When Thinking is Doing: Responsibility for BCI-Mediated Action

Stephen Rainey*, Hannah Maslen, Julian Savulescu

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

11 Citations (Scopus)


Technologies controlled directly by the brain are being developed, evolving based on insights gained from neuroscience, and rehabilitative medicine. Besides neuro-controlled prosthetics aimed at restoring function lost somehow, technologies controlled via brain-computer interfaces (BCIs) may also extend a user’s horizon of action, freed from the need for bodily movement. Whilst BCI-mediated action ought to be, on the whole, treated as conventional action, law and policy ought to be amended to accommodate BCI action by broadening the definition of action as “willed bodily movement”. Moreover, there are some dimensions of BCI mediated action that are significantly different to conventional cases. These relate to control. Specifically, to limits in both controllability of BCIs via neural states, and in foreseeability of outcomes from such actions. In some specific type of case, BCI-mediated action may be due to different ethical evaluation from conventional action.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)46-58
Number of pages13
JournalAJOB Neuroscience
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2020
Externally publishedYes


  • BCI
  • control
  • disability
  • neuroethics
  • neurotechnology
  • responsibility


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