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WIREs Cogn Sci
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Neuroethical issues in pharmacological cognitive enhancement

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Neuroethics is an emerging field that in general deals with the ethics of neuroscience and the neuroscience of ethics. In particular, it is concerned with the ethical issues in the translation of neuroscience to clinical practice and in the public domain. Numerous ethical issues arise when healthy individuals use pharmacological substances known as pharmacological cognitive enhancers (PCEs) for non‐medical purposes in order to boost higher‐order cognitive processes such as memory, attention, and executive functions. However, information regarding their actual use, benefits, and harms to healthy individuals is currently lacking. Neuroethical issues that arise from their use include the unknown side effects that are associated with these drugs, concerns about the modification of authenticity and personhood, and as a result of inequality of access to these drugs, the lack of distributive justice and competitive fairness that they may cause in society. Healthy individuals might be coerced by social institutions that force them to take these drugs to function better. These drugs might enable or hinder healthy individuals to gain better moral and self‐understanding and autonomy. However, how these drugs might achieve this still remains speculative and unknown. Hence, before concrete policy decisions are made, the cognitive effects of these drugs should be determined. The initiation of accurate surveys to determine the actual usage of these drugs by healthy individuals from different sections of the society is proposed. In addition, robust empirical research need to be conducted to delineate not only whether or not these drugs modify complex higher‐order cognitive processes but also how they might alter important human virtues such as empathy, moral reasoning, creativity, and motivation in healthy individuals. WIREs Cogn Sci 2014, 5:533–549. doi: 10.1002/wcs.1306 This article is categorized under: Psychology > Brain Function and Dysfunction Psychology > Memory Neuroscience > Cognition

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Psychology > Memory
Psychology > Brain Function and Dysfunction
Neuroscience > Cognition

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