collaborative Seed Grant Program


VIDEO: Watch the Full Event Online!


bioethics   biotechnology   end-of-life   health law policy   neuroscience