admin May 7, 2019


Recent developments in neuroscience have enabled technological advances to modulate cognitive functions of the brain. Despite ethical concerns about cognitive enhancement, both individuals and society as a whole can benefit greatly from these technologies, depending on how we regulate their use. To date, regulatory analyses of neuromodulation technologies have focused on a technology itself – for instance, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration regulation of a brain stimulation device – rather than the use of a technology, such as the use of a brain stimulation device at work or school. Given that some forms of cognitive enhancement have already started to penetrate the general public’s everyday life, we should begin our discussion on potential regulatory issues regarding their use in various real-world situations. The goal of the article is to fill the gap by providing an analytic framework to examine these regulatory issues. More specifically, it aims to illustrate the issues around respecting autonomy and preventing coercive use of cognitive enhancement. The proposed framework categories the real-world settings where a neuromodulation technology can be used for cognitive enhancement based on two criteria – who is subjected to cognitive enhancement and who imposes cognitive enhancement. Based on this framework, the article analyzes regulatory issues arising out of every combination of subject/imposing party by taking one example case. Focusing on the regulations in the U.S., this analysis shows the current lack of adequate safeguards against the coercive use and calls for more attention from government agencies and researchers to develop sound policies regarding current and potentially more widespread use of cognitive enhancement.


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