The U.K. publication The Independent has a story out today on the recent debate over cognitive enhancement, with a particular focus on using stimulants like methlyphenidate and modafinil off-label by university students.
The piece fields sound-bytes from cognitive enhancement proponents, such as John Harris, editor of the Journal of Medical Ethics, and Anjan Chattergee from the University of Pennsylvania, one of cognitive enhancements more vocal opponents.
Here’s a couple quotes from the article:
David Green, a student at the University of Harvard, told The Washington Post: “In all honesty, I haven’t written a paper without Ritalin since my junior year in high school.”
Matt, a business finance student at the University of Florida, claimed a similar drug, Adderall, had helped him improve his grades. “It’s a miracle drug,” he told The Boston Globe. “It is unbelievable how my concentration boosts when I use it.”
Some experts have condemned the trend and accused students of gaining an “unfair advantage” by doping, without explaining why it is any more unfair than hiring a private tutor or paying for exam coaching.
What I found additionally interesting was the picture of the big, bright and colourful brain that accompanied the article that, aside from its pure aesthetic appeal, has absolutely nothing to do with cognitive enhancement or really, anything related to the article at all. The presence of brain images accompanying articles summarizing cognitive neuroscience research – whether the brain image was relevant or not – may have an impact on judgements of scientific reasoning.