Using brain-computer interfaces: a scoping review of studies employing social research methods

BMC Medical Ethics 20 (1):18 (2019)
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Abstract

The rapid expansion of research on Brain-Computer Interfaces is not only due to the promising solutions offered for persons with physical impairments. There is also a heightened need for understanding BCIs due to the challenges regarding ethics presented by new technology, especially in its impact on the relationship between man and machine. Here we endeavor to present a scoping review of current studies in the field to gain insight into the complexity of BCI use. By examining studies related to BCIs that employ social research methods, we seek to demonstrate the multitude of approaches and concerns from various angles in considering the social and human impact of BCI technology. For this scoping review of research on BCIs’ social and ethical implications, we systematically analyzed six databases, encompassing the fields of medicine, psychology, and the social sciences, in order to identify empirical studies on BCIs. The search yielded 73 publications that employ quantitative, qualitative, or mixed methods. Of the 73 publications, 71 studies address the user perspective. Some studies extend to consideration of other BCI stakeholders such as medical technology experts, caregivers, or health care professionals. The majority of the studies employ quantitative methods. Recurring themes across the studies examined were general user opinion towards BCI, central technical or social issues reported, requests/demands made by users of the technology, the potential/future of BCIs, and ethical aspects of BCIs. Our findings indicate that while technical aspects of BCIs such as usability or feasibility are being studied extensively, comparatively little in-depth research has been done on the self-image and self-experience of the BCI user. In general there is also a lack of focus or examination of the caregiver’s perspective.

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