Brain-computer interfaces and personhood: interdisciplinary deliberations on neural technology

Brain-computer interfaces and personhood: interdisciplinary deliberations on neural technology.


Sample, M. Aunos M, Blain-Moraes S, Bublitz C, Jennifer Chandler , Falk T, Friedrich O, Groetzinger D, Jox R, Koegel J, McFarland D, Neufield V, Rodriguez-Arias D, Sattler S, Vidal F, Wolbring G, Wolkenstein

(2019) 16 Journal of Neural Engineering, 1-7


Objective. Scientists, engineers, and healthcare professionals are currently developing a variety of new devices under the category of brain–computer interfaces (BCIs). Current and future applications are both medical/assistive (e.g. for communication) and non-medical (e.g. for gaming). This array of possibilities has been met with both enthusiasm and ethical concern in various media, with no clear resolution of these conflicting sentiments. Approach. To better understand how BCIs may either harm or help the user, and to investigate whether ethical guidance is required, a meeting entitled ‘BCIs and Personhood: A Deliberative Workshop’ was held in May 2018. Main results. We argue that the hopes and fears associated with BCIs can be productively understood in terms of personhood, specifically the impact of BCIs on what it means to be a person and to be recognized as such by others. Significance. Our findings suggest that the development of neural technologies raises important questions about the concept of personhood and its role in society. Accordingly, we propose recommendations for BCI development and governance.


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About the Author:

Jennifer A. Chandler researches and writes about the legal and ethical aspects of biomedical science and technology, with focuses on mental health law and policy, neuroethics, organ donation and regenerative medicine.  She is internationally recognized for her research and writing in the law and ethics of the brain sciences. She is an elected member of the Board of Directors of the International Neuroethics Society, and serves on international editorial boards in the field, including Clinical Neuroethics (part of the Cambridge Quarterly of Healthcare Ethics), the Springer Book Series Advances in Neuroethics, and the Palgrave-MacMillan Book Series Law, Neuroscience and Human Behavior. She is also a member of the international advisory boards for the Institut du Cerveau et de la Moelle Épinière (ICM) Neuroethics Network (Paris), and the Société française de psychologie juridique (Paris).

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