Neuroethics Group Develops New Tool for Assessing the Impact of Neural Devices

Achievement date: 

A new, qualitative instrument is helping capture the postoperative experience of patients implanted with deep brain stimulation devices or brain-computer interfaces. It was developed at the Center for Neurotechnology (CNT), an NSF-funded Engineering Research Center (ERC) based at the University of Washington.


The tool will help researchers gather data that will guide their research, as well as the clinical application of treatments developed at CNT and elsewhere. Important ethical questions surround any medical procedure, but particularly those involving the human brain and neurology.


The field of neuroethics helps researchers and clinicians understand important questions of privacy, security, moral and legal responsibility, changes in our understanding of agency (the capacity of individuals to act independently and make their own free choices), shifts in personal identity, and social justice. CNT researchers maintain a commitment to including the perspective of disabled and treated individuals in the design of devices intended to benefit those with neurological disorders. CNT does theoretical research and writing, and empirical studies such as focus groups with intended end-users of neural-engineering technology.

Prior to the development of the qualitative instrument, there was no accepted or standardized tool in neuroethics specifically designed for this purpose. The tool helps to capture postoperative variations in patient experience of identity and agency after implantation of a neural device. Work on guidelines and tools such as these is led by CNT neuroethics researchers in partnership with neural engineering labs around the world developing a wide range of neural devices.