Topic of the Research Week

Since several years, the topic “Neuro-Enhancement” gains relevance in academia, practice, and the public. Neuro-enhancement is the use of prescription medication and neurotechnologies by healthy persons to augment normal cognitive or affective function. While autonomous adults might be free to choose to use neuro-enhancement, pediatric neuro-enhancement presents its own ethical, social, legal, and developmental issues. Prescription medications with the greatest potential for neuro-enhancement use are those with anxiolytic and stimulant properties. In children and adolescents, neuro-enhancement appears to be increasing in parallel to the rising rates of attention-deficit disorder diagnoses and stimulant medication prescriptions, and the opportunities for medication diversion (McCabe et al. 2011, Sharpe 2014, Graf et al. 2014). The relation between these factors are unclear and require interdisciplinary efforts. A comparison of national positions – on prevalence, the framing in medical discourses, and the ethical, social, and legal questions – is necessary to understand and discuss international similarities and differences. The key questions for the interdisciplinary research week are:

1) What is pediatric neuro-enhancement? What are the ethical challenges?

2) Relation between ADHS diagnoses and enhancement? (National differences in the diagnoses; motivations, prevalence, and efficacy)

3) Children as small adults? (Autonomy in development; role for physicians and parents)

4) Intuitions and arguments for and against pediatric neuro-enhancement? (Manipulation versus support; nature and normality in normative arguments)

5) What are the societal consequences? (Questions of public health; impact of understanding of childhood and adolescence; responsibilities of different stakeholders)

6) Options for politics, teacher, physicians? (Including considerations for guidelines)