Neuro-Enhancement in the German press

New developments in and critical studies about Neuro-Enhancement were not only discussed by scientists over the last years

Since 2002, almost 80 articles have covered diverse aspects of neuro-enhancement in five major German newspapers and magazines[1]. The size of the articles varied from large dossiers to short comments. Main issues were recaps of new research findings, overviews over development and state of the art of neuro-enhancement and some book reviews. Only a few of them covered devices used as neuro-enhancers and focused on pharmaceuticals. Many of the articles addressed the potential positive and negative effects of the consumption of neuro-enhancers, their unknown long-term consequences and how common neuro-enhancement is in Germany. Besides neutral presentations of study findings without any own interpretation, the articles have - except for a small number - a rather sceptical attitude and plead for precaution. Often addressed is the reason for consuming neuro-enhancers in the first place and the felt need of enhancers to get along in a high performance driven society is perceived rather critically.

German Newspapers

Figure 1: Number of printed articles per year. Source: own elaboration

Figure 1 shows the total amount of published articles per year with peaks in 2008/09 and an increased interest in the topic since March 2015*. The main reasons for articles in 2008 were publications in Nature and in 2009 a memorandum of a group of German scientists in favour of neuro-enhancement and the first report on the use of neuro-enhancers by employees of the Deutsche Arbeiter Krankenkasse (DAK). In 2015* most of the articles were triggered by the second DAK report. 

* The full-text search in the year 2015 was conducted on the 6th August for Die ZEIT, Der Spiegel and Focus respectively on the 20th August for FAZ and SZ.

[1] In detail, these include: The daily newspapers Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (FAZ) and Süddeutsche Zeitung (SZ), the weekly newspaper Die ZEIT and the magazines Der Spiegel and Focus of the time between January 2002 and August 2015*. Not included were articles released on the papers’ and magazines’ websites and in case of FAZ and SZ in their weekly Sunday issues. The key words used in the full-text search were ‘Neuro-Enhancement’, ‘Hirndoping’, ‘geistige Leistungssteigerung’, ‘kognitive Leistungssteigerung’ and ‘brain hacker’.