The Biography of Nayef Al-Rodhan
Authors: Emily Yan, Luke Clayton, Junead Khan, Caroline Furrier
Born: June 8, 1959 in Al-Jouf, Saudi Arabia
Occupations: Philosopher, author, neuroscientist, geostrategist
Education: He graduated as a medical student at Newcastle University in the UK. He then went on to go to graduate school and obtain a PhD in 1988 at the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota, where he trained in neurosurgery and researched in neuroscience.
Career: After he graduated from the Mayo Clinic, during his fellowship from the Congress of Neurological Surgeons in 1993, he joined the department of neurosurgery at Yale as a fellow in epilepsy surgery and molecular neuroscience. After his fellowship at Yale, a year later, he became a fellow at the department of neurosurgery at Massachusetts General Hospital at Harvard, where he researched neuropeptides, molecular genetics, and neuronal regeneration. (Nayef r. F. Al-rodhan) Then, in 1995, he became part of the faculty at Harvard and founded the neurotechnology program and the Laboratories for Cellular Neurosurgery and Neurosurgical Technology. After 2002, Dr. Nayef has focused on applying neuroscience to international relations, publishing many studies on the topic. Then, in 2006, he joined the Geneva Center for Security Policy in Switzerland as Director of the Geopolitics and Global Futures Programme. Three years later, he became a Senior Member of Oxford University, where he studied the political relevance of the Arab-Islamic world. Currently, he is studying global justice, shared history of humanity and transcultural synergy, neurophilosophy of human nature and its implications in politics, and sustainable global security. (Biography of Nayef Al-Rodhan)
Relationships: Rezeg Faris Al-Rodhan (Father), Hamda Al-Assaf Al-Rodhan (Mother), Hana Al-Sudeary (Spouse, married August 3, 1986), Alanood Al-Rodhan, Ziad Al-Rodhan, Aljohara Al-Rodha (Children)
- Sir James Spence Prize
- Gibb Prize
- Farquhar-Murray Prize
- American Association of Neurological Surgeon Prize, twice
- Menninger Prize
- Annual Resident Prize of the Congress of Neurological Surgeons
- Young Investigator Prize of the American Association of Neurological Surgeons
- Annual Fellowship Prize of the Congress of Neurological Surgeons
Dr. Nayef is a researcher in both global politics and neuroscience, focusing on how human nature caused by chemicals in the brain affect politics. He has done research specifically on how emotions, caused by our brain, affect politicians and their morals and decisions and the result it could have on the world as a whole. In his research, he has found that humans are not born with morals, but rather a short-term sense of survival fueled by emotions like joy and anger. These emotions are likewise pre-programmed into our species. This then cultivates our morals. However, politicians have failed to recognize this shared biology and focus too heavily on short-term survival, too emotional in their decisions to respect other cultures. This, in turn, allows for distrust and prejudices, also fueled by emotions, to form (Al-Rodhan, 2019).
Dr. Nayef has also focused on how this connection of our brain chemistry to our emotions and ultimately to our decisions can be exploited. Through neuromodulation, the use of drugs and technology to alter our emotions and thinking, humans have altered our emotions and brains to better our lives, such as using dopamine and serotonin to feel happier and learn better and ADHD medicine to feel more motivated. However, Dr. Nayef questions whether it’s possible to alter our personality and morals through this method, and whether or not we have any free will if we can just ingest some chemicals to feel or think a certain way. In the past, researchers from the Bernstein Centre for Computational Neuroscience in Berlin have discovered that the brain activates seconds before it does an action and before the people were aware of the decision they were about to make. Since the publication of these findings, Dr. Nayef and his fellow neuroscientists are still debating whether free will exists through the study of brain activity during decision making with implanted electrodes (Free will in the age of neuromodulation).
Dr. Nayef also questions how humans could be negatively affected by neuromodulation, including whether by making you happy and making learning easier, would it decrease the value of emotions and education. He also questions if by replacing real love and joy with ones from drugs, would neuromodulation isolate and make people more cynical and apathetic and depressed. He also questions if the constant use of these drugs to feel happy is from the aforementioned innate desire for short-term survival, even if it’s to endure one’s circumstances. Dr. Nayef identifies the importance of negative emotions as educational and important in shaping our morals from basic survival instincts (Free will in the age of neuromodulation).
Connections to the Class
Dr. Nayef’s work mainly focuses on the study of connecting the neurochemical systems that control our emotions and thinking to politics (Biography of Nayef Al-Rodhan) and the study of neuromodulation, the idea of altering our emotions and thinking artificially through the use of drugs or technology (Free will in the age of neuromodulation). This builds on our lessons on synaptic communications and how different neurotransmitters and drugs influence how we think and feel. However, specifically, Dr. Nayef’s research is on the behavioral and cognitive level of analysis to the topics while we have focused mainly on the synaptic, cellular, and circuit levels.
In his research on neuromodulation, he mentions how there is still research left to be done on decision making in the brain and stronger drugs that have yet to be invented that could alter morals as well as different neuroscientists and philosophers debating on the existence of free will (Free will in the age of neuromodulation). This relates to our discussion on how the technology available limits our knowledge, such as calcium imaging letting us research glial cells, and how each neuroscientist interprets things with bias, such as Golgia and Cajal, who both had access to the Golgi staining technique but interpreted the stain differently.
Dr. Nayef also discusses how different drugs cause different effects on emotions, which can then result in effects in thinking, such as ADHD medicine resulting in more motivation, which results in paying more attention in school (Free will in the age of neuromodulation). This is similar to our discussion on how different drugs result in us feeling different emotions like cocaine making us feel excited. However, Dr. Nayef didn’t go into how it worked at the synaptic level, only staying at the behavior and cognitive level.
In Dr. Nayef’s research on how chemicals and the emotions that they form affect morals and decisions, he talks about how the human brain starts out with a sense of short-term survival and emotions and forms its own set of morals (Al-Rodhan, 2019). While he doesn’t go into the cellular and structural level of how emotions are formed, he does take a philosophical approach to the importance of emotions in our decisions.
Nayef r. F. Al-rodhan. (n.d.). . Retrieved April 11, 2022, from https://prabook.com/web/nayef_r.f.al-rodhan/3381185
Biography of Nayef Al-Rodhan. (n.d.). SH. Retrieved March 11, 2022, from https://www.sustainablehistory.com/about-nayef-alrodhan
Al-Rodhan, N. (2019, October 25). A Neurophilosophy of Global Trans-cultural Understanding. Center for Security Studies. Retrieved March 22, 2022, from https://css.ethz.ch/en/services/digital-library/articles/article.html/7d9f3dc7-9808-4903-8f93-87c0dea63b70
Free will in the age of neuromodulation. Philosophy Now: a magazine of ideas. (n.d.). Retrieved January 31, 2022, from https://philosophynow.org/issues/127/Free_Will_in_the_Age_of_Neuromodulation