Who we are

The Center for Cognition and Neuroethics (CCN) is a joint venture between the Philosophy Department at the University of Michigan-Flint and the Insight Institute of Neurosurgery and Neuroscience (IINN). CCN supports interdisciplinary research with the conviction that the skills and knowledge that scholars from different disciplines bring to a partnership enrich and inform the others, creating unique, synergistic research that would not be possible in an isolated disciplinary environment.


CCN promotes both the exploration of the conceptual foundations of the neurosciences and the careful study of the legal, political, social and ethical implications of their advances. We are committed to breaking down barriers that exist not only between scholarly disciplines but that surround professions. We support research activities across multiple fields and professions by creating, fostering, and supporting collaborations and communication across student and professional spheres. From opening doors for students to advancing careers of professionals, from working with local clinicians to collaborating with scholars around the world, our student seminars, academic conferences, and professional publications have set in motion events that will have long-lasting and valuable impact.



Our Mission is to inspire students and professionals to examine, challenge and transform ideas to provide necessary research spaces and resources, to provide the point of interaction to create opportunities for connections, collaborations and partnerships, and to connect sympathetic scholars, lawmakers, clinicians, researchers and professionals throughout the world.

Underlying all CCN operations is one simple question: is there a better way? From conferences to publications and from administration to technology, we seek out and implement better approaches to help us achieve CCN’s goals efficiently and to optimally support the efforts of our project partners.

Our projects

ethics & the brain

The progress of neuroscience has raised difficult questions about choice, free will and moral responsibility. We explore belief formation and action concerns moral and ethical responsibility, issues which in turn poses significant challenges to justifications for legal responsibility, state punishment and current penological practices ad policies. CCN brings together experts from philosophy, social and natural sciences, the law and policy planning to explore the complex relationship between what research is telling us about how humans work, and the assumptions founding social policy and law.

ethical urban living

Social policies and legal institutions have a dramatic effect on the way we are able to live our lives, from quality of water, air and food issues to employment, educational and cultural opportunities and experiences; from matters of public and private health, safety and security to the expression of justice, liberty and freedom. Situated in Flint, MI, CCN and The Sylvester Broome Empowerment Village take seriously the role policy decisions, both historical and current, have dramatically shaped and controlled the lives of individuals living in urban settings. We bring together researchers, academics and scholars as well as therapists, clinicians, policy-makers and educators to discover and implement social policies that will realize fairer, more just, and more equitable opportunities for all who live together in modern urban environments.



Jami L. Anderson, Ph.d.

CCN Co-Director and Advisory Board Member
Associate Professor, University of Michigan-Flint Philosophy Department

My research and much of my teaching has concerned disability; specifically, I address how legal and social policies affect individuals with impairments and disabilities. I presented "Consent, Sexual Desire and Autism" the the American Philosophical Associations Pacific Division in April 2015. This talk and other talks I have presented recently have grown out of earlier work I did while putting together the book The Philosophy of Autism. My research is always strongly informed by, and is often a reaction to, work within other academic disciplines including law, particularly critical legal students, psychology, feminism, critical race theory and disability studies.


Simon cushing, ph.d.

Advisory Board Member
Associate Professor and Chair, University of Michigan-Flint Philosophy Department

I have diverse interests and have written in political philosophy, ethical theory, metaphysics and philosophy of religion. Most recently I presented a paper on "The Metaphysics of Autism" at an interdisciplinary conference in England. It was an adaptation of my chapter from the anthology I co-edited with Jami, The Philosophy of Autism. Next, I hope to return to the issues of moral personhood that I last addressed in my article "Against Humanism," but this time informed by my evolving views on personal identity and what constitutes a good life. Besides Philosophy, my work has drawn from and responded to work in Psychology, Sociology and Anthropology. After receiving a B.A. and M.A. in Politics, Philosophy and Economics at Oxford University, I earned a Ph.D. from the University of Southern California, where my dissertation was "Citizenship, Political Obligation, and the "Right-Based” Social Contract Tradition."


Bénédicte Veillet, Ph.D.

