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Institute of Biomedical Ethics and History of Medicine (IBME)

New article by Christian Ineichen and Markus Christen published in Frontiers in Integrative Neuroscience: Analyzing 7000 texts on deep brain stimulation: what do they tell us?

The enormous increase in numbers of scientific publications in the last decades requires quantitative methods for obtaining a better understanding of topics and developments in various fields. In this exploratory study, we investigate the emergence, trends and connections of topics within the whole text corpus of the deep brain stimulation (DBS) literature based on more than 7000 papers (title and abstracts) published between 1991 to 2014 using a network approach. Taking the co-occurrence of basic terms that represent important topics within DBS as starting position, we outline the statistics of interconnections between DBS indications, targets, positive and negative effects, as well as methodological, technological and economic issues. This quantitative approach confirms known trends within the literature (e.g., regarding the emergence of psychiatric indications). The data also reflect an increased discussion about complex issues such as personality connected tightly to the ethical context, as well as an apparent focus on depression as important DBS indication, whereas the co-occurrence of terms related to negative effects is low both for the indication as well as the related targets. We also discuss consequences of the analysis from a bioethical perspective, i.e. how such a quantitative analysis could uncover hidden subject matters that have ethical relevance. For example, we find that hardware-related issues in DBS are far more robustly connected to an ethical context compared to impulsivity, concrete side-effects or death/suicide. Our contribution also outlines the methodology of quantitative text analysis that combines statistical approaches with expert knowledge. It thus serves as an example how innovative quantitative tools can be made useful for gaining a better understanding in the field of DBS.