Intelligent neuroprostheses represent the next phase in the evolution of devices integrated with the brain to assist or alter human sensory, motor, cognitive, and affective capacities. These devices include "read-out" systems which detect, interpret, and translate neural signals for applications such as allowing a paralyzed person to move a robotic arm or cursor. They also include “write-in” systems which deliver signals or stimulation to the brain to affect thinking, emotions, and the ability to move. What makes a neuroprosthesis intelligent is that it incorporates artificial intelligence (AI) technologies to better adapt to the brain's activity. This is characterized by mutual adaptation where both the "user" and the device continuously change in response to each other over time.
The rate of development of AI-based neurotechnologies is far outpacing our understanding of its ethical consequences. It's also pushing past their limits legal regimes whose job it is to regulate such technologies. The incorporation of AI elements like deep learning can make it hard to predict and control these systems, and even hard to understand what they are doing at all. This raises unprecedented transparency and accountability issues. Mixed in are the psychological implications of write-in devices which can directly influence the cognition (mind?) of the owner.
The Hybrid Minds project aims to lay the foundation for a unified theoretical approach to the ethical-legal assessment of intelligent neuroprostheses. The approach is informed by the experiences and perspectives of users as well as dialogue with the neuroengineering community and other key stakeholders.
On the Verge of the Hybrid Mind
Soekadar S., Chandler J.A., Ienca M., Bublitz J.C.
Morals & Machines 2021
Frontiers in Human Neuroscience 2021
Mapping the emerging legal landscape for neuroprostheses: Human interests and legal resources
Akmazoglu T.B., Chandler J.A.
Regulating Neuroscience: Translational Legal Challenges 2021 (Hevia M. ed.)
Professor of Law
University of Ottawa
Jennifer A Chandler holds the Bertram Loeb Research Chair at the University of Ottawa, and is a Professor in the Faculty of Law, cross-appointed to the Faculty of Medicine. Her research focuses on the legal and ethical aspects of biomedical science and technology, with a focus on the brain sciences. She also works on legal policy related to organ donation and transplantation, and mental health law and policy. She is active in Canadian neuroscience research funding policy, and currently sits as a member of the Advisory Board for the Institute for Neurosciences, Mental Health and Addiction (a division of the Canadian national health science research funding body). Chandler regularly contributes to Canadian governmental policy on contentious matters of biomedicine. She was a member of the government-commissioned National Expert Panel on Medical Assistance in Dying, addressing the question of access to medical assistance in dying for people with solely psychiatric conditions. She is currently co-chairing the law and ethics working group of CBS (the federal Canadian agency overseeing the organ, tissue and blood donation system for Canada) looking at the legal definition of brain death and criteria for determination of brain death. She is a former acting director of the Centre for Health Law, Policy and Ethics at the University of Ottawa, and a former elected member of the Board of Directors of the International Neuroethics Society.
The research interests of Christoph Bublitz, a legal scholar at the Faculty of Law, Universität Hamburg, comprise criminal law, human rights law, legal philosophy, and ethics. He has worked extensively on the legal regulation of the human mind as well as questions of neuroethics. He is the author of over 50 scholarly articles and co-edited 5 books. The latest, The Law and Ethics of Freedom of Thought appears in the Palgrave Series on Law, Neuroscience, and Human Behavior, which he co-founded. He is an associate editor of the journal Neuroethics and was awarded several prizes for his research. In the Hybrid Mind project, he is most interested in controversies and political struggles over the boundaries of the human body, the mind, and the person, as well as underlying legal principles and categorizations.
Principal Investigator, College of Humanities
Swiss Federal Institute of Technology
Dr Marcello Ienca is a Principal Investigator at the College of Humanities at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne where he leads the Intelligent Systems Ethics research group. Dr Ienca's scholarship focuses on the ethical implications of emerging technologies. In particular, he investigates the broader implications of new (and often converging) sociotechnical trends such as Artificial Intelligence (AI), big data, digital epidemiology, robotics, assisted living, digital health, social media, and neurotechnology. Dr Ienca is an appointed member of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development’s (OECD) Steering Committee on Neurotechnology and an expert advisor to the Council of Europe’s Ad Hoc Committee on Artificial Intelligence and the Bioethics Committee. Ienca is a member of the Editorial Board of several academic journals such as Neuroethics, Bioethica Forum, Frontiers in Neuroergonomics. His research was featured in academic journals such as Neuron, Nature Biotechnology, Nature Machine Intelligence, Nature Medicine, the Journal of Medical Ethics and media outlets such as Nature, The New Yorker, The Guardian, The Times, Die Welt, The Independent, the Financial Times and others.
Einstein Professor of Clinical Neurotechnology
Charité – Universitätsmedizin
Surjo R. Soekadar, M.D. is Einstein Professor of Clinical Neurotechnology and head of the Research Division – Translation and Neurotechnology at the Charité – Universitätsmedizin Berlin. After studying in Mainz, Heidelberg and Baltimore, he became resident physician at the University of Tübingen. From 2009-2011, he was fellow at the Human Cortical Physiology and Stroke Neurorehabilititation Section (HCPS) at the National Institutes of Health, USA. In 2017, he received the venia legendi in psychiatry and psychotherapy. In 2020, he founded the Centre for Translational Neuromodulation at the Charité to foster clinical adoption of innovative neurotechnologies improving quality of life across various brain disorders.
