Yes, a pop culture way to ask a “Brave New World” question. Rahul Parikh poses on Salon:
The film’s “miracle” drug may seem far-fetched, but it’s based in a medical reality: Taking certain medications, specifically those developed to treat psychiatric and neurological disorders, can boost cognitive performance in otherwise healthy people.
Many of us instinctively recoil from such an idea for moral reasons. Sculpting our brains, unlike, say, sculpting our noses, seems like cheating. But consider this: 7 percent of surveyed college students (and some 25 percent of those on elite campuses) have taken an unprescribed Ritalin — or a similar drug used to treat attention deficit disorder — to boost their performance on an exam.
And the phenomenon is not restricted to college students trying to raise their grade point averages: The military has a history of encouraging — and sometimes even ordering — soldiers to take Ritalin or Provigil, a drug that boosts alertness. Canadian researchers are now looking at a drug called metyrapone that may help dull the sting of painful memories. Already common is the number of executives who swallow a little dose of Propranolol — which is normally used to treat high blood pressure but has also been prescribed for performance anxiety for many years — to calm their nerves before they speak. And with so many of us already hustling to Starbucks morning, noon and night for shots of caffeine to keep us going, the question arises: Is there a case to be made for cognitive enhancement?
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