Gerwin Schalk, PhD, the Director of the Chen Frontier Lab for Applied Neurotechnology, spoke today at the 1st International Conference on “The Hybrid Mind: Ethics and Regulation of Intelligent Neuroprostheses” hosted by the Clinical Neurotechnology Laboratory at Charité – Universitätsmedizin Berlin.
Intelligent neuroprostheses are a type of medical device that are implanted or attached to the nervous system to help, replace, or modify a range of human sensory, motor, cognitive, and affective functions. These devices are designed to interpret neural signals and respond to the brain or nervous system. They can be used to restore communication and movement in paralyzed individuals, improve sensation in patients with nerve damage, control seizures in epileptic patients, and even modulate mood and emotions in individuals with mental health disorders.
In contrast to conventional neuroprostheses, intelligent neuroprostheses incorporate Artificial Intelligence (AI) and machine learning algorithms to improve the functionality and adaptability of the device over time. With AI, neuroprostheses can learn from the user’s behavior, preferences, and responses, allowing the device to make adjustments that optimize its performance without requiring active input from the user. This capability makes these devices highly promising for improving patient outcomes and quality of life, but it also raises ethical, legal, and regulatory issues that need to be carefully considered and addressed.
In this interdisciplinary conference, the organizers are bringing together researchers, healthcare professionals, policymakers, and other stakeholders to discuss the ethical and legal implications of integrating AI with neural interfaces and identify key ethical and regulatory considerations that need to be addressed in the development and deployment of intelligent neuroprostheses. The event will contribute to the development of a comprehensive ethical and regulatory framework for intelligent neuroprostheses that balances the potential benefits of this technology with the need to ensure patient safety, privacy, and autonomy, and ensure that these devices are developed and used in ways that are ethical, responsible, and beneficial for all.
The Hybrid Minds project is a German-Swiss-Canadian collaboration funded in 2021 through the ERA-Net NEURON program by funding agencies from all three countries. ERA-Net NEURON is a collaboration between 27 research funding organizations and ministries from 23 countries. It funds international consortia involved in basic, clinical and translational research in neuroscience.