Brain-Computer Interface (BCI) is a set of technologies that are of increasing interest to researchers. BCI has been proposed as assistive technology for individuals who are non-communicative or paralyzed, such as those with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis or spinal cord injury. The technology has also been suggested for enhancement and entertainment uses, and there are companies currently marketing BCI devices for those purposes (e.g., gaming) as well as health-related purposes (e.g., communication). The unprecedented direct connection created by BCI between human brains and computer hardware raises various ethical, social, and legal challenges that merit further examination and discussion. To identify and characterize the key issues associated with BCI use, we performed a scoping review of biomedical ethics literature, analyzing the ethics concerns cited across multiple disciplines, including philosophy and medicine. Based on this investigation, we report that BCI research and its potential translation to therapeutic intervention generate significant ethical, legal, and social concerns, notably with regards to personhood, stigma, autonomy, privacy, research ethics, safety, responsibility, and justice. Our review of the literature determined, furthermore, that while these issues have been enumerated extensively, few concrete recommendations have been expressed. We conclude that future research should focus on remedying a lack of practical solutions to the ethical challenges of BCI, alongside the collection of empirical data on the perspectives of the public, BCI users, and BCI researchers.


Burwell S, Sample M, Racine E. Ethical aspects of brain computer interfaces: a scoping review. BMC Med Ethics. 2017 Nov 9;1 (1):60. doi: 10.1186/s12910-017-0220-y