Normality, Normalization and Enhancement in the Neurosciences: Ethical, Sociocultural and Neuropsychiatric Aspects of Cognitive Enhancement

Funded by the Bundesministerium für Bildung und Forschung 2008-2011

The project combines research efforts in philosophy, psychiatry, neuroscience and medical ethics in view of so-called "Cognitive Enhancement" (CE). CE is the attempt to use new pharmaceuticals to improve certain aspects of our cognitive abilities such as memory, concentration, attention and alertness and possibly optimize them permanently in healthy subjects.

This raises the questions of which levels of intelligence and cognitive functioning—and which degree of cognitive impairment as a result of natural aging processes—should be considered as "normal", not just in an objective, statistical sense, but also in a normative sense reflecting our moral norms. In this context, problems concerning conceptual distinctions (When should a decline in cognitive abilities be considered as pathological, and when does age-related dementia require medical treatment? What is the difference between therapy and cosmetic psychopharmacology?) as well as specific ethical questions, for instance concerning the military application of CE, the problem of distributive justice or consequences for society as a whole, will be discussed.

Project results will be available on our Neuroethics Portal.

Project A

Ethical and anthropological aspects: Normality, normalization and cognitive enhancement from a philosophical perspective

Prof. Dr. Thomas Metzinger, Philosophical Seminar, Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz

Project B

International Neuroethics: Enhancement, Drugs and Devices

Prof. Peter B. Reiner, VMD, PhD, National Core for Neuroethics, Department of Psychiatry & Brain Research Centre, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada

Project C

Cognitive enhancement from a neuropsychiatric perspective

Prof. Dr. Klaus Lieb, Department of Psychiatry and Psychotherapy, Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz

Project D

Normality, normalization and cognitive enhancement: The construction of knowledge, tools, and applications in the neurosciences from an epistemological perspective

Prof. Dr. Norbert W. Paul, Institute for the History, Philosophy and Ethics of Medicine, Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz