, Volume 14, Issue 1, pp 94–122 | Cite as

Militarising the Mind: Assessing the Weapons of the Ultimate Battlefield

  • Robert C. BrunerEmail author
  • Filippa Lentzos
Original Article


Advancements in behavioural neuroscience have revolutionised the treatment of mental illness by elucidating the mechanisms underpinning human behaviour and cognition. These advancements are not completely benevolent, but have dual-use potential which harkens back to a darker time when states sought to influence and control each other’s citizenry through psychological means. This article puts proposed behaviour-altering neuroscience weapons into their appropriate technical, historical, and geopolitical contexts to present a sober and critical analysis of the threat arising from the weaponisation of behavioural neuroscience. It argues that by using psychiatric drugs, brain stimulation, brain imaging or neurobiochemical weapons, states may be able to leverage neuroscientific advances to influence, control, and manipulate human behaviour and cognition. However, these approaches are extremely nascent and face technical and operational challenges that make their deployment difficult. Despite this, in consideration of the rapid pace of scientific advancement, growing geopolitical instability, and ambiguities in international law, scientists and the international community must remain vigilant as these technologies become more refined and the practical barriers to use begin to lower.


Behavioural neuroscience Pharmaceuticals Dual-use Neuroweapons Biological weapons Biosecurity 


Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

There are no conflicting interests for either author.

Ethical approval

The research contained in this manuscript was not subject to institutional ethical oversight.


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Copyright information

© Macmillan Publishers Ltd., part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.War Studies DepartmentKing’s College LondonLondonUK
  2. 2.Global Health & Social Medicine DepartmentKing’s College LondonLondonUK

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