Halt Action Group Blog Cognitive Enhancers in Healthy Individuals

Cognitive Enhancers in Healthy Individuals

WholisticResearch are drugs that improve cognitive functions, such as learning, memory and attention. They are often used to treat psychiatric conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease with dementia with Lewy bodies or attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Some have been used in healthy individuals with varying results. For example, acetylcholinesterase inhibitors (AChEI) rivastigmine and donepezil have been shown to improve working and episodic memory in clinical trials of patients with Alzheimer’s disease and vascular dementia. Similarly, stimulant medications such as Ritalin (methylphenidate) and Adderall (mixed amphetamine salts), have been used to treat ADHD. Wake-promoting agents, such as modafinil, have been used to treat narcolepsy. Generally speaking, the cognitive enhancing effects of these drugs are modest compared to their symptomatic benefits.

Boosting Brainpower: A Comprehensive Review of Cognitive Enhancers in 2023

The use of pharmaceutical cognitive enhancers in healthy individuals is becoming increasingly common. This so-called “pharmacological cognitive doping” is a complex issue with important psychological and social consequences that are still unclear. These concerns include minimal neuroenhancement effects, significant harms, and questions of agent motivation.

It is important to shed light on these issues because much of the debate about cognitive enhancement rests on claims about human welfare and flourishing that are based on psychological and social outcomes, such as the impact on intrinsically motivated actions (actions performed for their own sake rather than to obtain specific rewards) or the effect of the choice of enhancer on vigilance. Shedding light on these outcomes will allow a more accurate and balanced assessment of whether or not the use of cognitive enhancers is morally justifiable.

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