What is Neuroethics?

Neuroethics is an internationally recognised discipline that aims to successfully translate brain research in ways that maximise social benefit while minimising harms. The need for Neuroethics was recognised by a recent US Presidential Commission for the Study of Bioethics report as part of the US BRAIN initiative. Similar projects are underway in the UK, Europe and Canada. Australia urgently needs a coordinated approach to realise the promise of neuroscience for society.

Why is Neuroethics important?

Neuroscience is revolutionising our understanding of the neural mechanisms underpinning behaviour and cognition. In doing so, neuroscience also has the potential to overturn beliefs that are central to our ideas about free will, responsibility and justice. Neurobiological explanations of mental illness may have a significant impact on stigma and discrimination associated with these disorders. These advances also raise new challenges for privacy and confidentiality. Sophisticated neuroimaging techniques and advanced machine learning algorithms are providing access to personal information that may be used by interested third parties, such as employers, educators, insurers and the courts, to discriminate against certain individuals or behaviours. Our ability to subtly manipulate brain function can have a powerful impact on our thoughts, behaviours, and sense of self. How these technologies are used and by whom are challenges that need to be urgently addressed.

Who are we?

The Australian Neuroethics Network is an interdisciplinary collaboration that brings together leading Australian practitioners in neuroscience, law, ethics, philosophy, policy-making, clinical practice, patient populations, the public and other end-users to examine the ethical and social implications of neuroscience research.

Our mission

The aim of the Australian Neuroethics Network is to:

  • support new interdisciplinary collaborations examining the ethical, legal and social challenges raised by advances in neuroscience research and technology
  • foster neuroethics scholarship in Australia and build capacity in this nascent area through teaching and postgraduate student supervision
  • provide links to international neuroethics initiatives
  • provide a platform to bring together researchers and practitioners interested in the nexus between neuroscience, ethics, philosophy, the law and policy. The Network aims to hold an annual Neuroscience and Society Conference.
  • provide recommendations and guidance to policy makers and other leading decision makers on the impact of neuroscience for Australian society.

Get involved

To join the discussion or become a member of the Australian Neuroethics Network, contact Dr Adrian Carter. Follow us on Twitter: @NeuroethicsAU