#ThinkingThursday #1: Fundamentals of Neuroscience and Neuroenhancement

I was supposed to start my first neuroscience class today, associated with EdX; however, the website that's hosting the class isn't ready yet! Funny, as the course is offered by Harvard, but I suppose I can be patient. I'm really looking forward to finally thoroughly understanding how neurons work throughout the body and especially in the central nervous system. I anticipate that the knowledge gained in this course will make me more eager to read the scientific papers published on neuroscience.

So leaving my own studies behind, I wanted to reflect on a recent article a friend tweeted: advances in neurological helps and neuroenhancement. I wrote in an earlier blog about a woman who used neurotransmitters attached to her tongue to re-regulate her brain. Well, that is one definition of neuroenhancement. Basically, neuroscientists have developed ways to help those with neurological disorders. Great, right? Well, it's only great in so far as the neuroenhancement is only used for neurological disorders. I can see how neuroenhancement could take a further step and be used for anyone who wants to improve his brain function and become a super human. Yes, I'm referring to a slippery slope argument, but it can happen.

The article in question cites that there are 700,000 neuro-stimulation devices used worldwide. Similar to the woman who was helped with the tongue device, these neuro-stimulators have helped with pain management, and tremors. Further research hopes to see these neuro-transmitters aid with hearing and Parkinson's disease. It all sounds wonderful, but I hope that the neuroenhancement will stop with healing brain damage or injury.

This article reminds me of Dr. Julian Bashir (portrayed by Alexander Siddig) from Star TrekDeepSpace Nine. For those of you who never watched the show, Dr. Bashir's parents sent their son for genetic engineering because he experienced some developmental delays. As a result of this neuroenhancement, he became highly intelligent and skilled. As a doctor, his skills were extremely valuable; however, he nearly lost his credentials when the federation discovered he had been genetically enhanced.

We've already seen many of these futuristic star trek issues become reality. Now that neuro-stimulators are a reality, will opportunities available to the fictional Dr. Bashir become immediate, even if they're illegal?
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