Chinese traditional Culture and Ethical problems under the background of "brain Plan"

Chinese Traditional Culture and Ethical Issues in the Background of "Brain Project"

This article is from WeChat Public No.: BioArt (ID:BioGossip), compiled: Xi, editor: Jiaqi, Ziyang, headpicture: Oriental IC

In China, about one in five people suffer from chronic neurodegenerative diseases or neuropsychiatric disorders, and the resulting social and economic burden is enormous. It is in this context that the China Brain Project is proposed in this context. The two important documents of the National 13th Five-Year Plan (2016~2020) and the “Science and Technology Innovation 2030” clearly propose to develop China. The Brain Plan, which aims to reveal the neural basis of brain cognition, develop early diagnosis and treatment of brain diseases, and develop brain stimulation intelligence. 【1】

China's brain program will focus on three types of neurological and mental disorders: autism in children, depression in adults, and Alzheimer's disease (AD). In the elderly Because there are currently about 1 million autistic people in China, and as many as 6 percent of the urban population suffer from severe depression (half of those diagnosed have suicidal behavior or suicidal ideation in their lifetime). In addition, more than 15 percent of China's population was over 60 in 2014, according to the National Bureau of Statistics. Given the high incidence of AD among older people, it is urgent to address the AD series.

In recent years, due to the urgent need and the support of the government and the public, the cognition of the brain has continued to develop and related technologies have been continuously innovated. However, with this rapid development, legal, moral and social issues have emerged. If these problems cannot be properly resolved, the achievements of neuroscience may be undermined in the short term, and social prosperity and human well-being will be affected in the long run. Therefore, one of the purposes of the "brain plan" project is to solve ethical problems in the field of neuroscience.

On February 7, 2019, Zheng Jialin (Dean of Tongji University School of Medicine), part of the organization and implementation of the "Brain Project" project, and the academician of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, Qi Gang, published in Neuron magazine entitled Responsibility and Sustainability in Brain Science, Technology, and Neuroethics. In China-a Culture-Oriented Perspective, a discussion article on ethical issues in the field of neuroscience combined with Chinese Confucian culture and contemporary thinking. 【2】

The Analects of Confucius has a cloud: "what you do not want, do not do to others" (do not impose on others what you yourself do not desire). The brain Program is responsible for making every effort to avoid any potential harm to individuals and society. In this context, the researchers made a further study on the five neuroethical issues raised at the Global Neuroethics Summit in South Korea in 2017 (2017 Global Neuroethics Summit), combined with traditional Chinese culture. The corresponding solutions are put forward (the opinions and suggestions in this paper come from scientists and ethicists and do not represent the official position of the Chinese government).

Question 1: independent personality under neuroethics

China has a history of 5,000 years of history and culture, and has bred a unique Chinese culture, including the "power of the masses." "Two people become slaves, many people call the crowd" emphasizes the power of the collective. Under this guidance, for the common goal, the value of the individual may be suppressed, and in extreme cases even the personality of the individual is neglected. This partly explains why personal privacy and some personalization have historically been underestimated. Therefore, we need to pay attention to the above issues in the future.

Question 2: organ donation

The "brain plan" can not be separated from the "brain", while the "brain" comes from the donation of normal people and patients. Influenced by the idea of ​​"body is skinned, subject to parents, can not be harmed", organ donation has always been a difficult problem. Although the Chinese Red Cross and the National Health Service have been promoting organ donation on a large scale since 2010, the results have been minimal. According to the 2016 Red Cross Society, there are only 80,000 registered organ donors in China (http://www. (, this number is much lower than in other countries (as of 2016, 130 million people in the US have registered organ donations). However, in the future, China will have new measures to encourage organ donation, which is worth looking forward to.

Question 3: stigma of neurological diseases

One of the goals of the brain Program is to develop early screening for neurological disorders, but because mental disorders have been more or less stigmatized, early screening can passively create a potential "discrimination label" for the screened population. In 2018, for example, 15 autistic families in Shenzhen wanted to live in public housing, but the owners pulled banners to protest.

