Barbara Sahakian (University of Cambridge)

The Neuroethics of Smart Drugs

Begin: Wed, Feb 22, 2012 17:00
Please note that this event has already ended.


Humboldt Graduate School

Luisenstraße 56

10117 Berlin




Cognitive enhancing drugs are needed to treat the cognitive impairments associated with debilitating neuropsychiatric disorders, such as Alzheimer’s disease, schizophrenia and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (Sahakian and Morein-Zamir, 2007; Morein-Zamir and Sahakian, 2011). Such treatments will improve the quality of life and wellbeing for patients and their families and reduce the financial burden on society (Beddington et al, 2008).
Cognitive enhancement is of great interest to the general public and has implications for society, particularly in regard to the increasing use of cognitive enhancing drugs in school age children, and in young adults and academic staff at university (Greely et al, 2008; Maher, 2008; Sahakian & Mohamed, 2010; Sahakian and Morein-Zamir, 2007). Therefore, it is important to consider the potential harms of lifestyle use of these drugs, for example substance abuse, the unknown effects on the developing brain or coercion at school or work. Nevertheless, with the rapidly developing field of pharmacogenomics we may be able to gain maximum benefits with minimum harm to the individual and society as a whole. Certainly, the benefits of safe and effective cognitive enhancing drugs to society, including to specific healthy groups , such as doctors or the the ageing population and to patients with neuropsychiatric disorders and brain injury, may be great (Beddington et al, 2008; The Academy of Medical Sciences Report, 2008; Sugden et al, 2011). It is therefore important to engage the public in discussions of these neuroethical issues (Sahakian and Morein-Zamir, 2009; Morein-Zamir and Sahakian, 2010).



J Beddington et al. (2008). The mental wealth of nations. Nature, 455, 1057-1060.

H Greely et al. (2008). Towards responsible use of cognitive enhancing drugs by the healthy. Nature, 456, 702-705.

B Maher. (2008). Poll results: Look who’s doping. Nature, 452, 674-675.

S Morein-Zamir & BJ Sahakian (2010) Pharmaceutical cognitive enhancement In. The Oxford Handbook of Neuroethics (Eds. J Illes & BJ Sahakian)

S Morein-Zamir & BJ Sahakian. (2011). Neuroethics and public engagement training needed for neuroscientists. Trends Cogn Sci., 14, 49-51.

BJ Sahakian & AD Mohamed. Going mental. Prospect Magazine, May 2010.

BJ Sahakian & S Morein-Zamir. (2007). Professor’s little helper. Nature, 450, 1158-1159.

BJ Sahakian & S Morein-Zamir. (2009). Neuroscientists need neuroethics teaching. Science 325, 147.

The Academy of Medical Sciences Report on Brain Science, Addiction and Drugs, 2008.

C Sugden, C Housden, R Aggarwal, BJ Sahakian & A Darzi (2011) Effect of Pharmacological Enhancement on the Cognitive and Clinical Psychomotor Performance of Sleep-Deprived Doctors. Annals of Surgery doi: 10.1097/SLA.0b013e3182306c99

Additional Information

Key-note Lecture of the Winter School "Ethics and Neuroscience":

Organized by

John-Dylan Haynes

← all talks