“Where is Neuro-Enhancement leading us to?” the first Italian Mobilization and Mutual Learning activity

A Science Café was the first MML organized in Italy. The event was the opportunity to discuss the issue of Neuro-Enhancement with the neuroethicists Elisabetta Sirgiovanni and the neurologist Simone Rossi.

Trieste, a small city close to the border to Slovenia, was chosen to be the setting of the first Italian Mobilization and Mutual Learning activity. A group of around 60 people had the chance to meet Elisabetta Sirgiovanni, neuroethics researcher (Consiglio Nazionale delle Ricerche), and Simone Rossi, a neurologist and expert in brain stimulation (Policlinico Le Scotte).

The Science Café organized by the International School for Advanced Studies was held inside the historical “Café San Marco” during the Brain Awareness Week. Elisabetta Sirgiovanni and Simone Rossi tried to give an overview of the current neuro-enhancement technologies. The researchers focused not only on the so-called smart drugs, but as well on the use of brain stimulation to improve cognitive abilities. These introductive interventions were the basis for the following debate. The public, formed by students, old and just curious people, was particularly interested in the ethical problems related to the use of neuro-enhancement technologies as coercive tools. Indeed, the people from Trieste have a clear memory of the use of electroconvulsive therapy to treat mental disorders even if the patients did not agree. The inhabitants of Trieste are aware of the fuzzy difference between pathology and normality. Trieste is the city where Franco Basaglia worked and understood that the psychiatric hospitals needed to be dismantled, so it was understandable that the issue of free choice could engage the public of the event.

On the other hand the people, especially the old ones, wanted to know more about the opportunities given by neuro-enhancement in the improvement of memory: will it be possible to remember more and better even if time is going by?

The people who attended the Science Café in Trieste were interested in both the opportunities and risks related to neuro-enhancement and asked for more events related to the topic in order to be able to make their mind clearer. In their opinion the chance of having a better knowledge of the issue could help the Italians to make aware choices regarding the neuro-enhancement regulation. 

Picture credits: Valentina Daelli