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Cognitive enhancement for the ageing world: opportunities and challenges

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  16 July 2018

Marcello Ienca*
Department of Health Sciences and Technology, ETH Zurich, Switzerland Institute for Biomedical Ethics, Faculty of Medicine, University of Basel, Switzerland
David Martin Shaw
Institute for Biomedical Ethics, Faculty of Medicine, University of Basel, Switzerland Care and Public Health Research Institute, Maastricht University, The Netherlands
Bernice Elger
Institute for Biomedical Ethics, Faculty of Medicine, University of Basel, Switzerland University Center for Legal Medicine, University of Geneva, Switzerland
*Corresponding author. Email:


Population ageing and the global burden of dementia pose a major challenge for human societies and a priority for public health. Cognitive enhancement, i.e. the targeted amplification of core cognitive abilities, is raising increasing attention among researchers as an effective strategy to complement traditional therapeutic and assistive approaches, and reduce the impact of age-related cognitive disability. In this paper, we discuss the possible applicability of cognitive enhancement for public health purposes to mitigate the burden of population ageing and dementia. After discussing the promises and challenges associated with enhancing ageing citizens and people with cognitive disabilities, we argue that global societies have a moral obligation to consider the careful use of cognitive enhancement technologies as a possible strategy to improve individual and public health. In addition, we address a few primary normative issues and possible objections that could arise from the implementation of public health-oriented cognitive enhancement technologies.

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Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2018 

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