Second thoughts on the prevalence of enhancement Response

BioSocieties (Impact Factor: 1.26). 12/2010; 5(4):484-485. DOI: 10.1057/biosoc.2010.32


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    • "Disturbingly, a recent communication analysis found evidence that the media are biased towards positive representations of pharmacological enhancement and an exaggeration of its prevalence (Partridge et al., 2011). In line with this research, anecdotal evidence suggested that scholarly publications by scientific experts themselves underlie this communication pattern (Schleim, 2010). This raises the suspicion that the debate keeps reinforcing itself while lacking strong evidence that the expectations can be met in the near future. "
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    ABSTRACT: Members of the Critical Neuroscience initiative raised the question whether the perceived normative significance of neuroscience is justified by the discipline's actual possibilities. In this paper I show how brain research was assigned the ultimate political, social, and moral authority by some leading researchers who suggested that neuroscientists should change their research priorities, promising solutions to social challenges in order to increase research funds. Discussing the two examples of cognitive enhancement and the neuroscience of (im)moral behavior I argue that there is indeed a gap between promises and expectations on the one hand and knowledge and applications on the other. However it would be premature to generalize this to the neurosciences at large, whose knowledge-producing, innovative, and economic potentials have just recently been confirmed by political and scientific decision-makers with the financial support for the Human Brain Project and the BRAIN Initiative. Finally, I discuss two explanations for the analyzed communication patterns and argue why Critical Neuroscience is necessary, but not sufficient. A more general Critical Science movement is required to improve the scientific incentive system.
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    ABSTRACT: This article reviews current data on the use of cognition enhancers as study aids in the student population. It identifies gaps and uncertainties in the knowledge required to make a balanced assessment of the need for some form of regulation. The review highlights the weak evidence on the prevalence of use of such drugs, especially outside the US, and the ambiguous evidence for their efficacy in a healthy population. Risks are well documented for the commonly used drugs, but poorly appreciated by users. These include not only the side-effects of the drugs themselves, but risks associated with on-line purchase, which offers no guarantees of authenticity and which for some drugs is illegal. The case for urgent action to regulate use is often linked to the belief that new and more effective drugs are likely to appear in the near future. The evidence for this is weak. However, drugs are not the only possible route to neuroenhancement and action is needed to collect more data on the impact of existing drugs, as well as new technologies, in order to guide society in making a proportionate response to the issue. This article is part of a Special Issue entitled 'Cognitive Enhancers'.
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