An Instrument to Capture the Phenomenology of Implantable Brain Device Use



One important concern regarding implantable Brain Computer Interfaces (BCI) is the fear that the intervention will negatively change a patient’s sense of identity or agency. In particular, there is concern that the user will be psychologically worse-off following treatment despite postoperative functional improvements. Clinical observations from similar implantable brain technologies, such as deep brain stimulation (DBS), show a small but significant proportion of patients report feelings of strangeness or difficulty adjusting to a new concept of themselves characterized by a maladaptive je ne sais quoi despite clear motor improvement. Despite the growing number of cases in the DBS literature, there is currently no accepted or standardized tool in neuroethics specifically designed to capture the phenomenological postoperative experience of patients implanted with DBS or BCI devices. Given potential risks of postoperative maladaptation, it is important for the field of neuroethics to develop a qualitative instrument that can serve as a shared method for capturing postoperative variations in patient experience of identity and agency. The goal of this article is to introduce an instrument we have developed for this purpose and call for further neuroethical efforts to assess the phenomenology of implantable brain device use.


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