Neurotechnology is becoming an integral part of new approaches to science allowing visualization of the neurobiological detail provided by highly persuasive brain images. In the case of education, studies have used neuroimaging to examine whether socioeconomic status correlates with differences in brain structure. They have measured electrical activity in the brains of children from lower socioeconomic groups to detect deficits in their selective attention. Such studies and findings have begun to influence policy makers, who can interpret the results to specify remedial interventions such as the provision of early childhood education.
Neurotechnology is a fascinating field and, at the same time, controversial. One of its goals is to directly “connect” human brains to machines. In fact, we should expect to find such hybrid brain-machine systems more frequently in the future. Neurotechnology is defined as the set of methods and instruments that allow a direct connection of technical components with the nervous system. These technical components are smart electrodes, computers, or prosthetics.
They are intended to record signals from the brain and “translate” them into technical control commands, or manipulate brain activity through the application of electrical or optical stimuli. The closed-loop interactions of pacing and reading systems (control circuits) are also the subject of current research. Neurotechnological electrodes can simply be placed on the surface of the head in the form of electrode caps that collect the electrical fields generated by the active brain. This measurement method is called “non-invasive” because the electrodes do not penetrate the body.
Ethics and Neurotechnology
Neurotechnology raises ethical questions associated with what we call our “self” or “soul”, complex philosophical concepts with many assumptions. The ethical debate is generally based on the concept of person as a “modern” notion. This includes core aspects that we normally attribute to our self or soul. In this regard, self-awareness, responsibility, individual future planning and similar dimensions are included. In this way, we must first become aware of the notions of “person” and “personal identity” as fundamental concepts of ethics. The integrity and dignity of a person are the most relevant criteria for the ethical evaluation of technological interventions.
The concept of personality always has normative implications. This is due to the fact that we not only describe certain attributes and capabilities of a person, but we want them to be recognized, recognized and guaranteed. For example, the principle of “informed consent”, which is so important in clinical practice, refers to the notion of personality. Along the same lines, the concept of person can provide an ethical benchmark. Assuming that we do not want to undermine personal capacities such as autonomy and responsibility through interventions in the brain. Neurotechnological interventions are not ethically acceptable if remaining a person is at risk.
Goals of Neurotechnology
Neurotechnologies seek to improve or modify our understanding of cognitive function, including awareness and thinking. In research subjects, its various technologies, including brain-machine interfaces, neural implants, neuromonitoring, neurostimulation, and neuroprosthetics, are used to restore, enhance, or alter typical brain function. The applications of neurotechnology try to realize the ambition of merging man with the machine to evolve the human condition. As with previous technological advances, the implications of neurotechnology are promising and worrying. It has enormous potential to help people, but there are questions about how governments and other organizations will use these technologies.
Now, however, the relationship between neurotechnology and neural networks is expanding from one-way (brain-to-computer) activity to two-way activity. This allows messages to be sent from the computer directly to your brain. The benefits of having this two-way communication flow are said to provide improved intelligence, greater memory retention, better neural attention and understanding. It is worth remembering that the technology to achieve these ambitions is still in the planning stages. It also faces significant industry challenges.
Neurotechnological development and the application of neurological enhancement techniques may seem far removed from education. However, neuroscience itself is currently enjoying rapid growth within educational research and practice. With the emergence of new research centers in educational neuroscience, the support of grant-making bodies, and the results and their applications are increasingly being shared in the global community using the Twitter hashtag #edneuro. “Ed-neuro” researchers are using various neurotechnologies, such as brain imaging, to generate knowledge for educational policy makers and practitioners.
A study by ed-neuro has made use of wearable and portable EEG headsets to study the “brain-brain synchrony” of students in the context of the classroom. EEG neuroimaging has even been used to visualize the brain ‘enlightened’ when students have adopted a ‘growth mindset’. Attempts have also been made to use brain imaging technologies to analyze the possible biological mechanisms by which socioeconomic status influences and affects the brain and cognitive development in children.
Problems with the Application of Neurotechnology in Education
In fact, one of the main problems in education has its origin in the lack of adequate and up-to-date knowledge about the neurocognitive domain involved in any learning process. This internal domain, hitherto hidden, has traditionally been treated as a black box. A way of knowing where the only information that we can obtain comes from as a contingent correlation that we can make between inputs and outputs. Although it has been a useful procedure for understanding mechanical systems, it may not necessarily be a good strategy for understanding dynamic and complex systems.
Here the results vary over time and especially when this is exactly what is expected to occur, they change over time due to learning. During the last 10 years, neuroscience has begun to influence many fields related to human behavior. But there is still no real impact on one of the most important activities of human culture: the educational system. Although we have increased our knowledge of many of the cellular and molecular mechanisms involved in learning processes, we are still far from translating this knowledge. It is necessary to move the micro-scale of phenomena to the macro-scale where human education occurs.
The application of neurotechnology to education that we are just beginning to detect must be undertaken in a way that is sensitive. From issues of neuro-governance, to cognitive freedom and mental privacy. As part of a budding educational neurofuture, optimistic aspirations toward neurological improvement.
The context that we call educational is a complex domain of human social behavior where we find a plethora of interacting variables. It gives rise to multiple and coexisting particular and specific systems that interact with many others of similar composition. Here we can distinguish several aspects that come together in such a way that any of them can be as important as any other, depending on the particular trajectory of the system involved in study. But what we see today in many countries is an educational crisis that is explicitly manifested in social phenomena such as exhaustion of the methodology or vision used.
Probably because we continue to apply a method and a practice invented more than a century ago without considering the enormous changes that society and knowledge have experienced and accumulated during this time. One of these changes has occurred almost recently with the rise of the audiovisual revolution. It started with the invention of electronics and television, and today it has reached unexpected frontiers with an astonishing offering of audiovisual devices and computer games that are light years away from any teacher trying to capture the attention of their audience. In this sense, perhaps one of the great mistakes made by educational psychologists in recent decades was to believe that stimulation (and overstimulation) has such good results in children.
Finger, S. 2001. Origins of Neuroscience: A History of Explorations Into Brain Function. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. 2016. Issues Paper: OECD Workshop “Neurotechnology and Society: Strengthening Responsible Innovation in Brain Science. Paris: OECD.
Sullivan, L. S., and J. Illes. 2017. Models of Engagement in Neuroethics Programs: Past, Present, and Future. In Debates About Neuroethics. Advances in Neuroethics, edited by E. Racine, and J. Aspler. Cham: Springer.
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