J Med Ethics 35:289-292 doi:10.1136/jme.2008.027789
  • Clinical ethics
    • Paper

Stimulating brains, altering minds

  1. W Glannon
  1. Walter Glannon, Departments of Philosophy and Community Health Sciences, University of Calgary, 2500 University Drive NW, Calgary, AB T2N 1N4, Canada; wglannon{at}
  • Received 7 October 2008
  • Accepted 19 December 2008


Deep-brain stimulation has been used to treat advanced Parkinson disease and other neurological and psychiatric disorders that have not responded to other treatments. While deep-brain stimulation can modulate overactive or underactive regions of the brain and thereby improve motor function, it can also cause changes in a patient’s thought and personality. This paper discusses the trade-offs between the physiological benefit of this technique and the potential psychological harm.


  • Funding: The writing of the paper was supported in part by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, NNF 80045, States of Mind: Emerging Issues in Neuroethics.

  • Competing interests: None.

  • Provenance and peer review: Not commissioned; not externally peer reviewed.

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