Hacking the Brain: Dimensions of Cognitive Enhancement
In an increasingly complex information society, demands for cognitive functioning are growing steadily. In recent years, numerous strategies to augment brain function have been proposed. Evidence for their efficacy (or lack thereof) and side effects has prompted discussions about ethical, societal, and medical implications. In the public debate, cognitive enhancement is often seen as a monolithic phenomenon. On a closer look, however, cognitive enhancement turns out to be a multifaceted concept: There is not one cognitive enhancer that augments brain function per se, but a great variety of interventions that can be clustered into biochemical, physical, and behavioral enhancement strategies. These cognitive enhancers differ in their mode of action, the cognitive domain they target, the time scale they work on, their availability and side effects, and how they differentially affect different groups of subjects. Here we disentangle the dimensions of cognitive enhancement, review prominent examples of cognitive enhancers that differ across these dimensions, and thereby provide a framework for both theoretical discussions and empirical research.