J Med Ethics 35:469-470 doi:10.1136/jme.2009.030460
  • Controversy

Expectations regarding cognitive enhancement create substantial challenges

  1. E Racine1,
  2. C Forlini2
  1. 1
    Neuroethics Research Unit, Institut de recherches cliniques de Montréal, Department of Medicine and Department of Social and Preventive Medicine, Université de Montréal, and Department of Neurology and Neurosurgery & Biomedical Ethics Unit, McGill University, Montréal, Canada
  2. 2
    Neuroethics Research Unit, Institut de recherches cliniques de Montréal, Montréal, Canada
  1. Eric Racine, Neuroethics Research Unit, IRCM, 110 avenue des Pins Ouest, Montréal QC H2W lR7, Canada; eric.racine{at}
  • Received 25 March 2009
  • Accepted 20 April 2009


A recent discussion on cognitive enhancers has caused some controversy in the ethics and neuroscience fields by coming out in favour of making neuropharmaceuticals with enhancing properties available for general consumption. We highlight in this brief commentary why concerns regarding efficacy and safety, demands on resources, and public health are substantive enough to warrant serious reconsideration before pharmaceutical performance enhancement can be widely supported.


  • Funding: Support for this publication comes from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada, the Canadian Institutes of Health Research and the Fonds de la recherche en santé du Québec.

  • Competing interests: None declared.

  • Provenance and peer review: Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.