Jennifer Chandler earns European Research Area Networks grant to lead an international consortium assessing AI-based neuroprostheses

Posted on Wednesday, January 27, 2021

The Centre for Law, Technology and Society is delighted to announce that CLTS Faculty member Jennifer Chandler will be leading an international consortium funded by a 3-year ERA-NET grant, investigating the ethical-legal implications of AI-based neuroprostheses on the human nervous system through a project entitled, “Hybrid Minds: Experiential, ethical and legal investigation of intelligent neuroprostheses”.

The rapid evolution of AI technologies has had a profound impact on the field of medicine, paving the way for significant advances in technologies that can interface with the human nervous system. However, the emerging use of AI-based neuroprostheses as medical devices raises a number of fundamental questions: Which AI-elements should future neuroprostheses incorporate or leave out? What technical design choices or regulatory measures are required to proceed safely? How can we support patients in clinical decision-making to avoid overblown hopes?

Professor Jennifer Chandler will be leading an international (Canadian, German, and Swiss) research team that has been awarded a major 3-year grant from the European Research Area Networks (ERA-NET) program, worth a total of CAD $1.26 million. The multifaceted research team will be leading a project entitled, “Hybrid Minds: Experiential, ethical and legal investigation of intelligent neuroprostheses” to address intelligent neuroprostheses, which represent the next phase in the evolution of devices integrated with the nervous system in order to assist, replace, or alter human sensory, motor, cognitive, and affective functions. These devices include “read out” or output systems that detect, interpret, and translate neural signals for various applications such as to move a robotic arm or cursor. They also include “write-in” or input systems that deliver signals or stimulation to the brain to alter thinking, emotions, and the ability to move. The technology increasingly incorporates artificial intelligence to create devices characterized by mutual adaptation, in which both the user and a self-learning algorithm change over time to optimize system output. The integration of AI with human brains and minds into hybrid minds is a departure in terms of its complexity, unpredictability, and psychological impact. The project pursues a unified theoretical approach to the ethical-legal assessment of intelligent neuroprostheses, informed by the perspectives of users, the neuroengineering community and other key stakeholders.

Moreover, the consortium benefits from a multidisciplinary and multinational team of collaborators and advisors representing neurosurgery, neuroengineering, rehabilitation engineering, philosophical phenomenology, neuroethics, engineering ethics, and neurological patient policy and advocacy. The project also involves other researchers based at uOttawa: Professor Chandler’s colleagues in the University of Ottawa’s Brain Mind Research Institute, including Dr. Adam Sachs (Director of Neuromodulation and Functional Neurosurgery at the Ottawa Hospital), are key collaborators in this research project.

 

A founding Faculty member of the Centre for Law, Technology and Society, Professor Jennifer Chandler is a Full Professor and the Bertram Loeb Research Chair at the Faculty of Law, Common Law Section at the University of Ottawa.

 

Congratulations to Professor Jennifer Chandler for this important research milestone!

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