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Behavioural Neurology
Volume 17, Issue 3-4, Pages 149-157

An Ethics Perspective on Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS) and Human Neuromodulation

Judy Illes,1,2 Marisa Gallo,1 and Matthew P. Kirschen1,2,3

1Stanford Center for Biomedical Ethics, Stanford University, CA, USA
2Department of Radiology, Stanford University, CA, USA
3Program in Neuroscience, Stanford University, CA, USA

Received 21 November 2006; Accepted 21 November 2006

Copyright © 2006 Hindawi Publishing Corporation and the authors. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


This paper concerns the ethics of human neuromodulation using transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS). We examine the challenges of modulating the brain with TMS through the research ethics lens and in clinical medicine for treating frank pathology, primarily in psychiatric diseases. We also consider contemporary issues raised in the neuroethics literature about managing unexpected findings, and relate these to TMS and to other frontier neurotechnology that is becoming openly available in the public domain. We argue that safety and informed consent are of paramount importance for TMS, but that personal values and sociocultural factors must also be considered when examining the promise of this technology and applications that ought to be highlighted for extra precautions.