Deep brain stimulation, or DBS, is a treatment given to Parkinson’s patients who don’t respond to medication. A neurosurgeon implants a set ofelectrodes deep into the victim’s brain, where they give off little jolts of electricity to disrupt the involuntary tremors and other symptoms of the disease. But according to Martha Farah, a neuroscientist at the University of Pennsylvania, at least one patient routinely chooses which electrical contact to activate depending on how she wants to feel: calm for every day, more “revved up” for a party.
Devices like DBS and psychoactive drugs like Ritalin and Prozac are already manipulating brain function in millions of people. And future pharmaceuticals, Farah says, targeting very specific parts of the brain, will be even more effective and will have fewer side effects. These new brain-control tools open a Pandora’s box of ethical and philosophical dilemmas, including what kind of society–and what kinds of selves–we want.
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