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New Ethics Report For Neuroscience Research

Publication Date: 
August 01, 2014
IRB Advisor

Professor Henry Greely comments on the importance of ethical conduct in scientific experimentation for the IRB Advisor. 

Progress in contemporary neuroscience offers promise for discovering improved interventions, and perhaps cures, for neurological disorders that affect more than one billion people globally and millions of people in the United States, says Lee.

"A single ethical lapse in scientific research can cause a loss of public confidence, which can obstruct the progress of other research," she adds. The report provides examples to illustrate important ethical issues relevant to neuroscience research. These are neuroimaging and brain privacy; dementia, personality, and changed preferences; cognitive enhancement and justice; and deep brain stimulation research.


"This volume is a short, high-level overview of the issues," says Henry T. Greely , JD, director of the Stanford Center for Law and the Biosciences and chair of the steering committee at Stanford Center for Biomedical Ethics. "Its recommendations are good, and I hope they are followed. It really adds up to taking the ethical issues seriously."

The report's summary of the many ways in which ethics can be integrated into science may be quite useful, adds Greely. "Ethics are most important not for their effects on science, but on people," he says. "Consideration of ethical issues is needed to help make sure that people are safe and well-treated."

Anytime people think they have been harmed by scientific research or its results, or feel they have been lied to, cheated, or betrayed by researchers, is bad for science, says Greely. "The consequences of the Public Health Service's study of untreated syphilis among African-American men - the so-called Tuskegee study - still reverberate," he says.


There is a clear need, says Greely, to address questions of the safety, efficacy, and long-term personal and societal consequences of neuroscience-based predictions and interventions.


"Right now, issues of the ethics of research are foremost: questions of consent, confidentiality, incidental findings, and so on," says Greely. "But neuroscience is edging into clinical, consumer, educational, and even legal system use."