The blog of the Presidential Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues

Beyond BRAIN: Bioethics Commission to Look Broadly at Ethical Issues in Neuroscience

On July 1, 2013, President Obama requested that the Presidential Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues (Bioethics Commission) review the ethical considerations of neuroscience research and its application. The impetus for this request was the launch of the Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies (BRAIN) Initiative.

Dr. Amy Gutmann, the President of the University of Pennsylvania and the Chair of the Bioethics Commission, opened today’s meeting, the fifteenth public meeting of the Bioethics Commission with a clarifying note: that the deliberations of the Bioethics Commission will go beyond the scope of the BRAIN Initiative alone. “While we received our charge as part of the President’s BRAIN Initiative, our focus is wider than the Initiative…President Obama asked us to review the ethical consideration of neuroscience more broadly,” she said, “[including] considerations of both neuroscience research and the application of neuroscience research findings.”

Dr. Gutmann explained that the Bioethics Commission is not tasked with the review of institutional research protocols. As such, the Bioethics Commission will “consider how best to integrate ethics into neuroscience broadly – and the BRAIN Initiative specifically– but this Bioethics Commission will not be the ultimate locus of that integration.”

Over the coming months, the Bioethics Commission will review different ethical issues associated with neuroscience research and how ethics might be integrated into neuroscience training and practice. The Bioethics Commission will then, Gutmann said, “make ethical and practical recommendations that will inform the conduct of the BRAIN Initiative.”

Today’s meeting will build upon previous discussion of the ethical issues related to neuroscience. The Bioethics Commission will hear from experts on how to integrate ethics into every step of neuroscientific training and practice. They will also discuss the topic of  private sector partners in the BRAIN Initiative, to understand how they go about identifying and addressing ethical issues. Finally the Bioethics Commission will hear from international neuroscience research initiatives, to hear how groups already pursuing large neuroscience research projects are dealing with ethical issues in their work.

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This is a space for the members and staff of the Presidential Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues to communicate with the public about the work of the commission and to discuss important issues in bioethics.

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