In a recent paper published in JAMA Neurology, a collaborative team of ethics and neuroscience experts highlight key ethical issues surrounding neural device research and provide points to consider for researchers and others working in this space.

Human research is fundamental to the Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies (BRAIN) Initiative®’s goals of understanding the brain and developing treatments for brain disorders. Scientists supported by the BRAIN Initiative are rapidly developing modern tools to monitor and regulate brain activity. This research involves the new and expanded use of invasive and noninvasive neural devices in humans, bringing important ethical considerations to light.

To ensure that BRAIN-funded neural device research is done ethically, one goal of the BRAIN Initiative’s Neuroethics Working Group (NEWG) – a group of experts in neuroethics and neuroscience – is to anticipate ethical questions that arise as technology advances. For example, the NEWG recently published eight guiding neuroethical principles for BRAIN Initiative research. Building upon these overarching principles, in October 2017 the NIH brought together neuroethics and bioethics experts, neuroscientists, and clinicians to discuss and offer input on the ethical issues surrounding neural device research in humans. For details on this discussion, please view the videocast of the NEWG workshop on this topic.

In their paper published in JAMA Neurology, the authors emphasize three main areas of ethical challenges in neural device research: 1. Analysis of risk; 2. Informed consent; and 3. Posttrial responsibilities to research participants.



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