Over the past several decades, neurostimulation techniques such as transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) have gradually gained favour in the public eye. In a new report, published yesterday in the prestigious scientific journal Neuron, IRCM ethics experts raise important questions about the rising tide of tDCS coverage in the media, while regulatory action is lacking and ethical issues need to be addressed.
TDCS is a non-invasive form of neurostimulation, in which constant, low current is delivered directly to areas of the brain using small electrodes. Originally developed to help patients with brain injuries such as strokes, tDCS is now also used to enhance language and mathematical ability, attention span, problem solving, memory, coordination, and even gaming skills. Recently, states the report, tDCS has caused excitement in the lay public and academia as a ''portable, painless, inexpensive and safe'' therapeutic and enhancement device.
"Despite these claims, the effects of tDCS are hard to predict," explains Eric Racine, PhD, Director of the Neuroethics research unit at the IRCM who supervised the research project. "The safety and efficacy of tDCS have only been demonstrated in controlled laboratory settings and, without supervision, the use of tDCS for enhancement might cause serious adverse effects such as temporary respiratory paralysis."
The report shows the amount of publicly-available information on tDCS has increased dramatically in recent years, both in academic literature and print media articles. IRCM researchers analyzed the available information and found a considerable mismatch in tone and focus between academic and print media articles.
While academic articles focused on therapeutic and investigative uses of tDCS, discussions in print media articles mainly concentrated on potential enhancement uses, as well as therapeutic applications. In addition, media discussions have been optimistic, wi
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Institut de recherches cliniques de Montreal