Resolution A/HRC/51/L.3 on neurotechnology and human rights



Simply put, neurotechnology is a branch of neuroscience (i.e., the study of the nervous system) that researches and develops special devices directly connected with the nervous system, to monitor or interfere/influence its activity. These devices range from electrodes, computers, to micro-chips, smart prostheses, etc. Examples of neurotechnology applications include brain-computer interfaces, brain scans (EEG, fMRI) and brain-controlled prostheses.


This Resolution - led by Greece, Chile and Singapore - acknowledges that the connecting of the human brain directly to digital networks through special devices and procedures “may be used, among other things, to access, monitor and manipulate the neural system of the person”, violating their right to mental privacy and altering their freedom of thought. Examples from the current practice include invasive devices surgically implanted to sense and record information by measuring electrical activity from the brain and improve people’s functionality (e.g., in patients with mobile disabilities or to treat depression). Brain scans have also already been used by the judiciary to infer active participation in a murder. It is not far-fetched to assume that without proper safeguards, similar devices might be misused to restrict our civic freedoms , e.g., to adopt pre-emptive restrictive measures against potential suspects singled out by the analysis of their brain activity, disproportionate surveillance or even “social scoring” of individuals.


That said, the Resolution is mindful that “the impact, opportunities and challenges of neurotechnology with regard to the promotion, protection and enjoyment of human rights are not fully understood” yet. Therefore, it mandates the Advisory Committee of the Human Rights Council to “prepare a study in an accessible format, including easy-to read version, on the impact, opportunities and challenges of neurotechnology with regard to the promotion and protection of all human rights". In conducting this study, the Committee should also seek the views and inputs from a broad range of stakeholders, including civil society. The study’s findings will be presented to the 57th Session of the Human Rights Council (September-October 2023).