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Pharmacological cognitive enhancement in healthy individuals: a compensation for cognitive deficits or a question of personality?


Maier, Larissa J; Wunderli, Michael D; Vonmoos, Matthias; Römmelt, Andreas T; Baumgartner, Markus R; Seifritz, Erich; Schaub, Michael P; Quednow, Boris B (2015). Pharmacological cognitive enhancement in healthy individuals: a compensation for cognitive deficits or a question of personality? PLoS ONE, 10(6):e0129805.

Abstract

The ongoing bioethical debate on pharmacological cognitive enhancement (PCE) in healthy individuals is often legitimated by the assumption that PCE will widely spread and become desirable for the general public in the near future. This assumption was questioned as PCE is not equally save and effective in everyone. Additionally, it was supposed that the willingness to use PCE is strongly personality-dependent likely preventing a broad PCE epidemic. Thus, we investigated whether the cognitive performance and personality of healthy individuals with regular nonmedical methylphenidate (MPH) use for PCE differ from stimulant-naïve controls. Twenty-five healthy individuals using MPH for PCE were compared with 39 age-, sex-, and education-matched healthy controls regarding cognitive performance and personality assessed by a comprehensive neuropsychological test battery including social cognition, prosocial behavior, decision-making, impulsivity, and personality questionnaires. Substance use was assessed through self-report in an interview and quantitative hair and urine analyses. Recently abstinent PCE users showed no cognitive impairment but superior strategic thinking and decision-making. Furthermore, PCE users displayed higher levels of trait impulsivity, novelty seeking, and Machiavellianism combined with lower levels of social reward dependence and cognitive empathy. Finally, PCE users reported a smaller social network and exhibited less prosocial behavior in social interaction tasks. In conclusion, the assumption that PCE use will soon become epidemic is not supported by the present findings as PCE users showed a highly specific personality profile that shares a number of features with illegal stimulant users. Lastly, regular MPH use for PCE is not necessarily associated with cognitive deficits.

The ongoing bioethical debate on pharmacological cognitive enhancement (PCE) in healthy individuals is often legitimated by the assumption that PCE will widely spread and become desirable for the general public in the near future. This assumption was questioned as PCE is not equally save and effective in everyone. Additionally, it was supposed that the willingness to use PCE is strongly personality-dependent likely preventing a broad PCE epidemic. Thus, we investigated whether the cognitive performance and personality of healthy individuals with regular nonmedical methylphenidate (MPH) use for PCE differ from stimulant-naïve controls. Twenty-five healthy individuals using MPH for PCE were compared with 39 age-, sex-, and education-matched healthy controls regarding cognitive performance and personality assessed by a comprehensive neuropsychological test battery including social cognition, prosocial behavior, decision-making, impulsivity, and personality questionnaires. Substance use was assessed through self-report in an interview and quantitative hair and urine analyses. Recently abstinent PCE users showed no cognitive impairment but superior strategic thinking and decision-making. Furthermore, PCE users displayed higher levels of trait impulsivity, novelty seeking, and Machiavellianism combined with lower levels of social reward dependence and cognitive empathy. Finally, PCE users reported a smaller social network and exhibited less prosocial behavior in social interaction tasks. In conclusion, the assumption that PCE use will soon become epidemic is not supported by the present findings as PCE users showed a highly specific personality profile that shares a number of features with illegal stimulant users. Lastly, regular MPH use for PCE is not necessarily associated with cognitive deficits.

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:04 Faculty of Medicine > Psychiatric University Hospital Zurich > Clinic for Psychiatry, Psychotherapy, and Psychosomatics
04 Faculty of Medicine > Swiss Research Institute for Public Health and Addiction
04 Faculty of Medicine > Institute of Legal Medicine
Dewey Decimal Classification:610 Medicine & health
Language:English
Date:2015
Deposited On:07 Jul 2015 12:08
Last Modified:05 Apr 2016 19:18
Publisher:Public Library of Science (PLoS)
ISSN:1932-6203
Free access at:Publisher DOI. An embargo period may apply.
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0129805
PubMed ID:26107846
Permanent URL: https://doi.org/10.5167/uzh-111411

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