The neuroethics program mission is to work with the NINDS, NIH, and NIH stakeholders to identify and navigate ethical challenges and implications of neuroscience research programs and discoveries, and to facilitate neuroscience progress. Neuroethics is a field that studies the ethical, legal, and societal implications of neuroscience. Advances in our understanding of the brain and ability to monitor and modulate brain function can raise unresolved ethical questions, such as those related to personal identity, consciousness, and autonomy. For example, deep brain stimulation treatment may alleviate symptoms of Parkinson’s disease, but how do patients balance this benefit with potential changes to their mood or behavior? How can scientists incorporate patients’ values and perspectives into their research?
Neuroethicists can work with neuroscientists to identify and address ethical questions that arise in neuroscience research. As such, neuroethics can empower neuroscience research and help inform how studies are designed, conducted, interpreted, and applied. NINDS participates in several trans-agency programs that support partnerships between neuroethicists and neuroscientists. For more details, please see related funding opportunities. The neuroethics program also offers consultation on neuroethics questions for NINDS employees and provides resources on this page for anyone involved or interested in neuroethics, including clinicians, research participants, patients, and the public.
To learn more view the program fact sheet(pdf, 400 KB).
Learn About NIH Neuroethics and Bioethics Research Funding
If you are an ethicist interested in NIH funding, the NIH Office of Science Policy provides information on bioethics and ethical, legal, and social implications (ELSI) funding opportunities. NINDS participates in the following ELSI funding programs:
- ELSI of Genomics Research Project Grant Program (R01)
- ELSI of Genomics Exploratory/ Developmental Research Grant Program (R21)
The NIH BRAIN Initiative currently supports neuroethics training for postdoctoral researchers through two programs:
- Ruth L. Kirschstein National Research Service Award (F32)
- Advanced Postdoctoral Career Transition Award to Promote Diversity (K99/R00)
Connect with Neuroethicists
Neuroethicists or bioethicists can help clarify, mitigate, and navigate potential ethical concerns that might arise during research. If you are a researcher interested in connecting with neuroethicists, the International Neuroethics Society and other neuroethics organizations provide lists of experts.
Request a Bioethics Consultation
Many academic medical centers and hospitals have ethics consultation services, which can help clinical and research teams with specific bioethics questions. If your institution does not have one, researchers can contact the Clinical Research Ethics Consultation Collaborative. Anyone who works at the NIH or participates in research at the NIH Clinical Center can request a consult with the NIH Department of Bioethics Consultation Service.
Related Federal Programs
NIH BRAIN Initiative® Neuroethics
The NIH Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies® (BRAIN) Initiative aims to develop innovative tools and neurotechnologies to advance our understanding of the human brain. The NIH BRAIN Initiative integrates neuroethics into its science by proactively assessing and managing ethical considerations. The NIH BRAIN Initiative neuroethics program identifies relevant ethical questions, organizes workshops, and manages the Neuroethics Working Group (NEWG).
Neuroethics Guiding Principles for the BRAIN Initiative
- Make assessing safety paramount
- Anticipate special issues related to capacity, autonomy, and agency
- Protect the privacy and confidentiality of neural data
- Attend to possible malign uses of neuroscience tools and neurotechnologies
- Move neuroscience tools and neurotechnologies into medical or nonmedical uses with caution
- Identify and address specific concerns of the public about the brain
- Encourage public education and dialogue
- Behave justly and share the benefits of neuroscience research and resulting technologies
The BRAIN Initiative also fosters research partnerships by funding neuroethics research projects and collaborations that embed neuroethicists into BRAIN Initiative-supported research. For details, please see current BRAIN Initiative neuroethics funding opportunities.
Proceedings & Outcomes
Publications and Reports
- Neuroscience is ready for neuroethics engagement by Das et al. (Frontiers in Communication, 2023)
- Survey of Investigators About Sharing Human Research Data in the Neurosciences by Hendriks et al. (Neurology, 2022)
- Ethical considerations of COVID-19-related adjustments to clinical research by Hsu et al. (Nature Medicine, 2021)
- NeuroEthics and the BRAIN Initiative: Where Are We? Where Are We Going? by Koroshetz et al. (American Journal of Bioethics Neuroscience, 2020)
- Neuroethics: Fostering Collaborations to Enable Neuroscientific Discovery by Farahany & Ramos (American Journal of Bioethics Neuroscience, 2020)
- Ethical Challenges of Risk, Informed Consent, and Posttrial Responsibilities in Human Research With Neural Devices by Hendriks et al. (JAMA Neurology, 2019)
- The NIH BRAIN Initiative: Integrating Neuroethics and Neuroscience by Ramos et al. (Neuron, 2019)
- Neuroethics Guiding Principles for the NIH BRAIN Initiative by Greely et al. (Journal of Neuroscience, 2018)
- Neuroethics for the National Institutes of Health BRAIN Initiative by Bianchi et al. (Journal of Neuroscience, 2018)
- Neuroethics Questions to Guide Ethical Research in the International Brain Initiatives by the Global Neuroethics Summit Delegates (Neuron, 2018)
- Neuroethics in the Age of Brain Projects by Greely et al. (Neuron, 2016)
- Gray Matters: Topics at the Intersection of Neuroscience, Ethics, and Society (Presidential Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues, 2015)
Resources and Tools
Saskia Hendriks, M.D., Ph.D. | Consultant, Neuroethics Program
BRAIN Initiative: Research on the Ethical Implications of Advancements in Neurotechnology and Brain Science (R01) RFA-MH-21-205
BRAIN Initiative Fellows: Ruth L. Kirschstein National Research Service Award (NRSA) Individual Postdoctoral Fellowship (F32) RFA-MH-20-620
BRAIN Initiative Advanced Postdoctoral Career Transition Award to Promote Diversity (K99/R00) RFA-NS-19-043, RFA-NS-19-044
Ethical, Legal, and Social Implications (ELSI) of Genomic Research Regular Research Program (R01) PAR-20-254
Ethical, Legal, and Social Implications (ELSI) of Genomic Research Exploratory/Developmental Research Program (R21) PAR-20-255
Notice of Interest in High Priority Research in Bioethical, Legal, and Societal Implications of Biomedical Research NOT-LM-17-001
News & Events
NIH pairs cutting edge neuroethics with ground-breaking neurotechnologies
NIH BRAIN Initiative tool may transform how scientists study brain structure and function
BRAIN Initiative NEWG meeting
January 24, 2023