Brain-State Transitions, Responsibility, and Personal Identity

Cambridge Quarterly of Healthcare Ethics 31 (4):453-463 (2022)
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This article examines the emerging possibility of “brain-state transitioning,” in which one brain state is prompted through manipulating the dynamics of the active brain. The technique, still in its infancy, is intended to provide the basis for novel treatments for brain-based disorders. Although a detailed literature exists covering topics around brain-machine interfaces, where targets of brain-based activity include artificial limbs, hardware, and software, there is less concentration on the brain itself as a target for instrumental intervention. This article examines some of the science behind brain-state transitioning, before extending beyond current possibilities in order to explore philosophical and ethical questions about how transitions could be seen to impact on assessment of responsibility and personal identity. It concludes with some thoughts on how best to pursue this nascent approach while accounting for the philosophical and ethical issues.



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Stephen Rainey
Oxford University

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