Neurotechnology includes deep brain stimulation, photopharmacology, transcranial magnetic stimulation, brain-computer interface, and other implants such as a retinal implants. In addition, brain imaging technology revolutionized neurotechnology to the next level. It allowed the scientists to monitor brain activities directly during the research.
Many researches are happening with the aim to control and study how the brain behaves and influences the personality and lifestyle of a person. Using modern technology, the researcher can image all aspects of the brain and learn how to control its function.
What is Neurotechnology?
Neurotechnology refers to the method or technology that interfaces with the human nervous system to monitor or modulate neural activities. It provides greater insight into the brain or nervous system activity. The objective and goal of neurotechnologies are to use neural activity readings to control external devices.
Further, it is used to alter neural activity through neuromodulation to mend or to treat neurological disorders and augment cognitive abilities. Neurotechnology constitutes powerful research to move ahead in neuroscience technology.
Neurotechnologies can help to control depression, sleep deprivation, and other conditions. Further, with this technology can improve brain function and therapeutically improve stroke patients’ motor coordination, control epilepsy, Parkinson’s disease, Huntington’s disease, and motor neuron disease.
Types of Neurotechnology:
- Deep Brain Stimulation
- Transcranial magnetic stimulation
- Transcranial direct current stimulation
Neurotechnology promises exactitude and efficacy in altering the brain function and, with it, human identity, privacy, human agency, etc. neurotechnological devices are designed to broaden human cognitive, motor skills, and mental abilities. Further, protecting these realms from external interference. Unfortunately, drawing ethical boundaries is not easier in neurotechnological modification, undue influence, excessive interference, and manipulation.
Ethical Consideration Related to Neurotechnology:
Neurotechnologies’ prospects raise fundamental questions about privacy, human identity, etc. Like any other disruptive innovations, Neurotechnologies have their own profound and potential legal and social repercussions.
Therefore its development and introduction to society raise very serious ethical questions. The primary concerns include preserving identity, agency, cognitive liberty, and privacy. The objective of neurotechnology is its ethical use of it.
In philosophy, personal identity refers to the relation everyone bears only themself. It refers to personal continuity, described as bodily and mental integrity and its persistence over time. It is nothing but the individual’s self-narrative and concept of self. Even though the disruption of identity is not its objective, but some utilization can create unwanted changes.
Though deep brain stimulation is used to treat Parkinson’s disease but sometimes it may touch the concept of identities, such as loss of voice modulation, impulsivity, and feelings of self-estrangement.
While treating neural prostheses using a brain-computer interface, the brain potentially incorporates the device as an integral part or expands the range of sensory and cognitive channels available to the user. The difficulty is finding which changes constitute a threat to identity. The problem here is the personality and the concept of oneself may change with time because of emotional development and living experience.
Therefore it is not easy to fix a line between acceptable change and problematic change. Further, it becomes very tough when we treat with neurotechnology that influences the psychological process to treat depression or post-traumatic stress disorder. Even helping a patient also has serious questions since forgetting is important to a person to navigate in the world, and forgetting allows a person to lose track of embarrassing or handful memory to focus on future-oriented activity.
Therefore treating a patient to remember also poses some serious questions. Further, efforts to enhance identity through memory preservation run the risk of inadvertently damaging consciously driven cognitive processes.
Agency is a person’s ability to make and consciously communicate his choice or decision. Even though Agency and Identity are distinct, any mutilation in the agency can, in turn, affect personal identity. Therefore the subject may not be able to modify his self-narrative, and their-by lose his ability to contribute to the process of identity information.
The relationship between neurotechnology and agency can have legal liability and responsibility implications. Treating a patient with some psychiatric condition can modulate the neural function linked with desire, and motivation can compromise the user’s agency. It is a paradoxical case when neurotechnology is employed on a patient to restore agency to patients, such as neural prostheses and BCI-mediated assistive technology like computer accessibility tools or wheelchairs why, because these devices operate by interpreting the sensory inputs of the users neural data to find the patients intention and responding to it. Therefore if the agents input and device output can come apart, then the sense of users agency may be undermined.
It refers to the right of the patient to self-determination to control their own mental process, cognition, and consciousness, including by using psychoactive substances and neurotechnologies.
The neurotechnologies can reveal one thing that the patient can always keep as a secret in mind. Though many benefits are associated with this technology, researchers and scientists must consider the implications of privacy. Brain fingerprinting or lie detection using fMRI or EEG could give rise to a set fixture of emotional relationships in the brain. It is crucial to consider how these technologies might impact future society. Ethicists are concerned with the use of TMS (Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation
) and fear that the application of these techniques could alter the patients in such a way the patients are undesired. Therefore neurotechnologies may be a great promise, but it is also a great challenge as the technology itself can modulate brain functions to new depth and breadth. And the challenges unique to Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation require new consideration in research and clinical medicine.
