Neuroimaging and disorders of consciousness: envisioning an ethical research agenda

Am J Bioeth. 2008 Sep;8(9):3-12. doi: 10.1080/15265160802318113.


The application of neuroimaging technology to the study of the injured brain has transformed how neuroscientists understand disorders of consciousness, such as the vegetative and minimally conscious states, and deepened our understanding of mechanisms of recovery. This scientific progress, and its potential clinical translation, provides an opportunity for ethical reflection. It was against this scientific backdrop that we convened a conference of leading investigators in neuroimaging, disorders of consciousness and neuroethics. Our goal was to develop an ethical frame to move these investigative techniques into mature clinical tools. This paper presents the recommendations and analysis of a Working Meeting on Ethics, Neuroimaging and Limited States of Consciousness held at Stanford University during June 2007. It represents an interdisciplinary approach to the challenges posed by the emerging use of neuroimaging technologies to describe and characterize disorders of consciousness.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Brain Injuries / complications
  • Brain Injuries / diagnosis
  • Consciousness Disorders* / diagnosis
  • Consciousness Disorders* / etiology
  • Consciousness Disorders* / physiopathology
  • Consciousness Disorders* / therapy
  • Consciousness*
  • Cooperative Behavior
  • Diagnostic Techniques, Neurological / ethics*
  • Diagnostic Techniques, Neurological / standards
  • Diagnostic Techniques, Neurological / trends
  • Ethics, Research*
  • Human Experimentation / ethics*
  • Humans
  • Nervous System Physiological Phenomena
  • Neurology / ethics
  • Pain
  • Patient Selection
  • Persistent Vegetative State / diagnosis
  • Persistent Vegetative State / etiology
  • Persistent Vegetative State / physiopathology
  • Persistent Vegetative State / therapy
  • Physical Stimulation / methods
  • Research Design
  • Social Justice
  • Third-Party Consent / ethics*