What we (Should) Talk about when we Talk about Deep Brain Stimulation and Personal Identity

Robyn Bluhm, Laura Cabrera, Rachel McKenzie

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

A number of reports have suggested that patients who undergo deep brain stimulation (DBS) may experience changes to their personality or sense of self. These reports have attracted great philosophical interest. This paper surveys the philosophical literature on personal identity and DBS and draws on an emerging empirical literature on the experiences of patients who have undergone this therapy to argue that the existing philosophical discussion of DBS and personal identity frames the problem too narrowly. Much of the discussion by neuroethicists centers on the nature of the threat posed by DBS, asking whether it is best understood as a threat to personal identity, autonomy, agency, or authenticity, or as putting patients at risk of self-estrangement. Our aim in this paper is to use the empirical literature on patients’ experiences post-DBS to open up a broader range of questions - both philosophical and practical, and to suggest that attention to these questions will help to provide better support to patients, both before and after treatment.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)289-301
Number of pages13
JournalNeuroethics
Volume13
Issue number3
DOIs
StatePublished - Oct 1 2020

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Neurology
  • Health Policy
  • Psychiatry and Mental health

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