Toward an Anti-racist Approach to Biomedical and Neuroscience Research

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Journal of Neuroscience


Racism is a threat to public health. Race is a sociopolitical construct that has been used for generations to create disparities in educational access, housing conditions, exposure to environmental contaminants, and access to health care. Collectively, these disparities have a negative impact on the health of non-white Americans. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) funds biomedical research, including basic neuroscience research, aimed at understanding the mechanisms and consequences of health and disease in Americans. NIH has recently acknowledged its own structural racism, the disadvantage this perpetuates in the biomedical research enterprise, and has announced its commitment to eliminating these disparities. Here, we discuss different rates of disease in U.S. citizens from different racial backgrounds. We next describe ways in which the biomedical research enterprise (1) has contributed to health disparities and (2) can contribute to the solving this problem. Based on our own scientific expertise, we use neuroscience in general and mental health/addiction disorders more specifically as examples of a broader issue. The NIH, including its neuroscience-focused Institutes, and NIH-funded scientists, including neuroscientists, should prioritize research topics that reflect the health conditions that affect all Americans, not just white Americans.

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Society for Neuroscience