Psychiatric Neurosurgery ? Ethical, Legal, and Societal Issues


The objective of the international collaboration project is the comprehensive investigation of ethical, legal, and societal issues of the whole field of contemporary psychiatric neurosurgery (PNS) using both normative and empirical methods. Although medical ethicists have broadly investigated deep brain stimulation (DBS), there is a neglect in ethics with regard to ablative PNS comprising thermal or radiofrequency ablation procedures, and radiosurgery (Gamma Knife). Therefore, we will investigate the whole field of PNS. We will also evaluate emerging techniques, e.g., optogenetics and closed-loop systems that measure continuously brain activity and initiate counter-measures as soon as suspicious arousal is detected. We will particularly focus on possible applications of PNS in forensic contexts. First, we will investigate ethical issues of the whole field of PNS. Second, we will analyze the recent legislation including International Law concerning PNS. Third, we investigate how the international media report about PNS. Fourth, we will investigate empirically ethical issues of PNS, in particular the decision-making of patients, and experiences of patients, including personality changes and social adaptation problems. We will consider PNS within its broader societal and economic context. Finally, we will work out recommendations for a justifiable development of psychiatric neurosurgery based on the ethical, legal, societal and clinical research results of our collaboration.


Neuroethics, psychiatric neurosurgery, deep brain stimulation, Gamma Knife, neurolaw, media coverage, Neurosurgery, DBS, Therapies

Call topic

ELSA of Neuroscience

Proposed runtime

2016 - 2019

Project team

Sabine Mller (Coordinator)
Germany (BMBF)
Tade Matthias Spranger
Germany (BMBF)
Judy Illes
Roberto Martinez-Alvarez
Spain (ISCIII)