Ethical issues in global neuroimaging genetics collaborations

Andrea Palk, Judy Illes, Paul M. Thompson, Dan J. Stein

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


Neuroimaging genetics is a rapidly developing field that combines neuropsychiatric genetics studies with imaging modalities to investigate how genetic variation influences brain structure and function. As both genetic and imaging technologies improve further, their combined power may hold translational potential in terms of improving psychiatric nosology, diagnosis, and treatment. While neuroimaging genetics studies offer a number of scientific advantages, they also face challenges. In response to some of these challenges, global neuroimaging genetics collaborations have been created to pool and compare brain data and replicate study findings. Attention has been paid to ethical issues in genetics, neuroimaging, and multi-site collaborative research, respectively, but there have been few substantive discussions of the ethical issues generated by the confluence of these areas in global neuroimaging genetics collaborations. Our discussion focuses on two areas: benefits and risks of global neuroimaging genetics collaborations and the potential impact of neuroimaging genetics research findings in low- and middle-income countries. Global neuroimaging genetics collaborations have the potential to enhance relations between countries and address global mental health challenges, however there are risks regarding inequity, exploitation and data sharing. Moreover, neuroimaging genetics research in low- and middle-income countries must address the issue of feedback of findings and the risk of essentializing and stigmatizing interpretations of mental disorders. We conclude by examining how the notion of solidarity, informed by an African Ethics framework, may justify some of the suggestions made in our discussion.

Original languageEnglish
Article number117208
StatePublished - 1 Nov 2020
Externally publishedYes


  • Bioethics
  • Genethics
  • Global research collaborations
  • Neuroethics
  • Neuroimaging genetics


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