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Author Notes:

Karen S. Rommelfanger: krommel@emory.edu

N.S.A., K.G., C.H., and K.S.R. performed research; N.S.A. and K.S.R. wrote the paper; K.S.R. designed research; K.S.R. analyzed data.

The authors declare no competing financial interests.


Research Funding:

This work was supported by the Institute for Developing Nations Publication Fund of Emory University.


  • Alzheimer
  • autism
  • neuroethics
  • preclinical detection
  • prodrome
  • schizophrenia

Prodromes and preclinical detection of brain diseases: Surveying the ethical landscape of predicting brain health


Journal Title:



Volume 6, Number 4


Type of Work:

Article | Final Publisher PDF


The future of medicine lies not primarily in cures but in disease modification and prevention. While the science of preclinical detection is young, it is moving rapidly. Preclinical interventions offer hope to decrease the severity of a disease or delay the development of a disorder. With such promise, the research and practice of detecting brain disorders at a preclinical stage present unique ethical challenges that must be addressed to ensure the benefit of these technologies. Direct brain interventions have the potential to impact not just what a patient has but who they are and who they could become. Further, receiving an assessment for a preclinical or prodromal state has potential to impact perceptions about capacity, autonomy and personhood and could become entangled with stigma and discrimination. Exploring ethical issues alongside and integrated into the experimental design and research of these technologies is critical. This review will highlight ethical issues attendant to the current and near future states of preclinical detection across the life span, specifically as it relates to autism spectrum disorder (ASD), schizophrenia, and Alzheimer’s disease.

Copyright information:

© 2019 Ahlgrim et al.

This is an Open Access work distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/).
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