Frequently Asked Questions

What is neuroethics?

Neuroethics is a field that studies the social, legal, philosophical, and ethical implications of brain research. Neuroscience is progressing at a tremendous pace and with these developments are new questions about how that research could or should be applied.

What are some examples of neuroethics?

As we understand better the circuitry and molecular biology of how the brain’s memory systems work, the next step might be to think about drugs to help us remember better. This could appeal to students seeking better grades. Drugs that could enhance athletic performance might be attractive to people seeking a competitive advantage.  Ethical issues arise, when we begin to consider whether these drugs should be available, to whom, under what circumstances, and whether they are even safe and effective, or how their use would affect the way we view the value of education and sport in our culture.  There also might be consequences for social policy. For example, understanding how a child’s brain develops could inform educational policy and impact a child’s educational potential.

Another example is the potential to use neuroscience to design neurotoxins (nerve agents) that disrupt memory or alter brain functions in other ways, which would be formidable bioweapons.

Ethical dilemmas also arise when we think about brain imaging techniques that could make it possible to tell when someone is lying, or make assumptions about sanity or guilt in criminals with different brain characteristics. There are also questions about the use of brain imaging in the workplace and marketing experts are using neuroscience studies to find ways to influence the way we make decisions and purchases.

What are the differences between neuroethics and traditional bioethics?

The brain makes us who we are.  Therefore, there is a special case for ethics related to the brain and nervous systems.  Bioethics covers ethical issues arising from general medicine and science. Neuroethics and bioethics overlap sometimes; for example, when seeking informed consent from people with cognitive impairments, who have difficulty understanding.  Neuroethics covers a wide territory, for example:

    • How the brain creates the concept of personal responsibility

    • Brain privacy, for example use of functional neuroimaging to obtain secrets or personal information

    • The neural basis of morality, or what’s called moral cognition

    • The neurobiology of decision-making, and its connection to marketing, politics, or judicial rulings

    • Interventions, drugs, or devices that change thinking or personality

How is neuroethics relevant to the daily lives of most people?

Many aspects of our daily lives can be thought about more deeply in the context of advances in neuroscience. Some examples include:

    • Drugs that alter the brain to treat children with learning disorders

    • Our sense of responsibility and justice in the courtroom

    • The moral status we confer on people with mental illnesses or addictive disorders

How can I find out more about neuroethics?


How did the INS get started?


Who has spoken at your annual meetings and what did they talk about?

Below are links to the various speakers and topics they discussed at our past annual meetings: 

2013 Annual Meeting 

2012 Annual Meeting

2011 Annual meeting

2010 Annual Meeting

2008 Annual Meeting

Why join INS?

If you care about open and fluid dialogue about the broader implications of brain research, this is the organization for you. You will join a growing group of neuroscientists, clinicians, ethicists, policy makers, philosophers, and lawyers and judges. INS is a place to view and discuss the frameworks and perspectives of issues in neuroethics as well as the incredible developments in brain research that could help millions of people around the world. 

    • If you are concerned about uses of neuroscience in our criminal justice system and about brain privacy you will want to join us.

    • If you are interested in the fundamental basis of ethical thought itself, or the way our brains have been shaped by evolution and the way they function, you will want to be part of the discussion as we become increasingly aware of the enormous impact brain development has had on our moral understanding and how we think about ethics.

    • If you have questions about neurotechnologies as they become part of our daily lives, you will want to join us to understand the questions and be part of the thoughtful discourse as decisions are made.

    • Students heading for a career in neuroscience should get involved with discussions on neuroethics.  They can benefit from interacting with eminent scientists and legal experts who are INS members, and attend annual meetings.

Who can belong?

Anyone (including students) whose work or interests are in the field of neuroethics or related to the social, legal, ethical, philosophical and/or policy implications of advances in neuroscience.

Scientists, including researchers and clinicians, lawyers, philosophers, entrepreneurs and executives, are just a few examples.  You can find out the kind of people who have joined by checking out our Executive Committee and Governing Board.

The complete list of members is available when you join.

What does it cost?

Regular Member

Professionals working in neuroethics or fields related to the social, legal, ethical and policy implications of advances in neuroscience may be Regular members.

       Dues: $80

Affiliate Member

Individuals interested in INS objectives but ineligible for other INS memberships may be Affiliate members.  Affiliate members receive many of the same benefits as professional and trainee/postdoc members, but are not provided voting rights. Affiliate members are those interested in learning about neuroethics and wish to support growth of the field and the International Neuroethics Society.

Dues: $80

Trainee and Postdoctoral Members

Individuals who have obtained their doctoral degree and are currently working in a postdoctoral or training program are eligible for Trainee or Postdoctoral membership.

The Trainee and Postdoctoral membership is aimed at those with a  doctoral degreein a professional field, but not at the Regular Membership level.  This category is expected to be limited to 3 years.

Trainee and Postdoctoral members are eligible to transfer or upgrade to a Regular membership category.

Dues: $50

Graduate and Undergraduate Student Member

Students enrolled in graduate or undergraduate programs at degree-granting institutions of higher education can apply for Student membership.

Eligibility for Student membership expires at the end of the first calendar year in which the member leaves a degree-granting institution.

Student members are eligible to transfer or upgrade to  another membership category.

               Dues: $30

See more here

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