Karen Herrera-Ferrá is the founder and president of the Asociación Mexicana de Neuroética (Mexican Association of Neuroethics) and member of the International Neuroethics Society. Her research analyzes the biocultural considerations and ethical, legal, and social issues and concerns in the use of neuroscience and neurotechnology in developed, developing, and non-developed countries.
1. What’s the first thing you do when you get to work in the morning?
I wake up really early. I drink a cup of strong coffee while I check my mail.
2. What’s your work routine like?
It depends on the day. I combine my activities between patient care online or in the office, teaching, research, writing, meetings and conferences. Every day is different, but my schedule is always full. However, one daily activity that is always my priority, is spending time with my three grown-up children.
3. Are you involved in the theoretical, investigative, or the practical/translational aspect of neuroethics? Describe your research area briefly.
My work focuses primarily on the practical/translational and transnational aspects of neuroethics. I work on contextual and cultural considerations on the use of neuroscience and neurotechnology. Another line of work is to develop neuroethics as a field in regions like Latin America. Both lines of work define the mission and vision of the Mexican Association of Neuroethics. A project to which I am passionately committed.
4. What’s a challenge that you face on a daily basis as a neuroethicist?
The poor receptiveness of neuroethics as a field.
5. How do you determine what questions deserve the most focus and attention in your work?
The ones that will foster problem solving for ‘battleground’ professionals in the clinical area (mental health professionals) and in practical law (criminal law practitioners). Both are the main fields that are most interested in neuroethical reflections in my region.
6. What do you wish more people understood about being a neuroethicist? Whether it be from a schooling, interest, or day-in-the-life point of view? Describe neuroethics in your own words.
Neuroethics is a true bridge between philosophy and neuroscience and can therefore lead to realistic reflections for the sound and safe development and use of neuroscience, neurotechnology and some forms of artificial intelligence. I really believe that neuroethics should be part of undergraduate programs. In my personal experience, practical neuroethics is very attractive to undergraduate students.
7. What skills or training do you most frequently use in your work and how do you suggest more people gain these skills if they want to contribute to the field?
Critical thinking, deep curiosity and the ability to integrate scientific and philosophical information. I believe that an open mind is needed, as well as a willingness to be inclusive of other ways of thinking.
8. What do you love most about your work? What keeps you motivated?
My patients, they are my inspiration.
9. What’s one thing you wished you did differently in your career trajectory?
I don´t think I could have done anything differently, since as a neuroethicist in my country, there are actually very few opportunities. That said, I am really happy and satisfied with the choices I have made during my career.
10. What’s one thing you could advice the next generation of neuroethicists?
Listen and trust your deep self. Be patient and persistent. Be humble. Study, study, study, and then study some more. And don´t forget to smile… life is good!! (I couldn´t give only one thing as advice!!)
11. What’s the last thing you do when you leave work in the evening?
My to-do list for the next day.
This post is part of the Neuroethics Today blog series 'A Day in the Life of a Neuroethicist' where we bring you answers to questions by junior and senior neuroethicists about a day in their life to give you a better idea of what neuroethicists do, what have they learned throughout their trajectory, and ways that you can do it too.