What is neurohacking? Defining the conceptual, ethical and legal boundaries

Marcello Ienca, James Scheibner

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


The word “neurohacking” has been increasingly used in the popular and scientific literature to denominate a variety of activities related to the development, use and misuse of neurotechnology. Given the qualitative heterogeneity of these activities, it is questionable that the notion of neurohacking is being used in a semantically unambiguous manner, hence suitable for scientific investigation. This contribution will attempt to cast light on the notion of neurohacking by conducting a scoping review of the relevant literature and subsequent conceptual analysis. The purpose of this analysis is to create a taxonomy of neurohacking-labeled activities. Furthermore, it will discuss the opportunities and limitations of using this notion in neuroscience and neuroengineering. Finally, it will posit that the neurohacking spectrum encompasses activities with very different degrees of ethical permissibility. Accordingly, a semantic disambiguation is necessary not only to advance neuroscience and neurotechnology but also and foremost for the benefit of neuroethics and technology governance. A further normative ethical and legal analysis is provided to illustrate this point.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationEthical Dimensions of Commercial and DIY Neurotechnologies
EditorsImre Bárd, Elisabeth Hildt
PublisherAcademic Press
Number of pages29
ISBN (Electronic)9780128161821
ISBN (Print)9780128161814
Publication statusPublished - 2020
Externally publishedYes

Publication series

NameDevelopments in Neuroethics and Bioethics
PublisherAcademic Press/Elsevier
ISSN (Print)2589-2959


  • Neurohacking
  • Cognitive enhancement
  • Cybercrime
  • Open development
  • DIY Neurotechnology
  • Regulation


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