“Neuro-enhancement” (or NE) is a research field that focuses on the research for treatments and applications to improve human capacities by acting mainly in the brain. The main purpose of NE, both for healthy individuals and patients, is an increase of cognitive abilities that leads to an improvement (for example, of memory, concentration, ability to calculate, etc.). In general, when the application has a therapeutic purpose, it is referred to as “neuro-rescue”; when the user is focused on healthy people, on the other hand, it is referred to as “neuro-enhancement”.
Technologies included in the concept of NE are diverse: drugs and chemicals, brain implants with surgery, external devices, etc. Moreover, NE technologies found themselves nowadays in different stages of research and development: some already exist but are only applied to treat diseases and their use in healthy individuals is limited to the experimental field (considered is illegal in some cases or lacking a specific legal framework), while other applications are still in a preliminary stage. Any activity that increases the cognitive abilities of the individual –such as reading, calculus, healthy eating, etc. – could theoretically be described as NE. However, the ethical debate around these “ordinary” activities is practically nonexistent. The complexity of the debate changes for the case of therapeutic NE (in treated patients) and nontherapeutic NE (healthy subjects). This kit of DECIDE focuses on the non-therapeutic NE, excluding the therapeutic NE as well as the “ordinary” methods of NE.
The NE on healthy people may have a great potential, but it can also be linked with a legal, ethic and social debate. Some of the reasons suggested for the regulation of this research and innovation field are described below. We would like to know if you agree or disagree with them and hear you share your opinions with your group. We encourage you to propose your own position in case it is not gathered among the four proposals (as proposal 5 in the blank space).