Advertisement

Neuroethics

, Volume 7, Issue 2, pp 189–194 | Cite as

Will There Ever Be a Drug with No or Negligible Side Effects? Evidence from Neuroscience

  • Sylvia TerbeckEmail author
  • Laurence Paul Chesterman
Original Paper

Abstract

Arguments in the neuroenhancement debate are sometimes based upon idealistic scenarios involving the assumption of using a drug that has no or negligible side effects. At least it is often implicitly assumed – as technology and scientific knowledge advances - that there soon will be a drug with no or negligible side effects. We will review evidence from neuroscience, complex network research and evolution theory and demonstrate that - at least in terms of psychopharmacological intervention – on the basis of our understanding of brain function it seems inconceivable that there ever will be a drug that has the desired effect without undesirable side effects. We will illustrate this by reference to enhancing edge detection in V2 in monkeys and demonstrate that even for this localised single neuron coded function there would be numerous side effects. Taking the more realistic case of pharmacological enhancement that is inevitably associated with side effects will change consequentialist arguments for neuroenhancement and have implications for the conception of autonomy, specifically in the case of performance enhancement. We conclude that a neuroethics debate that aims to inform policy decisions should take these findings into account. We hope that our article will precipitate more interdisciplinary research in neuroscience and philosophy.

Keywords

Pharmacological enhancement Neuronal networks Side effects 

References

  1. 1.
    Synofzki, M., and T.E. Schlaepfer. 2008. Stimulating personality: Ethical criteria for deep brain stimulation in psychiatric patients and for enhancement purposes. Biotechnological Journal 3: 1511–1520.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Elliott, C. 1999. A philosophical disease. Bioethics, culture, and identity. New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    Kramer, P. 1993. Listening to Pronzac. New York: Viking.Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    Repantis, D., P. Schlattmann, O. Laisney, and I. Heuser. 2009. Antidepressants for neuroenhancement in healthy individuals: A systematic review. Poiesis & Praxis 6: 139–174.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. 5.
    Kirsch, I., and B.J. Deacon. 2008. Initial severity and antidepressant benefits: A meta-analysis of data submitted to the food and drug administration. Public Library of Science Medicine 5: 26.Google Scholar
  6. 6.
    Savulescu, J., A. Sandberg, and G. Kahane. 2011. Well-being and enhancement. In Enhancing human capacities, ed. J. Savulescu, R. ter Meulen, and G. Kahane. Oxford: Wiley Blackwell.Google Scholar
  7. 7.
    Dees, R.H. 2007. Better brains, better selves? The ethics of neuroenhancement. Kennedy Institute of Ethics Journal 17(4): 371–396.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. 8.
    Berghmans, R., R. ter Meulen, A. Malizia, and R. Vos. 2011. Scientific, ethical, and social issues in mood enhancement. In Enhancing human capacities, ed. J. Savulescu, R. ter Meulen, and G. Kahane. Oxford: Wiley Blackwell.Google Scholar
  9. 9.
    Sahakian, B., and S. Morein-Zamir. 2007. Professor’s little helper. Nature 450(7173): 1157–1159.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. 10.
    Douglas, T. 2011. Moral enhancement. In Enhancing human capacities, ed. J. Savulescu, R. ter Meulen, and G. Kahane. Oxford: Wiley Blackwell.Google Scholar
  11. 11.
    Palfai, T., and H. Jankiewicz. 1997. Drugs and human behaviour. New York: Superstock.Google Scholar
  12. 12.
    Bullmore, E., and O. Sporns. 2009. Complex brain networks: Graph theoretical analysis of structural and functional systems. Nature Reviews Neuroscience 10: 186–198.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. 13.
    da Rocha, A.F., F.T. Rocha, and E. Massad. 2011. The brain as distributed intelligence processing system: An EEG study. PLoS ONE 6(3): e17355. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0017355.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. 14.
    Von der Heydt, R., H. Zhou, and H.S. Friedman. 2000. Representation of stereoscopic edges in monkey visual cortex. Vision Research 40: 1955–1967.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. 15.
    Disney, A.A., K.V. Domakonda, and C. Aoki. 2006. Differential expression of muscarinic acetylcholine receptors across excitatory and inhibitory cells in visual cortical areas V1 and V2 of the macaque monkey. The Journal of Comparative Neurology 499.Google Scholar
  16. 16.
    Spencer, D.G., E. Horvath, and J. Traber. 1986. Direct autodiographic determination of M1 and M2 muscarinic acetylcholine receptor distribution in the rat brain. Brain Research 380: 59–68.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. 17.
    Tang, Y.P., E. Shimizu, G.R. Dube, C. Rampon, G.A. Kerchner, and M. Zhuo. 1999. Genetic enhancement of learning and memory in mice. Nature 401: 63–69.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. 18.
    Cooke, S.F., and T.V.P. Bliss. 2003. The genetic enhancement of memory. Cell and Molecular Life Science 60: 1–5.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of Oxford, Oxford Uehiro Centre for Practical EthicsOxfordUK
  2. 2.School of PsychologyUniversity of BangorNorth WaleUK

Personalised recommendations