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Author Notes:

Correspondence: John B. Trimper; john.trimper@emory.edu

Authors' Contributions: John B. Trimper and Karen S. Rommelfanger made equal contributions to the conceptualization and writing of the present manuscript.

Paul Root Wolpe made significant contributions to writing of the present manuscript.

Acknowledgments: The authors acknowledge Dr. John Banja for helpful comments to earlier versions of this manuscript.



  • BTBI
  • brain-to-brain interfacing
  • ethics
  • emerging technology
  • responsibility
  • identity
  • neural privacy
  • neuroethics

When “I” becomes “We”: ethical implications of emerging brain-to-brain interfacing technologies


Journal Title:

Frontiers in Neuroengineering


Volume 7, Number 4


Type of Work:

Article | Final Publisher PDF


The idea of creating a direct connection between a human brain and a computer has a long history in science fiction. The development of brain computer interfaces (BCI), technologies permitting direct communication between a user's brain and an external device, began to become a reality in the 1970s (Vidal, 1973), and have since captured the attention of scientists and the public alike. Initially conceptualized for military use—the initial work was funded by the National Science Foundation and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA)—more recently BCIs have shown promise for therapeutic uses, providing hope for restorative and even enhanced human capacities. Utilizing both invasive and non-invasive technologies, scientists are now capable of recording and translating activity from populations of neurons to operate external devices (e.g., O'Doherty et al., 2011). In early 2013, the technology took a leap forward as researchers replaced the external computer connection with a second embodied brain, dubbing the approach “brain-to-brain” interfacing (BTBI). The direct transfer of information between two brains raises new and important ethical issues. Below, we summarize the first two landmark studies in BTBI research, and then discuss ethical concerns relevant to BTBI as they are applied in clinical, research, and non-therapeutic domains.

Copyright information:

© 2014 Trimper, Wolpe and Rommelfanger.

This is an Open Access work distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/).

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