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Chess Study Revives Debate Over Cognition-Enhancing Drugs

August 17, 2017

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About a decade ago, reports filled the general and scientific media about the illicit use of such CEs as methylphenidate, a stimulant used to treat attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and modafinil, a wakefulness agent used to treat narcolepsy, sleep apnea, and shift work disorder, by students and others who were taking them to improve performance on examinations or in the workplace. There were stories about the risks and ethics of such behavior, countered by calls from some neuroscientists for a more open mind about the drugs and their positive side. The field of brain augmentation was even given a chic new name, cosmetic neurology.

While media attention has since waned, the underground use of CEs seemingly has not. A 2013 survey found that 19.9% of the 1105 German surgeons who responded admitted to having taken a prescription or illicit drug to enhance cognition at least once. Another study found that 61.8% of undergraduates at the University of Maryland had been offered prescription stimulants for nonmedical purposes, most of them by friends with prescriptions, and 31% had used them.

And the trend “hasn’t peaked yet,” noted Barbara Sahakian, DSc, a professor of clinical neuropsychology at the University of Cambridge who investigates the effectiveness of CEs in treating the cognitive impairment associated with certain psychiatric disorders.

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Image: Von M.R.W.HH in der Wikipedia auf Deutsch – Übertragen aus de.wikipedia nach Commons., Gemeinfrei, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=1918499

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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.