Just How Cognitive Is "Cognitive Enhancement"? On the Significance of Emotions in University Students' Experiences with Study Drugs

AJOB Neurosci. 2013 Jan;4(1):4-12. doi: 10.1080/21507740.2012.740141. Epub 2013 Feb 7.


Numerous deliberations on the ethics of cognitive enhancement take as their primary case the nonmedical use of prescription stimulant drugs by university students seeking to improve their performance in relation to academic work. Almost without exception, such discussions suggest that these medications enable academic performance enhancement through effects on cognitive processes. This article reports findings from qualitative research with nonmedical users that indicate that stimulants' effects on users' emotions and feelings are an important contributor to users' perceptions of improved academic performance. On the basis of these findings, the article suggests the conceptualization of nonmedical use of stimulants in terms of "cognitive enhancement" may fail to adequately capture the perspectives and experiences of individuals who use stimulant drugs as study aids.

Keywords: cognition; emotion; enhancement; stimulants; students.