“Motivational effects of pharmacological ‘cognitive enhancers’: What implications for the ethical debate?”

Le réseau neuroéthique de Montréal
The Montréal Neuroethics Network


Alexandre Erler, D.Phil.,
Centre de recherche en éthique (CRÉ)
Université du Montréal, Canada
Thursday, January 15th, 12:00pm – 1:00pm
Jeudi le 15 janvier, 12:00 – 13:00 h


The scientific literature on stimulant drugs like Adderall or Ritalin, as used by students and other groups of people for purposes of « cognitive enhancement », has recently taken a new turn. Experts are now increasingly sceptical about the status of those substances as « smart drugs », suggesting instead that their benefit to healthy users might largely be motivational : as some put it, they make « boring » work seem more interesting, thereby supposedly boosting productivity. To what extent does this development affect the ethical debate about the use of those drugs? I will suggest that while the relevance of some familiar issues, such as safety or justice, remains largely untouched, re-thinking cognitive enhancement in this way also introduces new (in this context) ethical issues that had so far remained confined to a different enhancement domain, namely the “cosmetic” use of antidepressants like Prozac. The most important of these issues has to do with the impact of motivational enhancers on what we might call our affective rationality, and the related questions of oppression and « soft » coercion. Finally, I will consider which future avenues of empirical research could help us assess the validity of the aforementioned ethical concerns.

Room/Salle André-Barbeau, Institut de recherches cliniques de Montréal (IRCM)
110 Avenue des Pins Ouest
Pease see attached poster for details.
Veuillez consulter les affiches ci-jointes pour de plus amples renseignements.
All are welcome but please note that there are limited spaces. Please RSVP by January 14th  at

Tous sont les bienvenus mais veuillez noter qu’il y a un nombre de places limité. SVP réservez d’ici le 14 janvier auprès afin de vous inscrire.

The Montreal Neuroethics Network promotes neuroethics training, education and dialogue by exposing various audiences to neuroethics issues; fostering collaboration and mutual learning; and ensure Montreal’s leadership in addressing ethical and social issues in neuroscience and healthcare delivery through inter-institutional collaborations.
For additional information, please contact Dr. Eric Racine at: Neuroethics Research Unit
Institut de recherches cliniques de Montréal
Tel: +1 514 987-5723

Le Réseau neuroéthique de Montréal promeut la formation, l’éducation et le dialogue neuroéthiques en exposant divers publics aux enjeux neuroéthiques; en facilitant les collaborations et les apprentissages mutuels afin de développer le leadership à Montréal pour aborder les questions éthiques et sociales associées aux neurosciences et aux soins de santé dans un contexte de collaboration interinstitutionnelle.

Pour de plus amples renseignements, veuillez communiquer avec Éric Racine
Unité de recherche en neuroéthique
Institut de recherches cliniques de Montréal
Tél. : +1 514 987-5723
Courriel :