Cognitive enhancement is a growing trend, and experts believe that long-term ethical and safety concerns of the practice need to be discussed. Cognitive enhancement is the use of drugs (like the ADHD drug, Ritalin) to boost memory and concentration–a practice gaining popularity among students and workers to increase performance in exams and at work. Experts also predict that drugs and medical procedures to improve intellectual performance are likely to increase significantly over the next 20 to 30 years.
Well, I guess human folly never ends. As I report in my upcoming book, The Six Keys to Optimal Health, Ritalin is one of the most commonly stolen drugs in the U.S. And who’s stealing it? Kids!–out of medicine cabinets and from school nurses. This just in: New Study Suggests Pediatric Ritalin Use May Affect Developing Brain (read it here).
Another brain-boosting drugs that has become popular is modafinil, the active ingredient in the narcolepsy medication Provigil (Dr. Nick Show, Episode 3). Oh, and check this out: Some other users of these drugs–medical students and exhausted medical residents on 36-hour shifts. Woohoo! Save me McDreamy, save me!
Cognitive enhancement is likely to become more mainstream. According to Dr. Tony Calland, chairman of the British Medical Association’s Ethics Committee, “We know that there is likely to be a demand by healthy individuals for this treatment.” Heaven forbid that mental excellence should be achieved through study and hard work alone.
What do you mean, Campos? It’s sort of like steroids for the brain.
Exactly. And when has artificial enhancement come without risk? As Dr. Calland says, “Given that no drug or invasive medical procedure is risk free, is it ethical to make them available to people who are not ill?”
Sure. Why not? How can it hurt?
Well, consider this: The human brain is an intricate and complex organ that operates through the precise synchronization of nerves and hormones. Why on earth would you want to tamper with that? Seriously, why? When are we going to learn that this is one frontier man can’t conquer. Not yet, anyhow. There is so much about the brain we don’t know yet. Why screw with it?
According to proponents, scientists in the future “may be able to provide more permanent fixes for bad memory or poor concentration through brain stimulation and neurotechnology.” They would do it through transcranial magnetic stimulation–sometimes referred to as “botox for the brain”–where magnetic pulses are used to stimulate particular brain regions, and deep brain stimulation, where electrodes are inserted into the brain to transmit tiny electrical currents. Ouch! I can see the late-night advertisements now: “Get a cortical six-pack while watching T.V. No work or heavy thinking necessary.”
According to experts, “over-enhancement” of the brain’s cognitive functions could have damaging side-effects. “It may, for instance, impair a normal brain’s ability to selectively filter out trivial or traumatic information, resulting in the individual being plagued by unwanted or traumatic memories.” Great, just what we need, more tortured maniacs in the world. Sigh…let’s just wait and see where this one leads.