Sunday, December 23, 2007

Brain Boosting Drugs

"Professor's little helper" by Barbara Sahakian & Sharon Morein-Zamir1, Nature 450, 1157-1159 (20 December 2007)
The use of cognitive-enhancing drugs by both ill and healthy individuals raises ethical questions that should not be ignored, argue Barbara Sahakian and Sharon Morein-Zamir......

How would you react if you knew your colleagues — or your students — were taking cognitive enhancers?

In academia, we know that a number of our scientific colleagues in the United States and the United Kingdom already use modafinil to counteract the effects of jetlag, to enhance productivity or mental energy, or to deal with demanding and important intellectual challenges (see Figure 1). Modafinil and other drugs are available online, but their non-prescription and long-term use has not been monitored in healthy individuals.
Comment: I recently posted on genetic variation and the enhancement of aspects of physical performance by artificial means. Now we see a debate on the ethics of enhancement of mental performance by drugs. Again, there is an issue of risks, many of which are uncertain since they are related to long term use of relatively new drugs versus putative benefits. I guess we also have the difference between important and unimportant uses of the drug -- enhancing sports performance versus keeping alert while driving in an emergency situation for examples. But somehow I find intelligence amplification more acceptable than strength amplification, at least for academics and professionals. JAD

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