Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Brain enhancement for the mentally competent

I just read the Nature article Towards Responsible Use of Cognitive-Enhancing Drugs by the Healthy. What strikes me as a little strange is that someone who is responsible and clear-thinking would see the need for brain enhancement. It's a little bit like saying I am not sure whether I am able to think clearly. But, to be sure that I am in top form, I need to take a pill. The article assumes that someone who knows he needs brain-enhancement also knows he is responsible. To complete the circular statement one would have to take a cognitive enhancement pill in order to know whether one is responsible. I always thought that those kinds of drugs are given by the doctor because the patient comes for help not knowing what is wrong.

The only other other reason to take drugs like Adderall or Ritalin is to prove to yourself that you need enhancement, kind of like a brain-lift. Up-lift your brain and your memory will perform. Is that really always desirable?

I read in the German paper, the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, something quite revealing about a study of some of these drugs. The article said that they give you a hyper-focused brain. That might mean that you may know your test material well, but you won't be as capable of action outside of that focus, like not being able to find the class-room where you need to go to take the test.

Comparing a good night's sleep or eating the right foods really should not be confused with taking Adderall or Ritalin.

The drug Ritalin was invented in 1944 by Leandro Panizzon who named it after his wife Rita. He then used it to improve his ability to play tennis with her. Do the authors of the Nature article allow Ritalin as an enhancer for playing tennis? Or does that come too close to doping in sports?

Another thing I don't like is that these substances are being pushed before relevant studies have been completed. To give an OK for those drug just on a hunch is not very scientific.


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