Focus On Neuroethics

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Light-based rendering of a human brain with a neural device implant. Credit: Andrew Janson, University of Utah, 2019.

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 - 494KB).

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:

The NIH BRAIN Initiative currently supports neuroethics training for postdoctoral researchers through two programs:

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

  1. Make assessing safety paramount
  2. Anticipate special issues related to capacity, autonomy, and agency
  3. Protect the privacy and confidentiality of neural data
  4. Attend to possible malign uses of neuroscience tools and neurotechnologies
  5. Move neuroscience tools and neurotechnologies into medical or nonmedical uses with caution
  6. Identify and address specific concerns of the public about the brain
  7. Encourage public education and dialogue
  8. 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

 

 

Resources and Tools

Contacts

NINDS Neuroethics
nindsneuroethics@nih.gov

Saskia Hendriks, M.D., Ph.D. | Consultant, Neuroethics Program
saskia.hendriks@nih.gov

Funding Opportunities 

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 Neuroethics Working Group (NEWG) Workshop on Continuing Trial Responsibilities
May 24-25, 2022

BRAIN Initiative NEWG meeting
August 23, 2022

 

Related Topics 

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Form Approved OMB# 0925-0648 Exp. Date 06/2024