The Dana Foundation is a private philanthropic organization based in New York dedicated to advancing neuroscience and society by supporting cross-disciplinary intersections such as neuroscience and ethics, law, policy, humanities, and arts.
The Dana Foundation advances neuroscience that benefits society and reflects the aspirations of all people. We explore the connections between neuroscience and society’s challenges and opportunities, working to maximize the potential of the field to do good.
Learn more about our new focus.
Brain Science for a Better Future
The Dana Foundation envisions a future when neuroscience both informs and reflects society.
By listening and responding to people of all ages, backgrounds, and cultures—as well as professionals from other disciplines—the field will help improve the lives of individuals and communities. Neuroscience will be better understood and valued by the public. A new generation of neuroscientists will be equipped to push the field into new frontiers. They will be trained with appreciation for and knowledge of other disciplines, and will expand neuroscience to become a driving force for a healthier world that lives up to its highest ideals of equity and justice.
This may be a bold vision, but we know that it is possible once the neuroscience field evolves so that:
- Research and development priorities are based on the diverse needs of the public.
- Neurotechnologies are developed to help everyone, irrespective of wealth and power.
- Neuroscientists frequently work with professionals from other fields to learn, collaborate and contribute to positive change.
- Neuroscience training provides a deep understanding of intersecting fields, including those outside the biological sciences, so that neuroscientists can effectively meet the needs of society.
- Neuroscientists come from a broad range of life experiences and backgrounds, mirroring society.
- Greater understanding of the brain and how it works is widely available thanks to accessible language and effective public engagement.
- Neuroethics becomes an essential partner to neuroscience, supporting the social acceptability and sustainability of research and its applications.
What is Our Reason for Being?
The brain is at the center of human experience. Everything—from the way humans form societies, to the way we engage with the world, to our capacity for thinking, feeling, learning, and remembering—it all lives within the billions of neurons and connections in our brains.
The last century of neuroscience has been a time of unprecedented progress. Neuroscientists deepened our knowledge of the brain’s structure and functions. They gave us a thorough understanding of the nervous system, which coordinates our actions and the relay of sensory information. The field contributed huge insights into brain diseases, and pioneered treatments that, for millions of people globally, saved and improved lives. All the while, the stigma of brain diseases and disorders has been confronted and more empowering narratives have emerged.
In 1999, the editorial board of the Dana Foundation’s then-flagship publication, Cerebrum, shared the widely cited statistic that our knowledge of the brain had doubled during the previous decade. The pace of discovery has continued at a dizzying pace ever since.
There is so much that we know about the human brain, and yet there is still far more to explore. This creates opportunities and potential risks for the future of the field. At its best, neuroscience will help deliver better health outcomes, improve education, advance innovation, and make laws more just. But at its worst, neuroscience could be used as a means to control, exploit, and manipulate people.
To ensure a positive future, we must better connect neuroscience to the needs of society. We must strive to make the field more inclusive and collaborative. By opening the field up to diverse perspectives, working in closer partnership with other disciplines, and deepening our engagement with the general public, neuroscience can contribute to the flourishing of everyone.
Scientists and civic leaders share a responsibility to ensure that neuroscience benefits all of humanity. The Dana Foundation contributes to this work through our Neuroscience & Society focus. We foresee a future when practitioners and people from different walks of life engage in the open exploration necessary to shape a better world.