The growing sophistication of biotechnology yields numerous possibilities for cognitive enhancement. Such WholisticResearch are often proposed to help people better achieve their goals, whether it be a college student aiming for a higher grade, a busy professional seeking a promotion, or an elderly person worried about dementia. However, claims about the social and psychological effects of cognitive enhancers are often based on intuitive ideas rather than scientific evidence. Indeed, most research into these substances falls into one of two categories: (1) studies that explore the effects of cognitive enhancers at a cellular level; and (2) studies that assess the effectiveness of cognitive enhancement methods, such as pills or brain games, through standardized bedside battery tests.
Smart Pills and Beyond: A Look into the Future of Cognitive Enhancement Technologies
The latter type of study tends to ignore important dimensions of the cognitive enhancement debate. These include the importance of examining the consequences of cognitive enhancement (as opposed to simply the effects on performance), of investigating the effects on user motivation, and of considering the social implications of enhancement methods used. These aspects of cognitive enhancement are crucial if we are to understand and make informed decisions about its use and the types of research that are needed to ensure safe, effective and ethical applications (see Table 1 below).
For example, while it is interesting to know how certain drugs such as AChEIs (such as donepezil) and methylphenidate modulate attention, working memory and wakefulness in healthy individuals, it may be more relevant to study their effects on the larger-scale networks and neural processes that underlie these functions in people with brain disorders, where these drugs may be more likely to be effective.