NEUROSCIENCE, ETHICS AND SOCIETY THEME LEAD
Professor of Neuroscience & Society
- Co-Director: Wellcome Trust Centre for Ethics and the Humanities
- Distinguished Research Fellow: Oxford Uehiro Centre
Research on the social and ethical dimensions of research and innovation in neuroscience and psychiatry
Dr Alexandra Almeida: NEUROSEC Research Manager
Jessica Lorimer, MRC-Oxford DPhil Student
Edward Jacobs, Wellcome Trust DPhil Student
Gulamabbas Lakha, DPhil Student
Global Initiative in Neuropsychiatric Ethics (NeuroGenE)
Dr Rosemary Musesengwa: Senior Researcher in Mental Health Ethics
Ms Kiran Manku, Research Assistant
Becoming Good: Early Intervention and Moral Development in Child Psychiatry (BeGOOD) Wellcome Trust Investigator Award
Dr David Lyreskog: Postdoctoral Research Fellow
Dr Gabriela Pavarini: Postdoctoral Research Fellow
Mr Geoffrey Mawdsley, Research Assistant
Arianna Manzini: Wellcome Trust DPhil student
Wellcome Centre for Ethics and Humanities
Dr David Lyreskog: Postdoctoral Research Fellow (part-funded by a Wellcome Trust Enrichment Award)
Dr Sapfo Lignou: Postdoctoral Research Fellow in Partnership Ethics (part-funded by the Oxford Health BRC)
UK Ethics Accelerator for Pandemic Emergencies
Dr Alex McKeown: Postdoctoral Researcher
Ms Valerie West, Project Manager
NIHR Biomedical Research Centre: Oxford Health BRC (NEUROSEC-affiliated project)
BRC website https://oxfordhealthbrc.nihr.ac.uk/
Ms Claire Murray: PPI Manager
Ms Vanessa Bennett: Research Assistant for Young People's Participation and Involvement
Dr Sapfo Lignou: Postdoctoral Research Fellow in Partnership Ethics, Diversity and Inclusion
I hold a doctorate in human development and psychology from Harvard University; over the past decade I have added to these foundations through extensive work in bioethics and in sociology. I bring this interdisciplinary perspective to my current research through an approach known as empirical ethics. At present, my team's major research projects encompass digital mental health ethics; ethics of early intervention in mental health; and global mental health ethics.
My core research interest is in the social and ethical dimensions of innovations in neuroscience, psychiatry and related areas. In the therapeutic realm, I am particularly interested in translational impacts for children and families. My outlook is local and global, with an emphasis on connecting contextual, empirical investigations with ethical analysis and policy deliberations (empirical ethics). I believe that good neuroscience ethics requires a firm grip on the science and the ethics, and that respect for patients and understanding of context make for good and relevant neuro-ethical contributions.
Much of my work reflects a longstanding commitment to bringing the first person experiences of children and young people into ethical evaluation, clinical decision-making and policy-making. To do this, colleagues and I develop and study innovative methods of data collection and data presentation using a range of approaches, including qualitative and quantitative methods, mobile technologies and digital games.
Since coming to Oxford in 2015, my team has been successful in creating a global mental health ethics programme; see www.neurogene.org. We are funded for various projects through a partnership with the Stanley Centre, Board Institute of Harvard and MIT; British Academy; Global Challenges Research Fund, Africa-Oxford Initiative, and others.
My team is supported in part by a Senior Investigator Award from the Wellcome Trust for a project entitled: Becoming Good: Early Intervention and Moral Development in Child Psychiatry, 2015-2020. This project follows on from a Wellcome Trust University Award for VOICES: Voices on Identity, Childhood, Ethics & Stimulants: Children join the debate. See: www.adhdvoices.com. VOICES publications and videos have had impacts on clinical training and communication in the UK and around the world. In related work on ‘smart drugs’ and cognitive enhancement, we have influenced national health and policy deliberations in the UK, Europe and the United States (see www.nerri.eu). We have added significantly to innovative methods in working with young people. A Wellcome Trust Enrichment Award enabled us to create a bioethics game on mental health digital phenotyping: www.tracingtomorrow.org
Covid-19 Research and Innovation
I lead the UK Ethics Accelerator for Pandemic Emergencies, funded by the UKRI Covid-19 Rapid Response Call. This collaboration across 5 UK institutions involves 9 leading UK bioethicists as Co-Directors, along with 6 postdoctoral fellows and the Nuffield Council of Bioethics as a key partner. The core aim of the Ethics Accelerator is to mobilise national UK research excellence to rapidly guide health research, policy and practice in the profound ethical challenges brought about by the Covid-19 pandemic.
A project funded by the Duke of Westminster Foundation for a trial of a peer-support intervention for mental health and wellbeing, aimed at the challenges faced by adolescents during the epidemic crisis.
A project funded by University of Oxford to trial a holistic digital mental health intervention aimed at pandemic-specific challenges.
NEUROSCIENCE ETHICS and SOCIETY TEAM (NEUROSEC)
My team’s location within Oxford Psychiatry and Neuroscience is a key strength of our programme, allowing us to develop work that is integrated with world-leading, cutting edge research and clinical development in psychiatry and neuroscience. We also maintain an important independence, working across other key centres for excellence in ethics in Oxford. In 2018, we were successful in funding for the Wellcome Centre for Ethics and Humanities, of which I am a Co-Director. As of 2021, I am Co-Director of the Leverhulme Centre for BioPsychosocial Studies of Child Development, led by Prof Jane Barlow of Social Policy and Intervention.
We are involved in developing ethics research and guidance for a range of scientific and clinical studies in Oxford Psychiatry and Neuroscience, including projects in forensic psychiatry, bi-polar disorder, psychosis, anorexia nervosa and global child development. We also provide ethics advice and foresight analysis to projects involving ‘big neuro’ and personalised mental health.
VOICES: Voices on Identity, Childhood, Ethics & Stimulants: Children join the debate
Singh I., (2012)
Singh I., (2013), J Med Ethics, 39, 359 - 366
Lignou S. and Singh I., (2020), Wellcome Open Research, 5, 196 - 196
Pavarini G. et al, (2020), Child Adolesc Ment Health
Design Bioethics: A Theoretical Framework and Argument for Innovation in Bioethics Research
PAVARINI G. et al, (2020), The American Journal of Bioethics
McKeown A. et al, (2020), J Alzheimers Dis
Singh I. et al, (2020), Lancet Psychiatry, 7
RESEARCH, TRAINING AND EDUCATION OPPORTUNITIES
I welcome approaches from potential postdocs who have demonstrated excellence in prior work. Although internal resources for postdoc projects can be considered, in almost all cases potential fellows will need to apply for funding or bring their own funding.
I can provide supervision for MSc or DPhil (PhD) projects in the following areas. Most projects will need to have an empirical basis (we use both quantitative and qualitative methods). Approaches from scientists are very welcome. (Please note that, due to time constraints, I am unable to support DPhil student applications, unless these are specifically advertised.)
- Ethical and/or social dimensions of child mental health, particularly ADHD, Autism and Psychosis
- Social and/or ethical dimensions of child development; esp early intervention, moral developmentSocial and/or ethical dimensions of neuroscience technology innovation
- Patient engagement/involvement in the context of science, industry, health, society
- Global mental health