Journal of Cognitive Enhancement

, Volume 2, Issue 4, pp 364–368 | Cite as

Cognitive Enhancement with Brain Implants: the Burden of Abnormality

  • F. GilbertEmail author
  • P. Tubig
Original Article


Reported clinical cases of patients with neurological disorders who have received brain implants which produced some degrees of cognitive enhancement introduce the possibility of using implantable neurotechnologies in healthy individual brains. However, little is known about the phenomenology of using implants for cognitive gains. Even if brain implants could augment one’s cognitive capacities, it would not guarantee a net benefit for the implanted individual. In this article, we examine the potential psychiatric effects of increased cognitive capacities, namely the burden of abnormality. We draw on a parallel phenomenon, known as the burden of normality, from clinical studies when patients who became suddenly symptom free after treatment with deep brain stimulation experienced psychiatric adverse effects. While we agree that cognitive enhancement could generate important postoperative benefits, we argue that patients augmenting their capacities will likely experience abnormality as much as, or perhaps even more so than normality.


Brain implant Burden of abnormality Burden of normality Cognitive capacities Cognitive enhancement Deep brain stimulation Parkinson’s disease Psychiatric adverse effects 



We are grateful to the Journal of Cognitive Enhancement anonymous reviewers and editors for their valuable comments.

Funding information

This work was supported by grants from the National Science Foundation (NSF Award #EEC-1028725) and the Australian Research Council (DECRA award Project Number DE150101390).

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical Approval

All procedures performed studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki Declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of HumanitiesUniversity of TasmaniaHobartAustralia
  2. 2.Centre for NeurotechnologyUniversity of WashingtonSeattleUSA
  3. 3.Department of PhilosophyUniversity of WashingtonSeattleUSA

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