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Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies® (BRAIN) Initiative: Research on the Ethical Implications of Advancements in Neurotechnology and Brain Science


James D. Churchill, Ph.D.
Office of the Director


This concept aims to support efforts addressing potential ethical issues associated with research focused on the human brain and resulting from emerging technologies and advancements supported by the BRAIN Initiative.


One of the defined themes in the BRAIN Working Group Report to the Advisory Committee to the NIH Director, BRAIN 2025: A Scientific Vision , is: “Consider ethical implications of neuroscience research.” This report also recommends that these neuroethics research efforts become core principles for the BRAIN Initiative. Indeed, the BRAIN Working Group 2.0 Neuroethics Subgroup reinforces the importance of supporting neuroethics research in conjunction with the evolving landscape of tool development and discoveries supported by the BRAIN Initiative. Although ethical issues common to other biomedical science areas also impact brain research, there are special ethical considerations unique to brain research.

The BRAIN Neuroethics Subgroup identified five broad areas that are relevant to the BRAIN Initiative and in need of additional attention:

  1. Enhance integration of neuroscience and neuroethics.
  2. Provide additional tools and resources for neuroscientists to recognize neuroethics issues and opportunities for neuroethics research.
  3. Assess the development and use of innovative animal and neural-circuit model systems.
  4. Establish guidelines for the neuroscience data ecosystem that address data capture, storage, sharing, and translation to humans and society.
  5. Initiate conversations and collaborations to address neuroscience applications beyond biomedical and clinical contexts.

This concept aims to continue supporting novel neuroethics research efforts that intersect with and inform the evolving landscape of brain science supported by the BRAIN Initiative, such as the reissue of Funding Opportunity Announcement RFA-MH-19-400 . Given the rapid nature of evolving brain technologies and their potential uses, careful consideration of the ethical, legal, and social implications of cutting-edge brain research remains an essential element for the BRAIN Initiative, and indeed for science in general.