Navigating the enhancement landscape. Ethical issues in research on cognitive enhancers for healthy individuals.

Neuroethics Research Unit, Institut de recherches cliniques de Montréal, Montréal, Québec, Canada.
EMBO Reports (Impact Factor: 7.86). 01/2013; DOI: 10.1038/embor.2012.225
Source: PubMed
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    ABSTRACT: Progress toward pharmacological means for enhancing memory and cognition has been retarded by the widely discussed failure of behavioral studies in animals to predict human outcomes. As a result, a number of groups have targeted cognition-related neurobiological mechanisms in animal models, with the assumption that these basic processes are highly conserved across mammals. Here we survey one such approach that begins with a form of synaptic plasticity intimately related to memory encoding in animals and likely operative in humans. An initial section will describe a detailed hypothesis concerning the signaling and structural events (a "substrate map") that convert learning associated patterns of afferent activity into extremely stable increases in fast, excitatory transmission. We next describe results suggesting that all instances of intellectual impairment so far tested in rodent models involve a common endpoint failure in the substrate map. This will be followed by a clinically plausible proposal for obviating the ultimate defect in these models. We then take up the question of whether it is reasonable to expect, from either general principles or a very limited set of experimental results, that enhancing memory will expand the cognitive capabilities of high functioning brains. The final section makes several suggestions about how to improve translation of behavioral results from animals to humans. Collectively, the material covered here points to the following: (1) enhancement, in the sense of rescue, is not an unrealistic possibility for a broad array of neuropsychiatric disorders; (2) serendipity aside, developing means for improving memory in normals will likely require integration of information about mechanisms with new behavioral testing strategies; (3) a shift in emphasis from synapses to networks is a next, logical step in the evolution of the cognition enhancement field.
    Frontiers in Neuroscience 08/2013; 7:143. DOI:10.3389/fnins.2013.00143
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    ABSTRACT: For ages, we have been looking for ways to enhance our physical and cognitive capacities in order to augment our security. One potential way to enhance our capacities may be to externally stimulate the brain. Methods of non-invasive brain stimulation (NIBS), such as repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS) and transcranial electrical stimulation (tES), have been recently developed to modulate brain activity. Both techniques are relatively safe and can transiently modify motor and cognitive functions outlasting the stimulation period. The purpose of this paper is to review data suggesting that NIBS can enhance motor and cognitive performance in healthy volunteers. We frame these findings in the context of whether they may serve security purposes. Specifically, we review studies reporting that NIBS induces paradoxical facilitation in motor (precision, speed, strength, acceleration endurance, and execution of daily motor task) and cognitive functions (attention, impulsive behavior, risk-taking, working memory, planning, and deceptive capacities). Although transferability and meaningfulness of these NIBS-induced paradoxical facilitations into real-life situations are not clear yet, NIBS may contribute at improving training of motor and cognitive functions relevant for military, civil, and forensic security services. This is an enthusiastic perspective that also calls for fair and open debates on the ethics of using NIBS in healthy individuals to enhance normal functions.
    Frontiers in Human Neuroscience 08/2013; 7:449. DOI:10.3389/fnhum.2013.00449 · 2.90 Impact Factor
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    Frontiers in Human Neuroscience 01/2013; 7:874. DOI:10.3389/fnhum.2013.00874 · 2.90 Impact Factor