Neuromodulation, free will and determinism: Lessons from the psychosurgery debate Academic Article uri icon


MeSH Major

  • Altruism
  • Beneficence
  • Ethical Theory
  • Ethics
  • Ethics, Clinical
  • Ethics, Medical
  • Principle-Based Ethics


  • In this article I will explore societal reluctance towards neuromodulation by considering the earlier debate over psychosurgery. To that end, I will review the history of electrical stimulation of the brain and how early efforts coalesced into current day neurmodulation in both the clinical and research contexts. With this background, I will argue that the psychosurgery debate, though reflective of the societal turmoil of the 1960's and 70's, was also implicitly a discussion about the explanatory power of biological models to explain human consciousness and emotion and ultimately philosophical questions about free will and determinism. Deconstructing these lessons from the psychosurgery debate can help us better acknowledge advances in the neurosciences while avoiding both sweeping biological reductionism and over-reaching determinism. © 2004 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.

publication date

  • July 2004



  • Academic Article


Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

  • 10.1016/j.cnr.2004.06.011

Additional Document Info

start page

  • 113

end page

  • 118


  • 4


  • 1-2