CBR Seminar: Ethical and practical issues in using genetic tests and neuroimaging to predict addiction risk and match addicted persons to treatments. Event as iCalendar


13 March 2015

1 - 2pm

Venue: CBR Seminar Room 501-505, Building 501, Grafton Campus

Location: 85 Park Road, Grafton

Host: Centre for Brain Research

Contact info: Dr Dean Robinson

Contact email: d.robinson@auckland.ac.nz

Wayne Hall Cropped)

Brain imaging research in addiction promises to provide neurobiological and functional markers that may improve treatment of alcoholism and other types of drug addiction. More speculatively, it may also enable us to prevent addiction by intervening early with individuals who are identified as being at increased risk.

In this talk, I will review the research findings on the use of genetics and neuroimaging to identify those at greater risk of developing addiction and to match addicted individuals to the treatments that are most likely to assist them toward abstinence.

I also discuss the ethical and public policy issues that may arise from the clinical use of these technologies and consider issues such as: (i) the commercialization of neuroimaging via directto- consumer marketing before the technology has been properly validated; (ii) the misuse of neuroimaging to discriminate against individuals at increased risk of developing addiction; (iii) the possible benefits and risks of “medicalising” drug use and addiction, including possible effects on stigmatization of, and discrimination against, drug-dependent persons; and (iv) the possible misuse of neurobiological theories of addiction by those marketing alcohol and tobacco to undermine public health strategies that aim to reduce the population-level harms these substances cause.

Finally, I argue that evaluations of the future predictive utility of neuroimaging in the field of addiction will require substantial investments in health services research to evaluate the cost-effectiveness of this approach. Ethical assessments of the proposed applications of neuroimaging research should be an integral part of this health services research.


Professor Wayne Hall is the Director of the Centre for Youth Substance Abuse Research at the University of Queensland. He has advised the World Health Organization on the health effects of cannabis use; the effectiveness of drug substitution treatment; the scientific quality of the Swiss heroin trials; the contribution of illicit drug use to the global burden of disease; and the ethical implications of genetic and neuroscience research on addiction.


For more information please contact :Dr Dean Robinson |d.robinson@auckland.ac.nz