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Militarising the Mind: Assessing the Weapons of the Ultimate Battlefield

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Robert C. Bruner, Filippa Lentzos

Original languageEnglish
JournalBiosocieties
Early online date22 May 2018
DOIs
Accepted/In press9 Feb 2018
E-pub ahead of print22 May 2018

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Abstract

Advancements in behavioural neuroscience have revolutionised the treatment of mental illness by elucidating the mechanisms underpinning human behaviour and cognition. These advancements are not completely benevolent, but have dual-use potential which harkens back to a darker time when states sought to influence and control each other’s citizenry through psychological means. This article puts proposed behaviour-altering neuroscience weapons into their appropriate technical, historical, and geopolitical contexts to present a sober and critical analysis of the threat arising from the weaponisation of behavioural neuroscience. It argues that by using psychiatric drugs, brain stimulation, brain imaging or neurobiochemical weapons, states may be able to leverage neuroscientific advances to influence, control, and manipulate human behaviour and cognition. However, these approaches are extremely nascent and face technical and operational challenges that make their deployment difficult. Despite this, in consideration of the rapid pace of scientific advancement, growing geopolitical instability, and ambiguities in international law, scientists and the international community must remain vigilant as these technologies become more refined and the practical barriers to use begin to lower.

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