Impact of Brain Interventions on Personal Identity

  • Thorsten GalertEmail author
Reference work entry


Some of the main ethical concerns with brain interventions are related to psychological changes that may alter persons in morally significant ways. This chapter reviews neuroethical attempts at assessing brain interventions by describing them as having an impact on the identity of persons. By discussing clinical case reports involving deep brain stimulation in the treatment of Parkinson’s disease, different meanings attributed to the concept of personal identity in the bioethics literature are disentangled. The concept of forensic personhood is introduced to show that some possible effects of brain interventions are unambiguously detrimental in that they end the affected person’s existence in an important sense. The same holds true for changes in personal identity where a person has changed to such an extent that, eventually, one does not seem to be faced with a person with different characteristics, but with an altogether different person. As well, narrative accounts of personal identity are discussed in some detail as they have multiple normative implications for the assessment of the psychological effects of brain interventions, ranging from legal and ethical to clinical and methodological consequences.


Deep Brain Stimulation Personal Identity Personality Change Narrative Approach Psychological Change 
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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.German Reference Centre for Ethics in the Life SciencesBonnGermany

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