Advisory Board Member
Assistant Professor, University of Michigan-Flint Philosophy Department

I am interested in the mystery surrounding consciousness. I worry, along with other philosophers, that no amount of neuroscientific research will ever enable us to explain how and why it exists in a way we find satisfying. But this, I argue, has more to do with our first-person, introspective ways of thinking about our conscious lives: consciousness seems so puzzling and so far removed from brain processes because we have such interesting and unique first-person ways of conceptualizing our consciousness (using so-called phenomenal concepts). I wrote my dissertation, "Concepts, Consciousness and Content," at the University of Maryland, College Park and received my Ph.D. in 2008.


Zea Miller

Project Manager
Doctoral Student, Purdue University

I am currently pursuing a Ph.D. in theory and cultural studies at Purdue University. Generally, my research explores the interplay of structure and meaning in cultural artifacts so as to uncover systemic models and rationally interrogate their coherence. Particularly, I am interested in the work of neuroethics in science fiction. I manage the administrative and technological affairs for the Center for Cognition and Neuroethics, including website design and edits. As the Production Editor for the Journal of Cognition and Neuroethics, I oversee the post-acceptance publication process, from designing the journal production files and copyediting forthcoming articles against the in-house style guide to publishing the content and submitting it to indexing services. Moreover, in collaboration with Dr. Anderson, I coordinate conference logistics and implement overall CCN marketing strategies.


Jawad A. Shah, M.D.

CCN Co-Director and Advisory Board Member
President, Insight Institute of Neurosurgery and Neuroscience (IINN) 

CCN was something I wanted to see exist for a variety of reasons. First, I feel that the brain sciences are very primitive in their underlying premises. We require a further, deeper inquiry into the philosophical underpinnings before attacking the issues empirically. We are making far ranging assumptions that I believe are flawed and are becoming too dogmatic. I strongly believe that this will delay our search for the answers: who are we, are we agents, what is free will, does it exist, what forces underlie our ability to plan, what are the neurological correlates, are there fundamental forces we are widely missing in our search for a unified theory. Also, ethical issues are deeply important to me. Addressing ethical matters is perhaps the key issue for society to explore in the near future. Historically, unethical decisions have lead human society into very precarious positions. A proper exploration, particularly in the context of brain sciences, may lead to significant contributions in the future. A second reason I wanted to create CCN is because I believe there is no more fertile ground for exploration and development of new ideas than a multidisciplinary team. By combining philosophers with scientists and clinicians and students in a meaningful way, I am convinced we will accelerate the development of the combined fields. I believe that philosophy has much to contribute in the formative stages of work in any discipline. We need to explore our premises and postulates in an intelligent way. Our theories should enhance our ability to explore truth, not inhibit it. Sometimes, in the process of inquiry, we fail to question because of our own established norms and beliefs.

I studied at McGill University in Montreal and the University of Manitoba prior to completing medical school at the University of Manitoba in Winnipeg, Canada where I was also raised. I completed subspeciality fellowship training in skull base neurosurgery at the University of Arkansas. My areas of specialty include brainstem surgery, vascular neurosurgery, brain tumours, complex spine and neuromodulation. I am involved in extensive research projects including clinical, patent work, biological/mechanical and electrical product development, industry sponsored studies, theoretical philosophy among other areas. I am a faculty member at the Michigan State University Medical School. I have been co-director of the Center for Cognition and Neuroethics since it was created in August 2011. I settled down in Flint, MI with my wife, a native of Flint, and children in the fall of 2003. I currently practice at McLaren, Hurley, and Genesys Hospitals.

Richard H. Smith, PhD, MBA
Advisory Board Member

I am the Research Director at the Institute of Neurosurgery & Neuroscience in Flint, MI, involved in collaborative basic and applied research, clinical trials, business development of incubator companies, and mentoring of student interns. I earned my PhD in Biochemistry from Wesleyan University, and my MBA from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor (Ross). Prior to my current position, I worked for over 20 years at biotech companies in southeastern Michigan on projects funded by Small Business Innovation Research from the National Institutes of Health, the Department of Defense and the Department of Energy, written by myself and others, along with equity investment. As the Research Director at IINN, I develop clinical trials for incubator companies, perform contract clinical research studies, interface with client companies in the Insight business incubator; and mentor students for IINNovation, IINN’s educational arm. My research interests include cellular signaling, membrane biochemistry, and understanding the immunological and genetic correlates of differentiation and carcinogenesis.