Neurocognitive Enhancement: Applications and Ethical Issues

  • Giulia Fronda Department of Psychology, Catholic University of the Sacred Heart, Milan, Italy; Research Unit in Affective and Social Neuroscience, Milan, Italy
  • Davide Crivelli Department of Psychology, Catholic University of the Sacred Heart, Milan, Italy; Research Unit in Affective and Social Neuroscience, Milan, Italy
  • Michela Balconi Department of Psychology, Catholic University of the Sacred Heart, Milan, Italy; Research Unit in Affective and Social Neuroscience, Catholic University of the Sacred Heart, Milan, Italy
Keywords: neuroethics, neurocognitive enhancement, peak performance, wearable devices, sports


In recent years, the interest in neurocognitive empowerment has increased, thus making it a hot topic, especially because of possible ethical implications.  Specifically, the term neurocognitive empowerment refers to the use of different neuroscientific techniques and tools that increase the cognitive functioning of the individual beyond the normal threshold—on the one hand, improving functions such as attention, perception, and memory—and, on the other hand, physical and motor functions.  Neuroethics is peculiarly interested in monitoring and discussing ethical implications and possible consequences or undesirable effects of neurocognitive strengthening techniques.  In particular, the use of different tools for neurocognitive enhancement requires an in-depth analysis of the ethical and legal principles in terms of security and social justice that allow the improvement of mental and physical functions of an individual.  The present work aims at introducing the use of specific techniques—such as neurofeedback devices for the enhancement of attention regulation skill—in specific application contexts; that is, sports in which athletes are continuously subjected to external pressures for performance and constant improvement.  Furthermore, this document explores possible ethical critical issues raised by such use of neurocognitive enhancement techniques.


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