CSNE – Neuroethics Thrust

The Neuroethics Thrust is a part of the Center for Sensorimotor Neural Engineering (CSNE).  The National Science Foundation funded the CSNE as an Engineering Research Center (ERC) in 2011 as a multi-institution center (UW, MIT, SDSU) dedicated to advancing research in neural engineering, particularly on developing bi-directional implantable brain-computer interface devices.  Neuroethics and members of the Department of Philosophy have been a part of the CSNE since its inception.  Sara Goering has led the Neuroethics Thrust within the CSNE since 2012.  Eran Klein, a neurologist and affiliate professor in the Department of Philosophy, joined the CSNE in 2013 to help coordinate educational, research, and ethics engagement activities of the CSNE.  Undergraduate, graduate, and post-doctoral students in the Philosophy Department have been key contributors to the Neuroethics Thrust.


The Neuroethics group studies ethical issues arising from emerging neural engineering technologies. Issues include questions of privacy, security, moral and legal responsibility, changes in our understanding of agency, shifts in personal identity, and social justice. We have a commitment to the inclusion of disability perspectives in the design of devices intended to benefit people with disabilities. Our group does both normative theoretical research and writing, and empirical studies such as focus groups with intended end-users.

Our work is constituted by three principal activities:

Our People

Core Faculty

Sara Goering

Sara Goering, Lead (UW Philosophy, CSNE profile & research)
Sara Goering is Associate Professor of Philosophy at the University of Washington, Seattle, and directs the Neuroethics Thrust in the Center for Sensorimotor Neural Engineering (CSNE). She is also a member of the Program on Values in Society, the Disability Studies Program, and adjunct faculty in the Bioethics & Humanities Department. Her work in the Neuroethics Thrust focuses on issues of agency and identity in relation to neural technology (both DBS and BCI), and emphasizes the importance of engagement with disabled people, who are often the intended end-users of the technology.

Eran KleinEran Klein (UW Philosophy, CSNE profile & research)
Eran Klein is a neurologist at the Portland VA Medical Center and the Oregon Health and Science University, and an affiliate professor in UW Department of Philosophy and core faculty within the Neuroethics Thrust.  His work within the Neuroethics Thrust focuses on issues of informed consent, agency, the patient-clinician relationship, and privacy in deep brain stimulation and brain-computer interface technology.


Judy IllesJudy Illes (UBC, CSNE profile & research)
Judy Illes is Professor of Neurology and Canada Research Chair in Neuroethics at the University of British Columbia, Director of the National Core for Neuroethics at UBC, affiliate appointment in the Department of Computer Science and Engineering at the University of Washington and has been an advisor to the Center for Sensorimotor Neural Engineering (CSNE) since its inception.  Dr. Illes’ research focuses on ethical, legal, social and policy challenges specifically at the intersection of the neurosciences and biomedical ethics. This includes studies in the areas of incidental findings and functional neuroimaging in basic and clinical research, addiction neuroethics, stem cells and regenerative medicine, dementia, neurodevelopmental disorders, and the commercialization of cognitive neuroscience.

Joseph StramondoJoseph Stramondo (SDSU) (CSNE profile)
Joseph Stramondo is an Assistant Professor of Philosophy and Associate Director of the Institute for Ethics and Public Affairs at San Diego State University, as well as core faculty for the Neuroethics Thrust. His research is located at the intersection of bioethics and philosophy of disability, with his current project for the Neuroethics Thrust being a conceptual analysis of the distinction between curative and assistive technology, using BCI as a hard test case.


Scientist Fellow

Frederic Gilbert

Frédéric Gilbert (UW Philosophy / University of Tasmania)
Frederic Gilbert, PhD, is a philosopher conducting research on the ethical issues raised by novel implantable neurotechnologies, in particular experimental use of Brain Computer Interfaces (BCI).  



Post-doctoral Fellow

Laura Specker SullivanLaura Specker Sullivan (UW Philosophy / UBC) (research)
Laura Specker Sullivan, PhD, is a postdoctoral fellow with the neuroethics thrust. Her position is jointly held with the National Core for Neuroethics at the University of British Columbia. She conducts conceptual research on issues in practical ethics relating to the justification and goals of biomedical practices as well as empirical research on stakeholder attitudes and perceptions of emerging technologies such as brain-computer interfaces. Her work often takes a cross-cultural approach, focusing on Japanese and Buddhist perspectives. In addition, she teaches an advanced philosophy seminar on ethical issues in neural engineering. 

Graduate Students

Tim BrownTimothy Brown (UW Philosophy)
Tim Brown is a PhD student in the Department of Philosophy and a Research Assistant in the UW Biorobotics lab under Dr. Howard Chizeck. His research focuses on the experiences of people using deep brain stimulation, brain computer interfaces, and other neural technologies. In particular, his work explores the issues of personal autonomy, identity, and security that can arise as people learn to incorporate neural technologies into their lives.


Michelle PhamMichelle Pham (UW Philosophy)
Michelle Pham is a PhD candidate within the UW Department of Philosophy.  Her dissertation focuses on the different roles of consensus in science, and it's implications in the public sphere. She’s been a CSNE Neuroethics Fellow for two years. Her work within the CSNE has focused on researcher-end user relationships and development of social and ethical guidelines in neural engineering.


Raney FollandRaney Folland (UW Philosophy)
Raney Folland is a PhD student in the Department of Philosophy, and a research fellow at the NSF Center for Sensorimotor Neural Engineering (CSNE) under Drs. Sara Goering and Eran Klein. In collaboration with the UW GRID Lab her research explores the impact of neural technologies on sensory perception and unconscious processing.


Paul TubigPaul Tubig (UW Philosophy)
Paul Tubig is a PhD student in the Department of Philosophy.  His general research is in social philosophy, political philosophy and biomedical ethics - with a special interest in questions of justice related to public health.  As a CSNE fellow, Paul is working to develop tools to facilitate ethics engagement between neural engineers and non-scientists.


Marion BoulicaultMarion Boulicault (MIT)
Marion Boulicault is a PhD student in the Department of Linguistics and Philosophy at MIT. Before coming to MIT, she worked for a number of years in environmental policy and completed a Master's degree in the History and Philosophy of Science at the University of Cambridge. Her research draws on work in feminist theory, disability studies, science and technology studies, and analytic philosophy of science to explore the role of values and perspectives in the creation of scientific knowledge.

Melissa LiuMelissa Liu (UW Anthropology)
Melissa Liu is a Medical Anthropology PhD student with a specialization in Science & Technology Studies. She is an NSF GRFP Fellow for her proposed research on dementia and personhood. She is excited for the transdisciplinary opportunity to expand her knowledge on neuroethics. Melissa plans to research sexuality in relation to disability and techno-ethical issues for the CSNE.


Former members of the Neuroethics Thrust

Alicia Intriago
Matthew Sample

Anjali Truitt

Current and former undergraduate students

Jenan Alsarraf
Sami Ayele
Hannah Earhart
Alex Franke
Sierra Simmerman
Hale Soloff