German Federal Ministry of Education and Research will fund new interdisciplinary research group looking at the subject of brain doping

Joint project concerned with the complex transfer and exchange processes between researchers, physicians, journalists, and the general public


The transfer of knowledge on pharmacological neuroenhancement has become the focus of a new interdisciplinary research group at Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz (JGU). Within the joint project "Pharmacological Neuroenhancement – Between Predictable Knowledge Transfer and Unintended Consequences" funded by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research, Professor Klaus Lieb and Dr. Dr. Andreas G. Franke of the Department of Psychiatry and Psychotherapy, Professor Oliver Quiring of the Institute of Media and Communication Studies, and PD Dr. Elisabeth Hildt of the Department of Philosophy will be together exploring the complex transfer and exchange processes that occur between researchers, physicians, journalists, and the general public. Why do certain research findings reach the general population while others do not? Where do users get information about legal and prohibited substances? What role do physicians play when it comes to brain doping? And what influence do the media have? The aim of the Mainz-based academics is to systematically study knowledge transfer for the first time and analyze it in terms of its social impact. The project will run for a period of three years.

The rapid progress in modern neurotechnologies opens new and far-reaching opportunities for physicians to regulate and alter cerebral processes. The question of whether and to what extent drugs originally developed to treat diseases can and should also be used to improve the mental performance of healthy people has become a controversial subject. The so-called 'pharmacological neuroenhancers' have an enormous potential with regard to social impact and the commercial benefits for their manufacturers, but their availability has also generated new ethical, legal, and social concerns, one of the reasons being that the risks and effects associated with the use of these substances by healthy people are completely unknown.

Most of the substances used, such as methylphenidate (Ritalin®), amphetamines, and modafinil, are relatively easy to take and are apparently already being employed within certain social groups. As their clinical efficacy and undesirable effects together with the social and ethical implications are still unclear, communication of the scientific findings is particularly important from a social perspective.