, Volume 7, Issue 1, pp 29–41 | Cite as

Psychosocial and Ethical Aspects in Non-Invasive EEG-Based BCI Research—A Survey Among BCI Users and BCI Professionals

  • Gerd GrüblerEmail author
  • Abdul Al-Khodairy
  • Robert Leeb
  • Iolanda Pisotta
  • Angela Riccio
  • Martin Rohm
  • Elisabeth Hildt
Original Paper


In this paper, the results of a pilot interview study with 19 subjects participating in an EEG-based non-invasive brain–computer interface (BCI) research study on stroke rehabilitation and assistive technology and of a survey among 17 BCI professionals are presented and discussed in the light of ethical, legal, and social issues in research with human subjects. Most of the users were content with study participation and felt well informed. Negative aspects reported include the long and cumbersome preparation procedure, discomfort with the cap and the wet electrodes, problems concerning BCI control, and strains during the training sessions. In addition, some users reflected on issues concerning system security. When asked for morally problematic issues in this field of non-invasive BCI research, the BCI professionals stressed the need for correct information transfer, the obligation to avoid unrealistic expectations in study participants, the selection of study participants, benefits and strains of participation, BCI illiteracy, the possibility of detrimental brain modifications induced by BCI use, and problems that may arise at the end of the trials. Furthermore, privacy issues were raised. Based on the results obtained, psychosocial and ethical aspects of EEG-based non-invasive BCI research are discussed and possible implications for future research addressed.


Brain–computer interface (BCI) Ethics Research Human subjects Informed consent Risks and benefits User-centered approach 



This work is supported by the European ICT Programme Project FP7-224631. The paper reflects only the authors’ views and funding agencies are not liable for any use that may be made of the information contained herein.


  1. 1.
    Birbaumer, Niels. 2005. Nur das Denken bleibt. Neuroethik des Eingeschlossen-Seins. In Neurowissenschaften und Menschenbild, ed. Engels/Hildt, 77–94. Paderborn: Mentis.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Dobkin, Bruce H. 2007. Brain-computer interface technology as a tool to augment plasticity and outcomes for neurological rehabilitation. J Physiol 579: 637–642.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. 3.
    Haselager, Pim, et al. 2009. A note on ethical aspects of BCI. Neural Networks 22: 1352–1357.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. 4.
    Lucivero, F., and G. Tamburrini. 2007. Ethical monitoring of brain-machine interfaces. AI & Soc 22: 449–460.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. 5.
    Tamburrini, Guglielmo. 2009. Brain to computer communication: ethical perspectives on interaction models. Neuroethics 2: 137–149.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. 6.
    Grübler, Gerd. 2011. Beyond the responsibility gap. Discussion Note on Responsibility and Liability in the Use of Brain-Computer Interfaces. AI and Society 26: 377–382.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. 7.
    Hildt, Elisabeth. 2010. Brain-computer interaction and medical access to the brain: individual, social and ethical implications. Studies in Ethics, Law and Technology. doi: 10.2202/1941-6008.1143.
  8. 8.
    Dennings, T., et al. 2009. Neurosecurity: security and privacy for neural devices. Neurosurgical Focus 27: E7.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. 9.
    Nijboer, Femke, et al. 2011. The Asilomar survey: stakeholders’ opinions on ethical issues related to brain-computer interfacing. Neuroethics. doi: 10.1007/s12152-011-9132-6.
  10. 10.
    Huggins, Jane E., et al. 2011. What would brain-computer interface users want? Opinions and priorities of potential users with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis 12: 318–324.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. 11.
    Zickler, Claudia. 2009. Brain computer interaction applications for people with disabilities: defining user needs and user requirements. In Assistive technology from adapted equipment to inclusive environments, ed. P.L. Emiliani et al., 185–189. Amsterdam: Ios Press.Google Scholar
  12. 12.
    Blain, Stefanie, et al. 2012. Barriers to and mediators of brain-computer interface user acceptance: focus group findings. Ergonomics 55: 516–525.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. 13.
    Glaser, Barney G., and Anselm L. Strauss. 1967. The discovery of grounded theory: Strategies for qualitative research. Chicago: Aldine Publishing Company.Google Scholar
  14. 14.
    Strauss, Anselm L, and Corbin, Juliet M. 1990. Basics of qualitative research: grounded theory procedures and techniques. University of California: Sage Publications.Google Scholar
  15. 15.
    Maguire, M.C. et al. 1998. User-centred requirements handbook. RESPECT Consortium.
  16. 16.
    World Medical Association. 2008. Declaration of Helsinki.

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Gerd Grübler
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
    • 8
    Email author
  • Abdul Al-Khodairy
    • 4
  • Robert Leeb
    • 5
  • Iolanda Pisotta
    • 6
  • Angela Riccio
    • 6
  • Martin Rohm
    • 7
  • Elisabeth Hildt
    • 2
  1. 1.University of TübingenTübingenGermany
  2. 2.University of MainzMainzGermany
  3. 3.University of DresdenDresdenGermany
  4. 4.Clinique Romande de RéadaptationSionSwitzerland
  5. 5.École Polytechnique Fédérale de LausanneLausanneSwitzerland
  6. 6.Fondazione Santa LuciaRomeItaly
  7. 7.Spinal Cord Injury Center of Heidelberg University HospitalHeidelbergGermany
  8. 8.Forschungsstelle Neuroethik/NeurophilosophieJohannes Gutenberg-Universität MainzMainzGermany

Personalised recommendations