For modern neuroscience to be applied for maximum public health good, it is critical to identify and address the interactions of the research with ethics and society at its earliest stages.
The aims of our first award period were to identify trends in neurobehavioral research that uses functional neuroimaging, and to anticipate ethical challenges for research and clinical practice. We demonstrated the need for proactively incorporating ethics principles early in the research process, beyond well-established standards for research conduct and protection of human subjects. This proof of concept was derived through examples of clinical anomalies detected incidentally in research, increasing numbers of imaging studies that have social neuroscience content and wide visibility in the public, and emerging trends for commercialization. We demonstrated the desirability of images for aiding the diagnosis of major depressive disorder and for the anticipated impact on treatment and self-image and privacy. We further identified high expectations of neuroimaging for predicting disease, and ethical paradoxes that the still early state-of-the-art raises in comparison with that hope.
In Aim 1 of this continuation, we propose to examine the integration of neuroethics into neuroscience using citation pattern analysis. We predict that consideration of ethical and societal issues in neuroscience is increasing, and that this trend can be detected through the presence of ethics themes specifically related to the brain and central nervous system in the peer-reviewed neuroscience literature. To test our hypothesis, we will analyze empirical and review human neuroscience and bioethics articles with software tools widely used for text mining. Such measures, even at this early stage for neuroethics, will establish trends for the uptake of neuroethics in the literature and elucidate epistemological challenges for neuroethics in neuroscience through patterns of ongoing discourse.
In Aim 2, we will evaluate specific investigator needs for integrating neuroethics into neuroscience, using brain mapping - neuroimaging, imaging genomics and neurostimulation - as the model. We will conduct a large-scale survey and focus group study of individual investigators in different research settings to provide a detailed analysis of priorities, barriers and incentives to integrating ethics early in the research planning process. Results will describe the influences not captured by the citation analysis and topics arising, in particular, in the daily work of neuroscience investigators.
In Aim 3, we will continue our translational work with key clinical stakeholders to bring their voice to the upstream development of brain mapping methods for diagnosis and intervention. Our goal is to enable the incorporation of stakeholder views, concerns and expectations in the earliest stages of the research process. Our overall approach is to address and resolve difficult ethical challenges through a negotiated scientific-social process, and to ultimately deliver methods for integrating ethics early into basic and translational neuroscience through research that is empowering of that process. For modern neuroscience research to be applied for maximum public health good, it is critical to identify and address the interactions of the research with ethics and society at its earliest stages so that a common understanding about technological promise and limitations among stakeholders is achieved, studies and applications are facilitated and not unnecessarily impeded, and policy can be informed simultaneously as the science unfolds. We will pursue this goal by gaining an understanding of the current penetration of neuroethics themes in human neuroscience literature, identifying ethics needs and priorities of researchers who use brain mapping methods, and bringing the voice of patients and practitioners upstream to the research design process.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH)
Research Project (R01)
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Special Emphasis Panel (ZRG1-HOP-S (90))
Program Officer
Otey, Emeline M
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University of British Columbia
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V6 1-Z3
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