Perspective

Mind control as a guide for the mind

  • Nature Human Behaviour 1, Article number: 0119 (2017)
  • doi:10.1038/s41562-017-0119
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Abstract

The human brain is a complex network that supports mental function. The nascent field of network neuroscience applies tools from mathematics to neuroimaging data in the hope of shedding light on cognitive function. A critical question arising from these empirical studies is how to modulate a human brain network to treat cognitive deficits or enhance mental abilities. While historically a number of tools have been employed to modulate mental states (such as cognitive behavioural therapy and brain stimulation), theoretical frameworks to guide these interventions—and to optimize them for clinical use—are fundamentally lacking. One promising and as yet under-explored approach lies in a subdiscipline of engineering known as network control theory. Here, we posit that network control fundamentally relates to mind control, and that this relationship highlights important areas for future empirical research and opportunities to translate knowledge into practical domains. We clarify the conceptual intersection between neuroanatomy, cognition, and control engineering in the context of network neuroscience. Finally, we discuss the challenges, ethics, and promises of mind control.

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Acknowledgements

The authors thank J. Gold, E. Karuza and R. Betzel for helpful comments and discussion regarding this work. J.D.M. acknowledges support from the Office of the Director at the National Institutes of Health through grant number 1-DP5-OD-021352-01. D.S.B. acknowledges support from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, the Army Research Laboratory and the Army Research Office through contract numbers W911NF-10-2-0022 and W911NF-14-1-0679, the National Institute of Health (2-R01-DC-009209-11, 1R01HD086888-01, R01-MH107235, R01-MH107703, R01MH109520, 1R01NS099348 and R21-M MH-106799), the Office of Naval Research, and the National Science Foundation (BCS-1441502, CAREER PHY-1554488, BCS-1631550, and CNS-1626008). W.S.-A. acknowledges support from the John Templeton Foundation. The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of any of the funding agencies.

Author information

Affiliations

  1. Department of Psychology, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19104, USA.

    • John D. Medaglia
  2. Center for Curiosity, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19104, USA.

    • Perry Zurn
  3. Department of Philosophy, American University, Washington DC 20016, USA.

    • Perry Zurn
  4. Department of Philosophy and Kenan Institute for Ethics, Duke University, Durham, North Carolina 27708, USA.

    • Walter Sinnott-Armstrong
  5. Department of Bioengineering, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19104, USA.

    • Danielle S. Bassett
  6. Department of Electrical and Systems Engineering, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19104, USA.

    • Danielle S. Bassett

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Contributions

J.D.M. wrote the manuscript. P.Z. and W.S.-A. provided feedback and contributed substantially to the conceptualization and editing of ‘The ethics of brain control’. D.S.B. contributed organizational and conceptual input and editing throughout the manuscript.

Competing interests

The authors declare no competing interests.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to John D. Medaglia.