Staying in the Loop: Relational Agency and Identity in Next-Generation DBS for Psychiatry

Sara Goering, Eran Klein, Darin D. Dougherty, Alik S. Widge

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

73 Scopus citations


In this article, we explore how deep brain stimulation (DBS) devices designed to “close the loop”—to automatically adjust stimulation levels based on computational algorithms—may risk taking the individual agent “out of the loop” of control in areas where (at least apparent) conscious control is a hallmark of our agency. This is of particular concern in the area of psychiatric disorders, where closed-loop DBS is attracting increasing attention as a therapy. Using a relational model of identity and agency, we consider whether DBS designed for psychiatric regulation may require special attention to agency. To do this, we draw on philosophical work on relational identity and agency, connecting it with reports from people using first-generation DBS devices for depression and obsessive-compulsive disorder. We suggest a way to extend a notion of relational agency to encompass neural devices.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)59-70
Number of pages12
JournalAJOB Neuroscience
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 3 2017


  • brain–computer interfaces
  • deep brain stimulation
  • depression
  • mental health
  • neuromodulation
  • personal identity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)


Dive into the research topics of 'Staying in the Loop: Relational Agency and Identity in Next-Generation DBS for Psychiatry'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this