Thinking Ahead on Deep Brain Stimulation: An Analysis of the Ethical Implications of a Developing Technology.

Veronica Johansson, Martin Garwicz, Martin Kanje, Lena Halldenius, Jens Schouenborg

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

21 Citations (SciVal)


Deep brain stimulation (DBS) is a developing technology. New generations of DBS technology are already in the pipeline, yet this particular fact has been largely ignored among ethicists interested in DBS. Focusing only on ethical concerns raised by the current DBS technology is, albeit necessary, not sufficient. Since current bioethical concerns raised by a specific technology could be quite different from the concerns it will raise a couple of years ahead, an ethical analysis should be sensitive to such alterations, or it could end up with results that soon become dated. The goal of this analysis is to address these changing bioethical concerns, to think ahead on upcoming and future DBS concerns both in terms of a changing technology and changing moral attitudes. By employing the distinction between inherent and noninherent bioethical concerns we identify and make explicit the particular limits and potentials for change within each category, respectively, including how present and upcoming bioethical concerns regarding DBS emerge and become obsolete. Many of the currently identified ethical problems with DBS, such as stimulation-induced mania, are a result of suboptimal technology. These challenges could be addressed by technical advances, while for instance perceptions of an altered body image caused by the mere awareness of having an implant may not. Other concerns will not emerge until the technology has become sophisticated enough for new uses to be realized, such as concerns on DBS for enhancement purposes. As a part of the present analysis, concerns regarding authenticity are used as an example.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)24-33
JournalAJOB Neuroscience
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2014

Subject classification (UKÄ)

  • Neurosciences


  • brain–computer interfaces
  • deep brain stimulation
  • bioethics
  • neuroethics
  • authenticity
  • enhancement
  • inherent ethical concerns
  • noninherent ethical concerns


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