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Quacks probe brain-boosting tech ethics

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UK doctors have launched an investigation into the ethics of new drug and surgical technologies aimed at improving brain function.

The British Medical Association's ethics committee has produced a paper entitled "Boosting Your Brainpower: Ethical Aspects of Cognitive Enhancements" in a bid to kick off a debate on noggin turbo-charging.

The docs note that many already take omega-3 oils in the belief fish innards have the power to improve cognition. They reckon it'll only be a matter of time before we're sticking magnets to our heads, popping Ritalin-style concentration drugs and even letting sawbones crack open our bonces to give us a "brain lift" by shoving targeted electrical probes into the grey matter.

"It should be remembered that people are willing to endure major surgery to enhance their visual appearance, so they may be willing to do so to improve their cognitive ability as well, if the techniques prove to be effective," the BMA said in a statement.

Chairman of the committee Dr Tony Calland said: "We know that there is likely to be a demand by healthy individuals for this 'treatment'. However, given that no drug or invasive medical procedure is risk-free, is it ethical to make them available to people who are not ill?

"Also, how much brain power is enough? There is a concern that there may be undue pressure, perhaps from employers, to ensure that workers are even more effective and productive*."

Chemical coconut-enhancement is nothing new in the workplace of course. We've been known to be found slumped at our desk twitching by 11am if we don't get our caffeine fix. Soldiers on both sides during World War Two were given amphetamines, and Hitler himself is thought to have been given a daily meth shot by his doctor to perk him up as the Reich crumbled. And they don't call cocaine "Bolivian marching powder" for nothing.

The BMA may tapped into a real modern neurosis, however. Dr Kawashima's Brain Training games for the Nintendo DS, as advertised by noted genius Nicole Kidman, have been a huge hit in the UK.

Top ethics eggheads will discuss the rights and wrongs of a new era of tweaking the braintanglia at a public debate at the Royal Institution in London on November 14. ®

*After extensive employer-forced testing of Dr Artois' brain tonic at Vulture central, considered dangerous by some in the medical professions, we can confirm that it tunes our puny minds to be both wittier and better at darts.

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