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For years Brandy Ellis had tried everything to treat depression but nothing worked. Then one day she heard about something called deep brain stimulation, a brain implant that treats some neurological conditions. This technological intervention–that changed her life–also raises ethics questions. Because brain implants have the potential to change our personalities and our performance– where do we draw the line? Are we giving such devices too much control over who we are by using them to alter fundamental human traits like our emotions?

Note: This episode contains references to suicide.  If you or someone you know is struggling with thoughts of suicide, there are resources that can help you. In the US, dial 988 to reach the Suicide & Crisis lifeline for free 24/7 confidential support from a trained listener. Or text SAVE to 741741 to reach a trained helper at the Crisis Text Line.

Show Notes:

In addition to Brandy Ellis, this episode features interviews with: 

Patricio Riva Posse, Associate Professor, Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Emory University School of Medicine

Karen Rommelfanger, Founding Director, Institute of Neuroethics; CEO, Ningen Neuroethics Co-Lab;  Senior Faculty Fellow, Emory University Center for Ethics (previously director of the Neuroethics Program); Adjunct Associate Professor,  Departments of Neurology, Psychiatry & Behavioral Sciences, Emory University School of Medicine.

You can learn more about deep brain stimulation (DBS) here.

To learn more about the ethics issues raised in this episode, visit the Berman Institute’s episode guide.  

The Greenwall Foundation seeks to make bioethics integral to decisions in health care, policy, and research. Learn more at

The Host

Lauren Arora Hutchinson, PhD, MPH

Lauren Arora Hutchinson, host of playing god?, joined the Berman Institute in June 2022 as the inaugural director of the Dracopoulos-Bloomberg iDeas Lab. She was previously a BBC journalist, award-winning audio storyteller,…