In DepthNeuroscience

Brain implant trials spur ethical discussions

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Science  10 Nov 2017:
Vol. 358, Issue 6364, pp. 710
DOI: 10.1126/science.358.6364.710

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When a clinical trial of a pharmaceutical fails, participants usually move on by ceasing to take the drug. But it’s not that simple for some people who took part in a trial of a bold, experimental treatment for people with severe depression. The BROADEN trial, which implanted metal electrodes deep in the brain in a region called area 25, failed early on to show a statistically significant effect on depression and was halted after just 90 participants were treated. Yet 44 of those patients want to keep their implants. Last month, researchers at a meeting at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland, discussed the ethical issues that such scenarios raise, such as who is responsible for overseeing—and paying for—long-term care when participants want to keep their implants?