Neuroethics refers to the research and policy fields associated with the legal, social and ethical implications of neuroscience, the study of the nervous system. The most commonly cited neuroethics definition might come from philosopher Adina Roskies, who described the field as having two divisions: “the ethics of neuroscience and the neuroscience of ethics.” Neuroethics not only investigates the ethical implications of neurotechnology on society and behavior, but also the implication of ethics on the brain’s decision-making process — in other words, how the brain makes ethical or unethical choices. By incorporating neuroscience into ethical issues, we may harness a deeper understanding of human functioning and existence.

Neuroethics Graph shows the increase in the number of publications related to neuroethics from 1995 to 2012.

Neuroethics FAQ’s

What is Neuroethics?

Neuroethics is an emerging field of study, but at the broadest definition, it discusses the ethical and social issues raised by advances in neuroscience. These advances range from new technological developments such as EEG, BCI, fMRI and neural implants to scientific breakthroughs in brain research. It is naturally heavily influenced by current events and cultural consciousness (neuroethics society). When we discuss whether third parties should be authorized to withdraw life-sustaining care from patients in a coma, or whether stem cells should be used to treat degenerative diseases, we’re discussing issues of neuroethics. Issues related to neurolaw also fall under the umbrella of neuroethics.

Issues Related to Neuroethics

Returning to Roskies’ neuroethics definition, the “ethics of neuroscience” concerns, for example, the issue of whether a subject experiencing a neurological disorder that impairs their decision-making can express informed consent to participate in a neural surgery or experiment. The “neuroscience of ethics” concerns many of society’s long-standing ethical questions from the perspective of neuroscience. For example, neuroethics might explore the intersection of philosophical free will and cognitive function.

Other neuroethics issues include privacy and security around neuroscience software such as Brain-Computer Interface technology (BCI). Neuroethics issues around BCI primarily revolve around data usage, storage, and protection. BCI captures signals from a subject’s nervous system. Combining that data with other personally-identifiable data without user consent, such as biometrics, violates their privacy. Other security issues arise when discussing whether BCI data should be stored anonymously or treated as medical data, which has higher privacy provisions for protecting user’s information (such as HIPAA).

Neuroethics of Neuromarketing

Neuromarketing often uses EEG, a method for recording brain activity, to reveal how consumers feel about a product. The advantage of neuromarketing is that it gives companies direct insight into the brain processes that drive a consumer’s preference and choice, unlike traditional market research methods that rely on consumer self-reporting. Issues concerning the neuroethics of neuromarketing usually revolve around user protection and security, as neuromarketing efforts without proper user consent and education could invade their privacy.

Debates around the neuroethics of neuromarketing have prompted the establishment of the Neuromarketing Science & Business Association (NMSBA). NMSBA provides best practices for neuromarketing research projects, such as researchers should publish privacy policies, guarantee participant data won’t be made available to others and allow participants to understand data collection processes.


Does EMOTIV Follow Best Practices in Neuroethics?

EMOTIV’s hardware and software products are designed with privacy and security in mind to adhere to neuroethics best practices. EMOTIV’s EEG hardware records brainwaves — it cannot monitor a user’s thoughts or feelings. Brainwaves alone are not personally-identifiable data.

EMOTIV is fully GDPR compliant. It does not sell or give data to any third party without explicit consent. If you give EMOTIV permission to aggregate or share your EEG data, the data is stripped of any personally identifiable information to ensure user privacy.

EMOTIV is actively working to advance neuroscience technology to meet the highest global standards in neuroethics. With neuroethics guiding its product design framework, EMOTIV hopes to contribute to the foundation of critical neuroethical discussions. Read more about how EMOTIV is educating its neuroscientists and engineers to tackle important topics in neuroethics.