eCite Digital Repository

Deflating the “DBS causes personality changes” bubble


Gilbert, F and Viana, JNM and Ineichen, C, Deflating the 'DBS causes personality changes' bubble, Neuroethics pp. 1-17. ISSN 1874-5490 (2018) [Refereed Article]

Copyright Statement

Copyright Springer Nature B.V. 2018

Official URL:

DOI: doi:10.1007/s12152-018-9373-8


The idea that deep brain stimulation (DBS) induces changes to personality, identity, agency, authenticity, autonomy and self (PIAAAS) is so deeply entrenched within neuroethics discourses that it has become an unchallenged narrative. In this article, we critically assess evidence about putative effects of DBS on PIAAAS. We conducted a literature review of more than 1535 articles to investigate the prevalence of scientific evidence regarding these potential DBS-induced changes. While we observed an increase in the number of publications in theoretical neuroethics that mention putative DBS-induced changes to patients’ postoperative PIAAAS, we found a critical lack of primary empirical studies corroborating these claims. Our findings strongly suggest that the theoretical neuroethics debate on putative effects of DBS relies on very limited empirical evidence and is, instead, reliant on unsubstantiated speculative assumptions probably in lieu of robust evidence. As such, this may reflect the likelihood of a speculative neuroethics bubble that may need to be deflated. Nevertheless, despite the low number of first-hand primary studies and large number of marginal and single case reports, potential postoperative DBS changes experienced by patients remain a critical ethical concern. We recommend further empirical research in order to enhance theoretical neuroethics work in the area. In particular, we call for the development of better instruments capable of capturing potential postoperative variations of PIAAAS.

Item Details

Item Type:Refereed Article
Keywords:adverse effects, autonomy, agency, assumption, authenticity, control group, deep brain stimulation, evidence, identity, neuroethics, personality, self
Research Division:Philosophy and Religious Studies
Research Group:Applied ethics
Research Field:Ethical use of new technology
Objective Division:Culture and Society
Objective Group:Ethics
Objective Field:Bioethics
UTAS Author:Gilbert, F (Dr Frederic Gilbert)
UTAS Author:Viana, JNM (Mr Noel Viana)
ID Code:126416
Year Published:2018
Funding Support:Australian Research Council (DE150101390)
Web of Science® Times Cited:3
Deposited By:Office of the School of Humanities
Deposited On:2018-06-10
Last Modified:2018-12-04

Repository Staff Only: item control page