Christopher Green, M.D., Ph.D., F.A.A.F.S., assistant dean for China/Asia-Pacific for the Wayne State University School of Medicine, gave the plenary address to the Royal Society conference on Applications of Neuroscience for Policy and Threat Assessment.
The Royal Society, the oldest scientific academy in continuous existence, is a fellowship of scientists that seeks to champion the development and use of science, mathematics, engineering and medicine for the benefit of humanity and the good of the planet.
The conference, part of the society’s “Brain Waves” project, addressed concerns over renewed interest among some countries in developing toxic chemical and biological agents as incapacitating weapons, and the potential use of neuropharmacology advances to target the central nervous system to degrade human cognition, performance and consciousness.
“The scope of our project is to assess the scientific and policy dimensions of military and law enforcement applications of neuroscience and neurotechnology, particularly with reference to applications for the enhancement, manipulation or degradation of human performance,” said Dr. Green, who also serves as professor and clinical fellow of WSU Neuroimaging-MRI in the departments of Diagnostic Radiology and Psychiatry and Behavioral Neurosciences and Harper University Hospital.
His address, titled “Neuroscience Applications for: Militaries, Intelligence and Law Enforcement,” noted that medical scientists must remain aware that with the explosion of discoveries in the area of neurosciences will come individuals, political entities and countries that would seek to exploit those findings for nefarious purposes. “In the health sectors … we seek ameliorating mental and physical neurological disease and injury. But the enhancement market is growing ‘off-shore’ and is often hidden,” he told the society membership. “Customers do not possess a diagnosable neurological disorder, but are seeking some cognitive performance advantage or want to prevent a probable decline. And in the performance degradation arena, ‘advantages’ that intersect our core values as scientists and physicians are joined and challenged in new ways.”
Dr. Green pointed to five overarching findings related to potential avenues of abuse of neurological discoveries, including “off-label” uses of technologies and drugs in the areas of cognition and performance; the pursuit of products initially intended for the health market being diverted to other uses; the lack of regulation in some countries; and the lack of the government’s ability internally to warn against developments that could lead to catastrophic intelligence failures.
“The implications for the military, law enforcement and intelligence communities are not dissimilar to those we have experienced in the past, such as exploding science discovery in physics, materials science and biochemistry presaged developments and threats in nuclear weapons, asymmetric communications and cyber warfare, and chemical and biological weaponry,” he said