Interdisciplinary panel to explore mechanics of addiction at March 30 event

An interdisciplinary panel will explore recent research into the mechanics of addiction, as well as how the public can learn about the implications of this research, during a symposium scheduled from 4:15 to 6 p.m. Wednesday, March 30, at the Lucile Packard Children's Hospital Auditorium.

The symposium, "Genetics, Neurobiology and Addiction: Where Are the Answers?" will feature a neuroscientist, a health policy expert and a science journalist. Donald Kennedy, president emeritus of Stanford and editor-in-chief of the journal Science, will lead the discussion. The auditorium is on the first floor of the hospital at 725 Welch Road. The event is free and open to the public. A reception will follow.

The symposium is the inaugural event of Stanford's new Center for Integration of Research on Genetics and Ethics in the Center for Biomedical Ethics. The John S. Knight Fellowships for Professional Journalists, a collaborator with the new center, is co-sponsor.

Participating in the symposium will be Dr. Robert Malenka of Stanford School of Medicine's Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences; Alexandra Shields of the Health Policy Institute at Georgetown University's Public Policy Institute; and Elizabeth Weise, a national biotechnology reporter for USA Today.

The panel will explore the findings and implications of research that is at the intersection of genetics and neuroscience and that holds the promise of transforming public understanding of addiction. The discussion will focus on such questions as:

  • How might a genetic understanding of smoking change our attitudes and policies toward tobacco control?
  • Should public dollars be devoted to genetic studies of addiction instead of government tobacco-control efforts, such as enforcing bans on selling tobacco to children?
  • Do addicted smokers lack the "free will" to quit? What does genetic research contribute, if anything, to our understanding of free will?
  • Will considering smoking an addiction rather than a bad habit lessen its stigma?
  • If certain people can be identified as being more susceptible to addiction, what should be done with that information?
  • Should research target racial or ethnic groups?
  • How can journalists provide balanced coverage of emerging science?
  • The Center for Integration of Research on Genetics and Ethics is one of four interdisciplinary initiatives established nationwide by the National Institutes of Health. The purpose of the center is to test new models of deliberative, interactive processes that integrate ethical, legal and social considerations into the design and conduct of current and emerging genetic research.

    The Knight Fellowships program annually brings 12 mid-career American journalists and as many as eight journalists from other countries to study at Stanford for a year. More than 700 journalists have studied at Stanford under the program since it began in 1966.

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