Smer Comments: Neuroenhancement – cognitive enhancement in healthy individuals

Where is the line between therapy and improvement? Can medical therapies be used to enhance cognitive functions in healthy individuals? What are the risks and ethical aspects?

In the latest document from the series ”Smer comments” the subject of neuroenhancement is discussed, also known as “brain doping”. The phenomenon can be described as pharmaceutical drugs and neurotechnological methods that have been developed to treat medical conditions, but are used by healthy individuals with the objective to improve cognitive functions such as memory and concentration.

Although the research support for the neoroenhancing effects currently is quite fragile, there is a great interest in the phenomenon among scientists and the public. As an example, it may be relatively common among students to take ADHD medications as ”study drugs”, although it is not clear to which extent this occurs in Sweden. Neuroenhancement by the use of techniques such as deep brain stimulation (DBS) and transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) are also discussed in the document.

The subject of neuroenhancement raises several ethical issues concerning justice, human dignity and autonomy, that are discussed and commented by the Council.

The report is only available in Swedish.

The document from the Swedish Council is a comment of an original report from the French Ethics Council (Comité Consultatif National d’Ethique): The Use of Biomedical Techniques for “Neuroenhancement” in Healthy Individuals: Ethical Issues.