Self-implant ambiguity? Understanding self-related changes in deep brain stimulation

Philosophical Explorations 25 (3):367-385 (2022)
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Abstract

Deep brain stimulation (DBS) uses electrodes implanted in the brain to modulate dysregulated brain activity related to a variety of neurological and psychiatric conditions. A number of people who use DBS have reported changes that affect their sense of self. In the neuroethics literature, there has been significant debate over the exact nature of these changes. More recently, there have been suggestions that this debate is overblown and detracts from clinically-relevant ways of understanding these effects of DBS. In this paper, we offer an alternative approach to understanding the effects of DBS on the self, drawing on John Sadler’s work on self-illness ambiguity. We argue that self-illness ambiguity is a complex concept, with at least three different aspects, and that each of the three aspects we identify also characterizes one kind of DBS-related change. Our analysis also suggests ways of helping patients to adjust to life as a DBS user.

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Robyn Bluhm
Michigan State University

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