Science and Engineering Ethics

, Volume 22, Issue 5, pp 1299–1317 | Cite as

Informed Consent in Implantable BCI Research: Identifying Risks and Exploring Meaning

  • Eran Klein
Original Paper


Implantable brain–computer interface (BCI) technology is an expanding area of engineering research now moving into clinical application. Ensuring meaningful informed consent in implantable BCI research is an ethical imperative. The emerging and rapidly evolving nature of implantable BCI research makes identification of risks, a critical component of informed consent, a challenge. In this paper, 6 core risk domains relevant to implantable BCI research are identified—short and long term safety, cognitive and communicative impairment, inappropriate expectations, involuntariness, affective impairment, and privacy and security. Work in deep brain stimulation provides a useful starting point for understanding this core set of risks in implantable BCI. Three further risk domains—risks pertaining to identity, agency, and stigma—are identified. These risks are not typically part of formalized consent processes. It is important as informed consent practices are further developed for implantable BCI research that attention be paid not just to disclosing core research risks but exploring the meaning of BCI research with potential participants.


Informed consent Brain–computer interface (BCI) Deep brain stimulation (DBS) Neuroethics Safety Research ethics 



The author is grateful to Sara Goering and Laura Specker Sullivan for helpful comments. This work was supported by Award Number EEC-1028725 from the National Science Foundation. The content is solely the responsibility of the author and does not necessarily represent the official views of the National Science Foundation.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Philosophy and Center for Sensorimotor Neural EngineeringUniversity of WashingtonSeattleUSA
  2. 2.Department of NeurologyOregon Health and Sciences UniversityPortlandUSA

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