CCLE Actions Resources 

Neuroethics is a new field concerned with the benefits and dangers of modern research on the brain, and by extension, with the social, legal and ethical implications of treating or manipulating the mind. Neuroethics critically examines the rapidly expanding fields of neuroscience. 

The CCLE has developed the Neuroethics Project to focus public attention on trends in pharmacology and neuro-technology that have an impact on individual rights of mind. With this project, the CCLE seeks to educate and foster public debate in relation to emerging neurotechnologies and drugs, and to encourage social policies that respect and protect the full potential of the human intellect.

Growing knowledge in the neurosciences, enhanced by exponential advances in neuro-technologies (technologies that make it possible to monitor and manipulate the brain’s electrochemistry) are rapidly moving brain research and clinical applications beyond the scope of purely medical use.  

Discussions of bioethics have evolved from concerns over medical  intervention and experimental biotech research, to assessing widespread social implications that result from the use of biotechnologies for non-medical, or life "enhancement"  purposes.  A similar shift will predictably occur in neuroethics, from questions concerning the treatment of patients with brain disease, to a debate over individuals' requests for voluntary, life-enhancing, or creative applications of new pharmaceuticals and brain technologies. Ultimately, any regulatory system set in place should consider cognitive liberty as a core value in neuroethics--empowering individuals to make intelligent decisions about the drugs or technologies they decide to use.

From the study and treatment of old-age memory loss/enhancement to the use and abuse of Ritalin in the classroom, a variety of discrete concerns exist within the emerging field of neuroethics. One prominent area of concern centers on neurotheology (the study of subjective spiritual experiences in relation to brain anatomy and biochemistry). Scientists are asking whether spirituality can be explained in terms of neural networks, neurotransmitters and brain chemistry.  At the interface between scientific method and religious epiphany, we need to ensure an ethics of mental autonomy, respecting both the scientific method and various religious cosmologies.  

While neuroethical issues are complex and often deeply philosophical, the CCLE maintains that a solid starting point for practical discussion and analysis begins with two fundamental recognitions: 

  • First, under no circumstances should individuals be compelled against their will to use technologies that interact with the brain or forced to take certain drugs. 
  • Second, so long as they do not subsequently engage in behavior that harms others, individuals should not be prohibited, under threat of criminal prosecution, from using new mind-augmenting drugs and technologies.  

The Center for Cognitive Liberty & Ethics (CCLE) is a nonprofit public education, law, and policy center working in the public interest to foster cognitive liberty. The CCLE broadly defines cognitive liberty as the right of each individual to think independently, to use the full spectrum of his or her mind, and to engage in multiple modes of thought. More specifically, the CCLE considers cognitive liberty to mediate between freedom of thought and electro-chemical manipulation of the brain.

The Neuroethics Project engages in the following activities to reach its goals: