Genetic testing for neurodegenerative diseases: Ethical and health communication challenges

Neurobiol Dis. 2020 Jul;141:104871. doi: 10.1016/j.nbd.2020.104871. Epub 2020 Apr 14.


Advances in genomic science are informing an expansion of genetic testing for neurodegenerative diseases, which can be used for diagnostic and predictive purposes and performed in both medical and consumer genomics settings. Such testing-which is often for severe and incurable conditions like Huntington's, Alzheimer's, and Parkinson's diseases-raises important ethical and health communication challenges. This review addresses such challenges in the contexts of clinical, research, and direct-to-consumer genetic testing; these include informed consent, risk estimation and communication, potential benefits and psychosocial harms of genetic information (e.g., genetic discrimination), access to services, education and workforce needs, and health policies. The review also highlights future areas of likely growth in the field, including polygenic risk scores, use of genetic testing in clinical trials, and return of individual research results.

Publication types

  • Review