Although the term “neuro-enhancement” may be new and unfamiliar, humans since time immemorial have been trying to improve their mental and physical abilities through learning, nutrition, and different drugs or chemicals. For example, acquiring several languages at a young age, playing a musical instrument, and being exposed to a rich and stimulating environment are known to have highly beneficial effects on cognitive performance, and perhaps even that morning cup of coffee can be thought of as giving a boost to brain power.
However, in addition to such widely used enhancements, innovative medical technologies are currently being developed to help those afflicted by various illnesses, such as Alzheimer's Disease, that lead to impaired cognitive functioning. Such technologies may turn out to provide benefits to healthy people as well, which raises a whole series of complex questions about who should be able access such technologies and under which conditions. The issues are many, and challenging, ranging from expert topics around risk-benefit analyses, to broader concerns about social justice, and the limits of intervening into seemingly natural processes.
Neuro-enhancement is therefore an issue involving almost all segments of society, from infants to the elderly: students, teachers, parents, doctors, politicians, scientists, and so on. NERRI's aim is to bring all these groups together and discuss the challenging topics raised by neuro-enhancement. We're just about to move into full swing and had spent the most recent consortium meeting in Barcelona in November to plan our activities for 2014. This gathering also provided an excellent opportunity to interview NERRI Project members about neuro-enhancement and what our work is trying to accomplish.
You can check out Agni Kortsidaki, Dr. Ana Noronha, Professor Alexandre Quintanilha, Professor Hub Zwart, and Prof. George Gaskell address these and many other interesting issues in an introductory video about NERRI.
Image credits: Gonçalo Praça
Video credits: Imre Bard