Brain steroids endorsed by medical experts

December 8, 2008 at 6:59 pm Leave a comment

brain steroids“Society must respond to the growing demand for cognitive enhancement. That response must start by rejecting the idea that ‘enhancement’ is a dirty word, argue Henry Greely and colleagues.”

This is the introductory tease of “Towards responsible use of cognitive-enhancing drugs by the health,” a new and provocative opinion piece in the journal Nature.

It’s a fascinating document because it re-frames the debate of chemical enhancement from one rooted in morality to one that is based on issues of health. No longer is fairness the determinant of what could and should be allowed: so long as something is safe, these experts claim, it should be acceptable.

As noted in the Reuters story on this commentary, some medical, science, and health experts advocate the use of cognitive-enhancing drugs because, “much like education, the Internet or other helpful tools … [they provide] a legitimate way of improving brain power.”

“We should welcome new methods of improving our brain function,” Henry Greely of Stanford Law School in California, Barbara Sahakian, a psychiatry professor from the University of Cambridge in Britain and others wrote.

They cited a recent survey that found nearly 7 percent of students in U.S. universities have used prescription stimulants, and on some campuses, as many as a quarter of students have used the drugs for non-therapeutic purposes.

So what would these experts say about the practice and use of doping, steroids, and chemical-enhancement in sports?

Answer:

In the context of sports, pharmacological performance enhancement is indeed cheating. But, of course, it is cheating because it is against the rules. Any good set of rules would need to distinguish today’s allowed cognitive enhancements, from private tutors to double espressos, from the newer methods, if they are to be banned.

Have a thought on the issue? Leave a comment or join the debate at Nature‘s online forum.

Play, think…
J.R. Atwood

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Jason R. Atwood

I'm an avid trail runner and doctoral student at U.C. Berkeley who studies motivation and the relationship between the mind and body. This blog is a forum to share research, news, and musings about these topics of interest. More

Play is the beginning of knowledge.

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