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With the prospect of future conflicts between armies controlling weapons with their minds, the Nuffield Council on Bioethics launched a consultation on Thursday to consider the risks of blurring the lines between humans and machines.
The Council, an independent body which looks at ethical issues raised by new developments in biology and medicine, wants to focus on three main areas of neurotechnologies that change the brain: brain-computer interfaces (BCIs), neurostimulation techniques such as deep brain stimulation (DBS) or transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS), and neural stem cell therapy.
These technologies are already at various stages of development for use in the treatment of medical conditions including Parkinson's disease, depression and stroke, and experts think they could bring significant benefits, especially for patients with severe brain disease or damage.
But they also have huge potential outside the health context. In military applications, BCIs are being used to develop weapons or vehicles controlled remotely by brain signals, and there is big commercial scope in the gaming industry with the development of computer games controlled by people's thoughts.