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fMRI in the public eye


The wide dissemination and expanding applications of functional MRI have not escaped the attention of the media or discussion in the wider public arena. From the bench to the bedside, this technology has introduced substantial ethical challenges. Are the boundaries of what it can and cannot achieve being communicated to the public? Are its limitations understood? And given the complexities that are inherent to neuroscience, are current avenues for communication adequate?

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Figure 1: Composition of the sample of articles returned to a search of print media coverage (general and specialized sources combined) of fMRI from January 1991 to June 2004.
Figure 2: Unidirectional communication in neuroscience.
Figure 3: Multidirectional communication in neuroscience.


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Supported by The Greenwall Foundation, the National Institutes of Health and the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (J.I.) and an FQRSC postdoctoral fellowship to E.R. The authors extend their thanks to C. Jennings for inspiring this project and to S. W. Atlas, T. A. Raffin, P. Schraedley Desmond and M. Gallo.

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Correspondence to Judy Illes.

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Society for Neuroscience Guide to Public Advocacy

International Bioethics Committee of UNESCO (Article 6)

Quebec Network of Applied Genetic Medicine

Danish Board of Technology

Dana Centre

President's Council on Bioethics

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Racine, E., Bar-Ilan, O. & Illes, J. fMRI in the public eye. Nat Rev Neurosci 6, 159–164 (2005).

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