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Transcranial Direct Current Stimulation, Cognitive Enhancement and Public (Mis)understanding
Laura Y. Cabrera

Laura Y. Cabrera

Tuesday, October 4th, 7:30pm
C-106 Holmes Hall
Michigan State University

One of the more intensively discussed human enhancement research areas has been cognition, from "smart drugs" to genetic intervention to brain implants. Some of those interventions remain futuristic, while others already in use have not lived up to their promise of enhancing to a significant degree human traits in healthy individuals. Recently a minimally invasive brain stimulation technique, transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS), has emerged bringing cognitive enhancement potential to a new stage. The technique involves applying a weak direct current to the scalp via two saline-soaked sponge electrodes, and is relatively safe, effective, portable, and inexpensive.

Notably, perspectives of the general public are largely lacking in the ongoing debate of emerging technologies and cognitive enhancement. In this talk I will introduce the relatively new field of neuroethics and use the case of tDCS as a cognitive enhancer to exemplify certain key issues that this new field addresses. I will then discuss relevant insights drawn from a study investigating the attitudes and perceptions of the public regarding the use of tDCS for enhancement purposes.

I make the case that in order to promote a well-grounded debate regarding any future governance of tDCS, we need a better grasp of the public's concerns and hopes regarding such cognitive enhancement technologies.