March 16-22, 2015 is Brain Awareness Week, an international recognition of all things brain! First organized by the Dana Foundation, the goal of the 20 year-old initiative is to educate the public on the science, progress, and impact of neuroscience research. Brain Awareness Week involves partner organizations from around the world, and includes activities such as lectures, exhibitions, and presentations.
The Presidential Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues (Bioethics Commission) has an interest in neuroscience and emerging technologies, playing an active role in President Obama’s Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies (BRAIN) Initiative. Launched on April 2, 2013 as a White House “Grand Challenge,” the BRAIN Initiative seeks to better understand the human brain through advances in science and technology. The Initiative involves public and private partnerships working together on emerging research and technological advances in neuroscience. Since the start of the BRAIN Initiative, the Bioethics Commission has worked to ensure that ethics is an integral part of the neuroscience conversation.
In August 2013, President Obama charged the Bioethics Commission with reviewing the ethical issues associated with neuroscience research and its applications. Specifically the President asked the Bioethics Commission to “identify proactively a set of core ethical standards – both to guide neuroscience research and to address some of the ethical dilemmas that may be raised by the application of neuroscience research findings.” On May 14, 2014 the Commission released Gray Matters: Integrative Approaches for Neuroscience, Ethics, and Society (Gray Matters, Vol. 1). Gray Matters, Vol. 1, the first of two Commission reports produced on the topic, underscores the importance of integrating ethics throughout neuroscience research.
Volume 2, Gray Matters: Topics at the Intersection of Neuroscience, Ethics, and Society, will be released soon. The report will contain recommendations on three topics: neuroscience and the law, neural modification, and consent capacity.
The Bioethics Commission is pleased to participate in this White House Grand Challenge. By integrating ethics early and throughout neuroscience research, scientists can prevent the need for interventions to correct ethical mishaps. Gray Matters, Vol. 1 is available for download on our website. Check back soon for Gray Matters, Vol. 2.
For more information on Brain Awareness Week, including ideas on how to commemorate the occasion, visit the Dana Foundation’s website.