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Human Rights Systems of Protection From Neurotechnologies that Alter Brain Activity


The relationship between technology and the law is traditionally known to be complex—especially when it comes to neurotechnology. Neurotechnology is the science and technology that can read and modify the brain, which is the organ responsible for our thoughts, perceptions, agency, and identity. Therefore, it is unquestionable that the regulator faces an unprecedented challenge to mitigate negative impacts of neurotechnology. The rapid development of neurotechnology and the readiness of the market to implement the techniques developed in the medical arena into direct-to-consumer devices calls for a global reflection on the risks that the non-medical use of neurotechnology may pose for human rights. This concern has led to the proliferation of reports and recommendations by regional and international policy-makers on one side and, on the other, to the emergence of uncoordinated domestic legislative proposals. Privacy concerns regarding brain data and their potential to violate human rights, such as the right to freedom of thought, and criminal procedural rights, such as the right to a defense and the right to remain silent, have been examined by scholars from different perspectives. However, the actual risks that direct-to-consumer neurotechnologies that can alter brain activity pose for individuals’ human rights have received less attention. This Article aims to contribute to the existing discussions on whether regional and international systems of human rights protection are fit to tackle the specific challenges posed by the non-medical applications of neurostimulation.