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Neurosurgical Patients as Human Research Subjects: Ethical Considerations in Intracranial Electrophysiology Research.

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Intracranial electrical recordings and stimulation of neurosurgical patients have been central to the advancement of human neuroscience. The use of these methods has rapidly expanded over the last decade due to theoretical and technical advances, as well as the growing number of neurosurgical patients undergoing functional procedures for indications such as epilepsy, tumor resection, and movement disorders. These methods pose the potential for ethical conflict, as they involve basic neuroscientific research utilizing invasive procedures in human patients undergoing treatment for neurological illnesses. This review addresses technical aspects, clinical contexts, and issues of ethical concern, utilizing a framework that is informed by, but also departs from, existing bioethical literature on matters in clinical research. We conclude with proposals for improving informed consent processes to address potential problems specific to intracranial electrophysiology research, a general schema for scrutinizing research-related risk associated with different methods, and a call for the development of consensus to ensure continuing scientific progress alongside crucial patient protections in this promising area of human neuroscience.

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