Overview of Neuroethics


Neuroethics is a subfield of bioethics, and examines the intersection of neuroscience, ethics, philosophy, social science, and law. Neuroethics largely deals with (1) the ethical and social challenges raised by new discoveries and inventions in neuroscience and neurotechnology and (2) the implications of neuroscientific discoveries for our conceptions of topics such as free will, consciousness, religious experience, and morality, among others. As neuroscientists continue to expand our understanding of the human brain, and as neurotechnologies allow us to manipulate or alter cognitive and affective functioning, it is important to continue the neuroethical discussion of whether to allow certain interventions, how to apply our neuroscientific knowledge and technology, and what these new discoveries mean for the human condition and human flourishing.

Key Concepts

  • Neuroethics is a growing field that examines the ethics of neuroscience and the intersection of neuroscience, philosophy, and society.
  • Neuroscience is increasingly crossing over into law and society, creating a need to understand the societal implications of neuroscientific progress.
  • Neuroethicists also study the neuroscience of ethics and morality.
  • Neuroethicists evaluate both practical, technological issues and more conceptual or philosophical issues.
  • The study of the brain presents a unique set of issues and challenges compared with other bodily organs.

Keywords: neuroethics; enhancement; deep‐brain stimulation; neurotechnology; brain implants; neuroscience and the law


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Further Reading

Churchland PS (2013) Touching a Nerve: Our Brains, Our Selves. New York: WW Norton and Company.

Farah MJ (2005) Neuroethics: the practical and the philosophical. Trends in Cognitive Sciences 9 (1): 34–40.

Gazzaniga MS (2005) The Ethical Brain. New York: Dana Press.

Glannon W (2007) Bioethics and the Brain. New York: Oxford University Press.

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Purcell, Ryan H, and Wolpe, Paul R(Jul 2016) Overview of Neuroethics. In: eLS. John Wiley & Sons Ltd, Chichester. http://www.els.net [doi: 10.1002/9780470015902.a0026498]