Retrospectacle: A Neuroscience Blog

I think I might have been quoted in today’s Chronicle of Higher Education journal, except I can’t find out since it requires a subscription (which U of M doesn’t have.) Well humbug.

From what I could tell from the title, the article is about drugs which enhance cognition, which I discussed 2 weeks back when Nature released a commentary on the topic. Will somebody let me know what I supposedly said?

Comments

  1. #1 Maria
    January 7, 2008

    we even have a subscription and I couldn’t get it yet… supposedly there’s a day delay (at least). sounds cool though.

  2. #2 kevin
    January 7, 2008

    Hi Shelley,
    We do have a subscription, but it has a delay of 30 days. Go to lib.umich.edu then search e-journals for chronicle of higher education, and you’ll find it. We just need a wait a little longer to hear your snappy thought-darts…Let us know when it emerges.

  3. #3 Joe
    January 7, 2008

    Here’s what they said you said:

    People have been engaging in “cognitive doping” for ages. Today the legal drug of choice for cognitive enhancement is caffeine, although nicotine may also have the effect of focusing people. Both of these drugs have side effects which are dose- and delivery-dependent and are quite addictive. However their demand and daily use are staggering. There is a booming industry in herbal enhancers like St. John’s wort or ginseng, which have evidence to back up some of their claims, although side effects and drug interactions are still an issue. And it is difficult to argue that taking a cognitive enhancer is cheating in the academic sense, since a pill will never inform you as to the correct answer on a multiple-choice test or give you the answer to any essay question. It will only improve the focus and grasp on information which you already know.

    Other Sbers quoted are PZ Myers and Janet Stemwedel

  4. #4 Shelley Batts
    January 7, 2008

    Thank you Joe! They quoted me correctly. Hopefully I can get access soon so I can see if the article said anything interesting about the topic.

  5. #5 Richard
    January 8, 2008

    Pill-Popping Profs

    By KAREN J. WINKLER

    In a commentary in Nature just before the holidays, two University of Cambridge scholars reported on an informal survey they had conducted with colleagues in various disciplines. The question: Do you use drugs to improve your mind? The answer: A number of respondents took pills like Provigil, also known as modafinil and approved in the United States for sleep disorders, to enhance cognitive functioning. Since then Barbara Sahakian, a neuropsychologist, and Sharon Morein-Zamir, a neurocognitive scientist, have set up an ongoing discussion on the Nature Web site to explore the ethical implications of their findings. In the news media and the blogosphere, pundits and academics have been weighing in. Are pill-popping professors doing more than the equivalent of hefting a few extra cups of coffee? Are they risking as-yet-unknown effects from the drugs? Maybe they’re just a bit too caught up in academe’s culture of competition? Should such drug use be regulated, particularly when new drugs that influence the brain are being so rapidly developed?

    Barbara Sahakian and Sharon Morein-Zamir, University of Cambridge: We believe it would be difficult to stop the spread in use of cognitive enhancers given a global market in pharmaceuticals with increasingly easy online access. The drive for self-enhancement of cognition is likely to be as strong if not stronger than in the realms of “enhancement” of beauty and sexual function.

    Some agreement and regulation on supervised use requires urgent attention. (Nature)

    Shelley Batts, Ph.D. candidate, University of Michigan: People have been engaging in “cognitive doping” for ages. Today the legal drug of choice for cognitive enhancement is caffeine, although nicotine may also have the effect of focusing people. Both of these drugs have side effects which are dose- and delivery-dependent and are quite addictive. However their demand and daily use are staggering. There is a booming industry in herbal enhancers like St. John’s wort or ginseng, which have evidence to back up some of their claims, although side effects and drug interactions are still an issue. And it is difficult to argue that taking a cognitive enhancer is cheating in the academic sense, since a pill will never inform you as to the correct answer on a multiple-choice test or give you the answer to any essay question. It will only improve the focus and grasp on information which you already know. (Retrospectacle)

    P.Z. Myers, University of Minnesota at Morris: This is an issue that requires weighing costs and benefits, and telling me there is no cost simplifies it too much. For instance, caffeine has costs, but they’re low enough that my choice is to drink in moderation, but not to give it up altogether. (Pharyngula)

    Editors, British Psychological Society Research Digest: There have been several signs over the last few years of a powerful sense among the scientific and medical community that progress is racing so fast in psychology and the neurosciences that the public urgently needs to be kept up-to-date and intimately involved in the decisions that will surely shape all our futures.

    Two years ago, the UK Government’s Foresight programme published a report, “Drug Futures 2025,” that claimed, “We are on the verge of a revolution in the specificity and function of the psychoactive substances available to us.” We should take action now, the report said. (BPS Research Digest blog)

    Mark Henderson, science of health editor: The idea of cognitive enhancement makes people uneasy. Some critics liken it to the use of drugs in sport and consider it a form of academic cheating. Most of these drugs are fairly new, and there’s only limited evidence that long-term use is safe.

    Another common objection is that “brain doping” amounts to buying intelligence, and could widen the gap between haves and have-nots. The better-off already have academic advantages, and the benefits of cognitive enhancement could be limited to those who can afford them. The left-leaning think tank Demos has suggested that universities back a ban with testing, to secure equal-opportunity brain chemistry.

    Neither argument, however, is entirely convincing. Chemical stimulation has long been a part of higher education: The difference between modafinil and espresso is one of degree. (The Times)

    Andrew Sullivan, columnist: I haven’t had a cow about the baseball steroids “scandal” because the only issue to me is whether some athletes have cheated by getting an unfair advantage over others. I don’t actually believe the use of steroids in sports is inherently problematic as long as everyone gets a fair crack at the needle. … The line between medical and cosmetic or lifestyle usage seems to me to be rather blurry and will get blurrier as science advances. So if a prof wants to do a little Provigil, it’s no worry for me. Why should it be a worry for anyone but the prof himself? (The Daily Dish, TheAtlantic.com)

    Janet D. Stemwedel, San Jose State University: If people make use of cognitive enhancers, are they significantly advantaged over their peers who do not? Is this the kind of thing that could screw up the curve in courses, make winning tenure easier for the chemically enhanced and harder for those working without the enhancers, and skew awards of grants toward the folks with the magic pills?

    Even if cognitive enhancers had the potential to shift the standings in the competitions between students and between scholars to a dramatic degree, should we say that there’s a problem with the use of these drugs or instead with the way the system is set up? (Adventures in Ethics and Science)

  6. #6 KeithS
    January 8, 2008

    I find it discouraging that so many people seem to consider the pursuit of knowledge to be an inherently competitive thing. How can intellectual progress be compared with athletic sport?

  7. #7 BikeMonkey
    January 10, 2008

    by the by, the good Herr Professor Doktor Sahakian (aka, Trevor Robbins) is drumming up submissions for an upcoming issue of Psychopharmacology on…..cognitive enhancers.