[Pharmacological neuroenhancement and brain doping : Chances and risks]

Bundesgesundheitsblatt Gesundheitsforschung Gesundheitsschutz. 2010 Aug;53(8):853-9. doi: 10.1007/s00103-010-1105-0.
[Article in German]


Pharmacological neuroenhancement refers to the use of psychoactive substances by healthy subjects with the purpose of cognitive enhancement, e.g., vigilance, concentration, memory, or mood. "Brain doping", however, refers to the illicit use of a subcategory of these substances such as prescription drugs. This subcategory includes psychostimulants (e.g., amphetamines, methylphenidate), modafinil, antidementia drugs (acetylcholine-esterase inhibitors, memantine), and antidepressants (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors) which are being prescribed for the treatment of ADHD (attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder), Alzheimer's disease, and depression. Only psychostimulants and modafinil show significant effects on concentration, attentiveness, and vigilance in healthy subjects. However, a general use by healthy persons can not be justified because of relevant side effects and safety risks. Caffeine for pharmacological neuroenhancement can be seen as an equally effective alternative. "Brain doping" raises numerous ethical and social concerns that require a continued discussion. Demands of liberalization should be critically questioned.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Benzhydryl Compounds / adverse effects
  • Brain / drug effects*
  • Central Nervous System Stimulants / adverse effects
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Germany
  • Humans
  • Mental Processes / drug effects*
  • Modafinil
  • Psychotropic Drugs* / adverse effects
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic
  • Substance-Related Disorders / epidemiology
  • Substance-Related Disorders / psychology*


  • Benzhydryl Compounds
  • Central Nervous System Stimulants
  • Psychotropic Drugs
  • Modafinil