Intelligence and mental processing speeds are dependent on the neural network configuration of an individual. The NeuroAnneal Company has just developed a new technique utilizing a neurochemical process to selectively dissociate components of the neural network, followed by the controlled rebuilding of synapses. This task is accomplished with the assistance of engineered neural and glial cells co-cultured and injected into the patient’s brain. The patient actively solves logic problems while being monitored with fMRI. During this process, the injected cells are selectively activated by optogenetic stimulation to facilitate network reconstruction in an optimized configuration.
Trials have been conducted on patients with remarkable results. The optimized configuration is sufficient to decrease problem solving times by an order of magnitude, while significantly increasing the complexity of problems the patient is capable of solving. Individuals who have undergone the procedure are expected to be top performers, both in the workplace and academia. The procedure is, not surprisingly, prohibitively expensive, and not covered by insurance.
Several months after initial trials, patients continue to display remarkable intellectual capabilities. However, cases of depression, sleep loss, and other behavioral side-affects have been observed in patients. While no specific mechanisms for these side-effects have been identified, application of the procedure in humans is being reexamined.
- Should an individual who has undergone the procedure be required to disclose the modification when seeking jobs or admission to academic programs?
- Academic institutions utilize grades to measure performance with respect to one’s peers. How should an institution handle performance measurement of populations including enhanced students?
- Due to the enormous cost of the procedure, it is currently only accessible to the wealthiest subset of the population. What implications does this have, and should active controls be implemented to minimize adverse social effects due to inequity of treatment access?
- Should a patient be permitted to voluntarily undergo the procedure with full knowledge of the potential for adverse effects on mental well-being?
- Hamilton, R., Messing, S., and Chatterjee, A. “Rethinking the thinking cap: Ethics of neural enhancement using noninvasive brain stimulation.” Neurology 76 (2011): 187-193.
- Bostrom, N., and Sandberg, A. “Cognitive enhancement: Methods, ethics, regulatory challenges.” Science and Engineering Ethics 15 (2009): 311-341.
- Farah, M. J., et al. “Neurocognitive enhancement: what can we do and what should we do?” Nature Reviews Neuroscience 5 (2004): 421-425.
- Strickland, E. “The latest DIY craze: Brain hacking.” IEEE Spectrum, March 14, 2014.
- Module 1: Creating Biological Machines: The BioBot
- Module 2: Hyper-organs and Engineered Biological Functions
- Module 3: Ethical Issues in the Conduct of Multi-institutional, Collaborative, Interdisciplinary Research
- Module 4: Emergent Behavior
- Module 5: The 14-day Rule
- Module 6: Multiple Ethics Concerns in Multicellular Engineered Living Systems