What is neuroethics and how does it relate to people with disabilities?

According to the National Institute of Health (NIH) Brain Initiative website, neuroethics is “a field that studies the ethical, legal, and societal implications of neuroscience.” The strategic plan for the NIH BRAIN Initiative, BRAIN 2025: A Scientific Vision, emphasizes “Although brain research entails ethical issues that are common to other areas of biomedical science, it entails special ethical considerations as well. Because the brain gives rise to consciousness, our innermost thoughts, and our most basic human needs, mechanistic studies of the brain have already resulted in new social and ethical questions.”

The questions that neuroethicists explore have vast implications for people with disabilities, who may adopt technology and drug treatments created in the field of neuroscience.

The concept of “nothing about us without us” suggests that people with disabilities should be involved in the field of neuroethics, as well as neuroscience itself, to ensure that their voices are included in critical conversations and decisions that impact people with disabilities. Including people with disabilities in neuroethics and neuroscience will also help ensure that principles of universal design (UD) are adopted as new technology is designed and developed. Through the promotion and implementation of UD, they can help ensure that neuroscience products are accessible to people with varying characteristics and abilities. For examples, view the publication Equal Access: Universal Design of Neuroscience Education and Research.

To learn more about neuroethics and how it involves people with disabilities, visit the Brain Initiative’s website about the Neuroethics Working Group, or explore postsecondary institutions to see if they have programming, such as the University of Washington’s Neuroethics program. View the perspective of students with disabilities as they discuss emerging technology that can enhance the human body and mind in the video presentation Technology Advancements and Disability Identity.