Poiesis & Praxis

, Volume 4, Issue 2, pp 81–94 | Cite as

Ethical questions in functional neuroimaging and cognitive enhancement

Focus

Abstract

The new field of neuroethics has recently emerged following unprecedented developments in the neurosciences. Neuroimaging and cognitive enhancement in particular are demanding ethical debate. For example, neuroscientists are able to measure, with increasing accuracy, intimate personal biases and thoughts as they occur in the brain. “Smart drugs” are now available that can effectively and safely enhance mental functioning in both healthy and clinical populations. This article describes the scientific principles behind these technologies, and urges the development of ethical principles based on a clear understanding of them. Europe should take the United States’ lead in devoting resources specifically intended to examine neuroethical concerns within European healthcare and legal frameworks.

Zusammenfassung

Die zahlreichen Entwicklungen in den Neurowissenschaften haben kürzlich zur Entstehung des neuen Feldes der Neuroethik geführt. Vor allem die Möglichkeiten von Neuro-Bildgebung und kognitiver Leistungssteigerung machten eine ethische Debatte erforderlich. So sind Neurowissenschaftler heute in der Lage, mit zunehmender Genauigkeit intime persönliche Neigungen und Gedanken zu messen, sobald sie im Gehirn erscheinen. Zudem gibt es „Smart Drugs”, die mentale Funktionen sowohl in gesunden als auch in klinischen Populationen auf effektive und sichere Weise steigern können. In diesem Beitrag beschreiben wir die wissenschaftlichen Prinzipien hinter diesen Technologien und drängen auf die Entwicklung ethischer Prinzipien auf der Grundlage eines klaren Verständnisses besagter Technologien. Europa sollte dem Beispiel der Vereinigten Staaten folgen und Mittel zur Verfügung stellen, die spezifisch der Untersuchung neuroethischer Belange innerhalb des europäischen Gesundheitswesens und der Gesetzgebung in Europa dienen.

Resume´

Des développements sans précédent dans les sciences neurologiques ont récemment débouché sur l’émergence du nouveau domaine de la neuro-éthique. La neuroimagerie et l’accroissement du rendement cognitif exigent en particulier un débat éthique. Par exemple, les neuroscientifiques sont en mesure aujourd’hui de mesurer avec une précision croissante les inclinaisons et les pensées intimes personnelles dès leur apparition dans le cerveau. Il existe à présent des « smart drugs », des molécules intelligentes, qui permettent de renforcer de manière efficace et sûre les fonctions mentales de populations saines comme cliniques. Le présent article décrit les principes scientifiques qui se cachent derrière ces technologies et considère qu’il est urgent de développer des principes éthiques fondés sur une compréhension claire de ces technologies. L’Europe devrait suivre l’exemple des États-Unis et consacrer des ressources spécialement destinées à étudier les questions de neuro-éthique au sein de la santé publique européenne et de ses cadres législatifs.

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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PsychiatryUniversity of Cambridge, School of Clinical MedicineCambridgeUK

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