Bioethics Blogs

Bioethics Commission Deliberates Neuroscience-Related Recommendations

Following this morning’s presentations and discussion about the ethical responsibilities of direct-to-consumer neuroscience companies, the Presidential Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues (Bioethics Commission) launched into the next phase of its neuroscience project – deliberating its recommendations for the President.  As part of the Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies (BRAIN) Initiative, President Obama asked the Bioethics Commission to “identify proactively a set of core ethical standards – both to guide neuroscience research and to address some of the ethical dilemmas that may be raised by the application of neuroscience research findings.”

The Commission provided its initial recommendations earlier this year in volume one of its Gray Matters report, in which it stressed the importance of ethics integration early and throughout neuroscience research.  Today’s deliberations will inform the Commission’s recommendations for Gray Matters, volume 2.  Bioethics Commission Chair, Amy Gutmann, Ph.D., said the rest of the day’s discussion would center on three topics: cognitive enhancement, consent capacity in neuroscience research, and law and neuroscience.

The Bioethics Commission addressed the topic of cognitive enhancement in depth during its August 2014 meeting in Washington, D.C.  During this morning’s discussion, Gutmann noted that cognitive enhancement can include the on-label, off-label, and direct-to-consumer use of neuroscience drugs and technologies.   She turned to Commission Member Stephen L. Hauser, M.D. to kick off the session.

“There is nothing inherently wrong with the concept of cognitive enhancement,” Hauser said.  “But … are there limits and, if so, what are they?

He identified three types of products that fall under the category of cognitive enhancement: pharmaceuticals, including stimulants such as Adderall and Ritalin, off-label use of drugs that work on multiple neural transmitter systems, and other drugs that work to enhance memory; electrical adjuncts that stimulate or modulate the brain; and learning tools enhanced by neuroscience such as video games.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.