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Neuroscience of decision making and informed consent: an investigation in neuroethics
  1. Georg Northoff
  1. Correspondence to:
 Georg Northoff
 Department of Psychiatry, Section for Neurophilosophy, University of Magdeburg, Leipziger Strasse 44, 39120 Magdeburg, Germany; georg.northoff{at}


Progress in neuroscience will allow us to reveal the neuronal correlates of psychological processes involved in ethically relevant notions such as informed consent. Informed consent involves decision making, the psychological and neural processes of which have been investigated extensively in neuroscience. The neuroscience of decision making may be able to contribute to an ethics of informed consent by providing empirical and thus descriptive criteria. Since, however, descriptive criteria must be distinguished from normative criteria, the neuroscience of decision making cannot replace the ethics of informed consent. Instead, the neuroscience of decision making could complement the current ethics, resulting in what can be called neuroethics of informed consent. It is concluded that current progress in the neurosciences could complement and change the way in which we approach ethical problems in neuropsychiatry.

  • IGT, Iowa Gambling Task
  • MacCat-T, MacArthur Competence Assessment Tool – Treatment
  • ethical dilemma
  • informed consent
  • neuropsychiatry
  • neuroscience of decision making

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  • This work was financially supported by the German Research Foundation (NO 304/4–1).

  • Competing interests: none declared

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