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Solution 1: ensuring compliance with international ethical norms in neuroscience research

Ethical guidelines are followed to avoid inhuman research, to ensure the safety and effectiveness of research, and to prevent adverse research consequences and effects. However, China currently lacks special ethical standards for neuroscience research related to the human nervous system and artificial intelligence. Compliance with international ethical principles, learning from the advanced experience of other countries, increasing exchanges in the field of ethics, and improving ethical supervision will help us improve our moral system and strengthen respect for personal privacy and personality. In addition, some specific operational procedures and methods are also proposed.

Solution Strategy 2: Strengthen education and training for the public

Establishing a simple and fast registration platform, optimizing the donation process, etc. will contribute to organ donation. In addition, the younger generation’s ideas are more inclusive and promote organ donation. Popularizing mental health knowledge and expanding multimedia communication channels will help raise public awareness and address the issue of “spiritual stigma”.

As we mentioned earlier, establishing a brain bank in China may be very difficult because of the conflict between traditional filial piety culture and organ donation. Public activities to promote organ donation, which began in 2010, had very limited impact before 2016, but the turning point occurred in December 2016, when the China Organ Transplant Development Foundation (COTDF) began working with Alipay to provide direct organ donation registration services. The good news is that the first day of opening up was a huge success: more than 3,000 new organ donors were registered within 12 hours.


As a result, Alipay's simple and fast registration process reduces the threshold for potential donors. Prior to this, donors must answer more than 20 questions to register. Huang Jiefu, head of COTDF, said he is worried that every additional problem will drive away 1 million potential donors. As of the end of 2017, more than 350,000 registered donations, of which 280,000 were registered through Love&Hope. In addition, I also noticed the powerful ability of WeChat promotion, because 100,000+ posts are not difficult.


China's unique history and culture have brought special attention to the development of brain science in this country. Therefore, in the future, we need to pay attention to the respect for personal privacy and some individualized independent people, to abandon the traditional culture of filial piety about "body skin, parents," but also to respect some special mental patients. It cannot be regarded as a flood and a monster to be rejected.

Because China lacks professional knowledge related to neuroethics, it is essential to learn from the international community. Last year, an “International Symposium on Neuroscience Innovation” was held in Shanghai. Experts from government, academia, industry and private foundations exchanged views on ethical and legal issues. We will continue to actively participate in relevant international neuroethics dialogues in the future.

International Symposium on Neuroscience and Technology Innovation held by China

At the same time, we are pleased to share our thoughts and experiences with the international community, especially with regard to the cooperation between COTDF and Alipay in promoting organ donation in China.

As early as 2015, Chinese scientists used CRISPR-Cas9 to perform genetic editing on human embryonic stem cells, which caused global controversy. In 2018, the "He Jiankui Incident" shocked the entire scientific community and even the whole world. This incident urged us to re-examine scientific ethics. In addition, we also urge relevant regulatory agencies to strengthen supervision.

"A gentleman gets along with others, but does not even agree with them". Different opinions and exchanges will help to better understand the problem and better avoid touching. The emergence of ethical bottom line events will also make China's scientific research work more rigorous and develop in a better direction.

In the future, Chinese scientists and ethicists will work responsibly with experts from all over the world to create a better future for the world.

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[计] reference documentation

1. Poo, M., Du, J.L., Ip, N.Y., Xiong, Z.Q., Xu, B., and Tan, T. (2016). China Brain Project: basic neuroscience, brain diseases, and brain-inspired computing. Neuron 92,591-596.

2. Wang Yi. Et al. (2019) Responsibility and Sustainability in Brain Science, Technology, and Neuroethics in China-a Culture-Oriented Perspective. Neuron.

This article is from WeChat Public No.: BioArt (ID:BioGossip), compiled: Xi, editor: Jiaqi, Ziyang, headpicture: Oriental IC

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