What is neuroethics?
- Neuroethics is a field that studies the ethical, legal, and societal implications of neuroscience. The strategic plan for the NIH BRAIN Initiative, BRAIN 2025: A Scientific Vision, emphasizes: “Although brain research entails ethical issues that are common to other areas of biomedical science, it entails special ethical considerations as well. Because the brain gives rise to consciousness, our innermost thoughts and our most basic human needs, mechanistic studies of the brain have already resulted in new social and ethical questions.” Neuroethics can help address these questions (PDF - 180KB)
Why is neuroethics important for neuroscience?
- Neuroethics is an essential partner to neuroscience. It can serve to anticipate and address ethical questions raised by neuroscience research. It can help guide neuroscience research and the application of neuroscience research findings.
- The NIH BRAIN Initiative is committed to considering ethics in a serious and sustained manner. Furthermore, “BRAIN Initiative research should hew to the highest ethical standards for research with human subjects and with non‐human animals under applicable federal and local laws” (BRAIN 2025: A Scientific Vision).
How does the NIH BRAIN Initiative contribute to neuroethics?
NIH has a multi-part strategy to achieve proactive, ongoing assessment and management of the neuroethical implications of the development and application of BRAIN-funded tools and neurotechnologies. This strategy is described in a recent publication in the Journal of Neuroscience. The strategy includes:
- Managing the Neuroethics Working Group
- Funding neuroethics research projects. Neuroethics projects can use a variety of methodological and theoretical approaches to identify and analyze neuroethical questions. The NIH BRAIN Initiative aims to support high quality neuroethics research that is complementary and integrative with the discoveries being supported through the BRAIN Initiative.
- Facilitating collaborations to integrate neuroethics into neuroscience research.
- Scanning the NIH BRAIN Initiative research portfolio to identify ethical questions.
- Organizing workshops on neuroethics topics that are important for the NIH BRAIN Initiative.
What funding is available for neuroethics?
- In fiscal year 2017, NIH began funding neuroethics research as part of the BRAIN Initiative. The neuroethics R01 funding opportunity announcement aims to support research addressing core ethical issues associated with human brain research and resulting from emerging technologies and advancements supported by the BRAIN Initiative.
- In fiscal year 2018, NIH announced support for administrative supplements to embed ethicists into BRAIN Initiative-supported research. NIH encourages administrative supplement applications via PA-18-591 to incorporate neuroethics into existing BRAIN Initiative awards. As an administrative supplement, the proposal must be within the scope of the parent grant. Research proposed in supplement applications should have clear relevance to the BRAIN Initiative.
Jay Churchill, Ph.D.
National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH)
Khara Ramos, Ph.D.
National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS)