Brain-Boosting Drugs FAQ: What You Must Know
7 Scientists Assert Brain-Boosting Drugs Are OK: Are They Wrong?
WebMD News Archive
Dec. 11, 2008 - What's wrong with healthy people taking brain-boosting drugs? Nothing, seven leading scientists and ethicists
announced this week.
Polls suggest that as many as one in five scientists already take
brain-boosting drugs -- usually the stimulants Ritalin, Adderall, or Provigil.
And there's nothing wrong with that, suggest the authors of a provocative
editorial in this week's issue of the science journal Nature.
"We call for a presumption that mentally competent adults should be able
to engage in cognitive enhancement using drugs," they write. The editorial
also calls for further research into the risks and benefits of using drugs in
It's a prominent list of authors:
- Henry T. Greely, JD, professor of law at Stanford University; co-director
of the Stanford program in genomics, ethics, and society; and co-director of
the Stanford program in law, science, and technology.
- Barbara Jacquelyn Sahakian, PhD, FMedSci, professor of clinical
neuropsychology at the University of Cambridge School of Clinical Medicine,
- John Harris, DPhil, FmedSci, research director at the University of
Manchester Institute for Science, Ethics and Innovation, and research director
at the university's Center for social Ethics and Policy in England.
- Ronald C. Kessler, PhD, professor of health care policy at Harvard Medical
School and a member of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences.
- Michael Gazzaniga, PhD, professor of psychology and director for the SAGE
Center for the Study of Mind at the University of California Santa
- Martha J. Farah, PhD, professor of natural sciences and director of the
Center for Cognitive Neuroscience at the University of Pennsylvania.
- Philip Campbell, PhD, editor-in-chief of Nature.
Sahakian and Kessler consult for a number of pharmaceutical companies, but
the other authors declare no such ties.
The issue, they say, isn't for drug companies to make money. They suggest
that responsible use of drugs for brain enhancement can be good for society as
well as for individuals.
Controversial? You bet. Here's WebMD's guide to the issues.
What is brain boosting?
Brain boosting -- or, as scientists like to say, cognitive enhancement --
means making your brain work better.
There are lots of ways to do this without taking drugs: by reading, for
example, getting plenty of sleep, or learning something new,
such as a new language.