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Garth Synnestvedt, '14

Neuroscience major and Asian studies minor; Birmingham, Michigan.

On Free Will and Reductionism in the Age of Neuroscience:

“The issue of free will is not a new one, but recent changes in the way we understand our own thoughts render new and interesting features of the problem salient. Perhaps most notable has been the rapid development of neuroscience research; through the application of new brain research technologies, neuroscientists’ research programs are giving new weight to the age old concept of determinism and its contemporary counterpart reductionism.

“In this culture of strong reductionism, it is particularly important to critically examine the ethical implications of the actions taken surrounding the various facets of mental health. How do we define “abnormal” mental conditions, and how do our definitions affect people’s lives? How do we continue to make scientific advances in understanding the human brain while also considering issues such as ethical treatment of animals? What are the implications of the ways in which the knowledge our research produces is communicated to the public, and how can we use scientific information to make decisions that have the greatest positive impact? These and a myriad of related topics are becoming increasingly urgent questions, and the long reaching implications of the decisions we make today demand that we apply an ethical decision making framework as we work towards progress in science, medicine, and mental health.”

Garth Synnestvedt is a senior pursuing an independently designed Neuroscience major and a minor in Asian studies. Garth combines primary studies in psychology and biology with secondary focuses in anthropology, philosophy, and other fields for an interdisciplinary approach to his studies of human thought and behavior. In his free time, Garth also enjoys travel, cooking, and photography, and is an amateur musician.

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