Carmen Cavada is a Professor of Human Anatomy and Neuroscience at the Faculty of Medicine of the Autonomous University of Madrid (UAM). She studied medicine and surgery at the University of Bilbao, did her doctorate at the UAM, and was a postdoctoral researcher at the Universities of Rotterdam and Yale. She is the Director of the Autonomous University of Madrid-Fundación Tatiana Pérez de Guzmán el Bueno Chair in Neuroscience and is former president of the Spanish Society of Neuroscience. She has engaged in, and continues to engage in, a wide range of teaching activities in universities and research institutes in Spain and Europe. Her research, of notable importance in the field of neuroscience, is concerned with the study of the connective and chemical architecture of the human and non-human primate brain. She is an editorial board member of international journals in the field of neuroscience and serves in management and technical committees at international neuroscience societies.

Carmen Cavada is also a member of the board of directors of CINET, whose first international workshop was held in November 2021 in Cáceres (Spain). Below you can read an extract of an interview that was carried out to her in the framework of this workshop. The video for this interview (in Spanish) can be seen here.

Can the dialogue between neuroscience and philosophy be beneficial?

I believe that dialogue is necessary, because we all have the same problem as human beings: we are interested in understanding ourselves and our role and meaning in the world. We neuroscientists deal with this with a very specific methodology, dedicated above all to the study of the nervous system, how it is built, how it works, how it reacts to environmental and abnormal stimuli, how it becomes ill… Philosophers tend to make great questions, but they employ methods that we don’t use (or that we use almost unconsciously). That’s why we need to talk. We neuroscientists have pretty solid methods for answering questions, but philosophers can help us formulate and reformulate these questions.

What is the main ethical challenge that you find in neuroscientific research?

I think that the challenges that neuroscience faces depend on two factors. On one hand, there are issues related to the possibility of manipulating the human being. On the other hand, and directly related to this, the development of technologies capable of achieving such manipulation. We have to think very clearly about what we should or shouldn’t do with these technologies before using them, for which they must be tested very well in non-human animal models.

What do you think about the meeting organized by CINET?

It’s being a very intense meeting… [She smiles]. I compare it to the volcano that is active right now [November 2021] on the island of La Palma. A genuine ‘eruption’ of explosive ideas and questions is emerging, and also of topics on which we don’t agree because we use different terms and languages. We must ‘extinguish this volcano’ using dialogue in the future, but first we will have to agree on the choice of the language and specific aspects on which to dialogue.