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Stem Cell Ethics: Human Brain Organoids

The UCSD Stem Cell Program and the Institute for Practical Ethics invite you to explore the ethical questions of growing stem-cell-derived human brain organoids and how we as humans define conscious. A stimulating discussion about this technology

Symposium held on Friday, October 4, 2019





The Ethics of Brain Organoids with Alysson Muotri, Christof Koch, Patricia Churchland, and Evan Thompson

11/17/2019; 53 minutes

Leading voices in philosophy and neuroscience wrap up a conference on the ethics of research using brain organoids with questions from the audience. Panelists: Christof Koch, Chief Scientist and President of the Allen Institute for Brain Science; Patricia Churchland, Emerita Professor, UC San Diego;
Evan Thompson, Professor of Philosophy, University of British Columbia; and Alysson Muotri, Director of the UC San Diego Stem Cell program.
Recorded on 10/04/2019.


Keynote Speakers:

Christof Koch, PhD

Christof Koch, Ph.D., Chief Scientist and President of the Allen Institute for Brain Science

Christof Koch is a German-American neuroscientist best known for his studies and writings exploring the basis of consciousness. Trained as a physicist, Koch was for 27 years a professor of biology and engineering at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena. He is the President and Chief Scientist of the Allen Institute for Brain Science in Seattle, leading a ten year, large-scale, high through-put effort to carry out a cesus of all types of neurons in the mouse and the human brain and to build brain observatories to map, analyze and understand the mouse and human cerebral cortex.

 On a quest to understand the physical roots of consciousness, he published his first paper on the neural correlates of consciousness with the molecular biologist Francis Crick more than a quarter of a century ago. Dr. Koch's upcoming book is The Feeling of Life Itself – Why Consciousness is Widespread but Can’t be Computed.


Patricia Churchland

Patricia Churchland, Professor emerita of Philosophy at UC San Diego, and an adjunct professor at the Salk Institute

Patricia Smith Churchland is a Professor Emerita of Philosophy at the University of California San Diego, and an adjunct professor at the Salk Institute. Her research focuses on the interface between neuroscience and philosophy. She is the author of the pioneering book, Neurophilosophy (MIT Press   1986), and co-author with  T. J. Sejnowski of The Computational Brain (MIT 1992).

Her current work focuses on morality and the social brain; Braintrust: What Neuroscience Tells Us About Morality (2011 Princeton U P). Touching a Nerve, published by Norton in 2013, portrays how to get comfortable with this fact: I am what I am because my brain is as it is. In June 2019, her latest book was released – Conscience: The Origins of Moral Intuition. She has been president of the American Philosophical Association and the Society for Philosophy and Psychology and won a MacArthur Prize in 1991, the Rossi Prize for neuroscience in 2008, and the Prose Prize for science for the book, Braintrust. She was chair of the Philosophy Department at the University of California San Diego from 2000-2007


Evan Thompson, PhD

Evan Thompson, Ph.D., Professor of Philosophy at the University of British Columbia

Evan Thompson, writer, and professor of philosophy at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, works on the nature of the mind, the self, and the human experience. His work combines cognitive science, philosophy of mind, phenomenology, and cross-cultural philosophy- notably, Asian philosophical traditions. Thompson received his A.B. from Amherst College in 1983 in Asian Studies and his Ph.D. in Philosophy from the University of Toronto in 1990.

He was Professor of Philosophy at the University of Toronto from 2005 to 2013 and held a Canada Research Chair in Cognitive Science and the Embodied Mind at York University from 2002 to 2005. ), is an Elected Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada.

In 2014, he was the Numata Invited Visiting Professor at the Center for Buddhist Studies at the University of California, Berkeley. He has also held invited visiting appointments at the Faculty of Philosophy, Friedrich-Schiller-Universität Jena, the Ecole Polytechnique (Paris), the Center for Subjectivity Research at the University of Copenhagen, and the Department of Philosophy at the University of Colorado, Boulder.