Episode 7: An Off Switch for Depression?

For years Brandy Ellis had tried everything to treat depression but nothing worked. Then one day she heard about something called deep brain stimulation (DBS), a brain implant that treats some neurological conditions. This technological intervention–that changed her life–also raises ethics questions. Because brain implants have the potential to change our personalities and our performance– where do we draw the line? Are we giving such devices too much control over who we are by using them to alter fundamental human traits like our emotions?

Note: This episode contains references to suicide.  If you or someone you know is struggling with thoughts of suicide, there are resources that can help you. In the US, dial 988 to reach the Suicide & Crisis lifeline for free 24/7 confidential support from a trained listener. Or text SAVE to 741741 to reach a trained helper at the Crisis Text Line.


Brandy Ellis

Brandy Ellis is a fervent advocate for neuromodulation and mental health. Her journey as a patient-participant in neural device clinical trials gained international attention, featured in BBC interviews, podcasts, articles, and prestigious presentations. In 2011, Brandy enrolled in a Deep Brain Stimulation (DBS) trial for treatment-resistant depression, initiating her transformation towards remission. Brandy’s advocacy for those navigating neuromodulation and mental health reflects her genuine desire to positively impact others’ lives.

Twitter:  @BrandyInFL

Patricio Riva Posse

Associate Professor, Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences
Emory University School of Medicine

Karen Rommelfanger

Founding Director, Institute of Neuroethics
CEO, Ningen Neuroethics Co-Lab
Senior Faculty Fellow
Emory University Center for Ethics (previously director of the Neuroethics Program)
Adjunct Associate Professor
Departments of Neurology, Psychiatry & Behavioral Sciences, Emory University School of Medicine.

Additional Resources

You can learn more about deep brain stimulation (DBS) here.

The Greenwall Foundation seeks to make bioethics integral to decisions in health care, policy, and research. Learn more at greenwall.org.

Continue the Conversation

We want to hear your thoughts about this episode. Please share them using the form below and your comments could be posted on this page and made accessible to other listeners.