Professor of Nanomedicine
University of Manchester
Professor Kostas Kostarelos read Chemistry at the University of Leeds and obtained his Diploma and PhD in Chemical Engineering from Imperial College London. He joined the research staff and faculty of medical schools in the USA (UCSF, CA; Memorial Sloan-Kettering, NY; Weill Medical College of Cornell University, NY) and biomedical research institutions in the UK (Imperial College Genetic Therapies Centre, UCL School of Pharmacy). Kostas became the first named Chair of Nanomedicine in the UK (in 2007 at UCL) and was Professorial Fellow, Japanese Society for the Promotion of Science (JSPS) in 2010. He is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Chemistry (FRSC). He is currently Professor of Nanomedicine at the University of Manchester (www.nanomedicinelab.com) and a Severo Ochoa Distinguished Professor at the Catalan Institute of Nanoscience & Nanotechnology (ICN2) in Barcelona, Spain (www.icn2.cat/nanomedicine).
Postdoctoral Fellow, Intelligent Systems Ethics
Dr. Georg Starke is a postdoctoral researcher at the Intelligent Systems Ethics group, College of Humanities at EPFL. He also works and teaches at the Institute for Biomedical Ethics of the University of Basel, Switzerland, where he will complete his PhD in bioethics in early 2022. Georg’s research examines the ethics of using AI in medicine, with particular regard to neurological and psychiatric applications. Beyond AI ethics, Georg is also interested in history and philosophy of science, philosophy of psychiatry, medical ethics, and questions at the intersection of philosophy of mind and comparative psychology. Before moving to Switzerland, he studied medicine at the Technical University of Munich and acquired clinical experience at the University of Buenos Aires, the Hebrew University Jerusalem, and the University of Oxford. He graduated with a medical doctorate from the TUM-Neuroimaging Center where he investigated neural correlates of social fear and social emotion regulation using model-based functional MRI. In parallel to his medical studies, Georg obtained a BA in philosophy from the Munich School of Philosophy and an MPhil in History, Philosophy and Sociology of Science, Technology and Medicine from the University of Cambridge.
Postdoctoral Fellow in Law
University of Ottawa
Amanda van Beinum is a Social Science and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of Ottawa Faculty of Common Law under the supervision of Professor Jennifer Chandler. Amanda’s postdoctoral research employs a critical science and technology studies (STS) perspective to explore the social and technological impacts of deep brain stimulation as an emerging therapy for the treatment of psychiatric illness. Amanda completed her PhD in Sociology at Carleton University where her doctoral work involved an STS-informed analysis of the tensions and meanings of death amidst life-support technology in the intensive care unit. This cross-disciplinary project built on findings from her MSc. (Epidemiology) obtained previously at the University of Ottawa. With training in both science and arts, Amanda has a passion for interdisciplinary work and is drawn to teaching, writing, and researching at critical intersections. She has recently co-designed and taught a course on race and medicine and has published work in medical journals in addition to her ongoing involvement in social science research communities.
Ph.D. Candidate in Law
University of Ottawa
Tugba Basaran Akmazoglu is a Ph.D. in Law candidate at the University of Ottawa, Faculty of Law, under the supervision of Prof. Jennifer A Chandler. Her research focuses on the legal regulation of neurotechnologies, and the changing boundaries of human body along with the merger of progressively evolving smart prostheses with the human body. Her dissertation project is informed by philosophy of technology, centred on human-technology co-constitution and individual construction of the self, and personhood issues as well as disability studies and the capabilities approach.
Tugba holds a law degree from the University of Ankara. She received her LL.M. degrees at KU Leuven (with specialization in European Union Law and as a recipient of the Jean Monnet Fellowship of the European Commission), and at the University of Oslo and Leibniz University of Hannover (double degree LL.M within the framework of the European Legal Informatics Study Program in IT Law) and wrote her thesis on the regulation of civil law liability of autonomous service robots.
Doctoral Candidate, Experiment Medecine
Charité – University Medicine Berlin
Annalisa Colucci graduated from the BSc program in Psychological Sciences and Techniques at the University of Turin (Italy) in 2016 and graduated from the MSc degree in Cognitive Neuroscience and Clinical Neuropsychology at the University of Padua (Italy) in 2018. In 2019 Ms. Colucci joined the Clinical Neurotechnology Lab at the Charité –University Medicine Berlin as research assistant, where she is now pursuing a PhD in “Experimental Medicine”. She has been involved in the development and testing of a context-aware, brain-controlled hand exoskeleton for quadriplegic and stroke patients and on the development of a novel entropy-driven Brain Computer Interface. Her current work focuses on combining BCI and closed-loop brain electrical stimulation to foster neuroplasticity and healing processes for damaged neural substrates of sensorimotor functions.
Doctoral Candidate, Medical Neuroscience
Charité – Universitätsmedizin Berlin
Mareike Vermehren is currently working towards a doctoral degree in medical neuroscience at the Charité – Universitätsmedizin Berlin, where she is employed as a research associate in the Clinical Neurotechnology Group headed by Prof. Soekadar. She graduated from the BSc program Cognitive Science at the University of Tübingen in 2016 and continued her education with a master's degree in Neural and Behavioural Science in 2017. In 2019, she completed her master's thesis at the University of British Columbia. Her current work focuses on the combination of brain-machine interfaces with closed-loop electric brain stimulation, and the clinical application of brain-machine interfaces for neurorehabilitation.
The Hybrid Minds project is a German-Swiss-Canadian collaboration funded in 2021 through the ERA-Net NEURON program by funding agencies from all three countries.
ERA-Net NEURON is a collaboration between 27 research funding organizations and ministries from 23 countries. It funds international consortia involved in basic, clinical and translational research in neuroscience.