Therefore it is crucial to ensure that neurotechnology is reserved for responsible research and clinical use, and questionable uses should be avoided. Technology should not be used in coercive ways. It should not be available in the open market. For example, if human neuromodulation has unfettered access and is available in the open market, how will society protect consumers from non-expert TMS entrepreneurs?
Let us address some of the ethical issues that emerge in the content of neurotechnology: Neurotechnologies raise more ethical questions that are associated with what we call our “self” or “soul,” which are laid on complex philosophical concepts with many presuppositions.
The neurotechnologies establish brain correlates of specific cognitive processes. In reality, with a very limited sense, we have begun to probe the subjective contents of the brain. Brain-imaging technology has created the potential for powerful new ways to understand the workings of the human brain, as well as concerns about misusing that potential.
When Brain-computer interfaces are used in medical research, two issues particularly need to address, namely the management of expectation and informed consent.
All and Every Brain-computer interface collect more sensitive data; therefore there arise issues of data security, privacy, and neuro hacking need to be addressed.
The brain data about affective states belong to a patient’s personal data and therefore need to be protected from any undue treatment by third parties.
The users of BCI should make to aware and understand that system is employed and what kind of data is collected and processed out of them.
Tracking of people’s emotions will be the interest of parties with economic motivation; therefore, it should be checked.
Similar to brain reading technologies, the monitoring of affective states of humans raises questions concerning mental privacy because it potentially allows third parties for the detection of mental states that the person may not wish to share.
The self-tracking practices and self-quantification have ethical and cultural implications that need to be addressed since the self-tracking could infringe on values like autonomy and authenticity.
Impact of Affective BCI:
The affective BCI system constantly reads the emotional state of the user. Therefore this kind of data is a valuable resource for government agencies and private parties to influence or nudge the person to make certain political and economic decisions.
Using affective BCI and suitably modifying a person’s environment, human emotions can be influenced.
Using invasive technology directly stimulate the affective states of human. A closed-loop affective Brain-computer interface system would automatically stimulate specific brain parts to bring about or suppress certain affective states.
The technology of deep brain stimulation (DBS) could be problematic.
The patients with Parkinson’s disease who undergo deep brain stimulation can experience significant benefits at the same time, unwanted side effects, including cognitive and psychiatric disturbances.
In brain-to-brain interfaces autonomy of an individual can be compromised.
Deep brain stimulation (DBS) is a highly invasive neurosurgical procedure.
Right to mental integrity can be affected
Right to brain privacy may be compromised
The issues related to authenticity are more complicated when considering the use of Deep Brain Stimulation in treating psychiatric disorders.
Neurotechnology is a fascinating as well as a controversial field since one of its goals is to connect the human brain to machines directly. Therefore, neurotechnologies are always defined as the collective methods and devices that enable the direct connection of technical devices with the nervous system. These technological devices or components include electrodes, computers, or other intelligent devices.
Frequently Asked Questions:
- What is the Brain-machine interface?
Brain-Machine Interfaces aid to paralyzed patients by re-routing the movement-related brain signals around the damaged parts of the nervous system. The BCIs are devices that receive brain signals from the nervous system, provide input directly to the nervous system, or do both.
The term brain-computer interface always refers to a range of technologies that involve a direct interface to the nervous system; such interfaces can be made at nearly any level, limited mostly by technical constraints and surgical techniques. They are the more powerful tool for scientific research in the working of the nerve system.
With the brain-computer interface, the researcher can independently manipulate visual and proprioceptive feedback, thereby facilitating the study of multisensory integration during sensorimotor control.
The advancement in diagnostic medical imaging over the recent years revolutionized neurotechnology. Researchers gain a new understanding of brain function and structure and uncover exciting and challenging insights into the nature of human behavior. They can reliably measure changes in brain activity associated with thoughts, feelings, and behaviors, in principle allowing researchers to link brain activity patterns directly to the cognitive or affective processes or states they produce.
- What is human enhancement?
Human enhancement refers to a broad range of technological approaches to augment body or cognitive functions through prosthetics, medical implants, performance-enhancing drugs, and human-computer or performance-enhancing drugs. The ultimate goal is to improve characteristics and capabilities beyond the human range.
- What is Neuroscience Technology?
It is an in-depth study associated with the nervous system’s structure, behavior, and other functions through clinical tests and experiments.