January 23, 2007

Freedom of Mind?

Time.com has an article about how brain-control tools, such as psychoactive drugs and deep brain stimulation (DBS - treatment where electrodes are implanted deep in a person's brain), are getting better at targeting specific areas in the brain. Of course aspects of these treatments could be used for purposes other than what they were designed for originally, as in one patient with DBS treatment . . .

"according to Martha Farah, a neuroscientist at the University of Pennsylvania, at least one patient routinely chooses which electrical contact to activate depending on how she wants to feel: calm for every day, more "revved up" for a party."
This opens up new ethical dilemmas about personality changing treatments, unequal access to such treatments and even forced exposure to them. What really surprised me about the article was the following quote:
"Someday we may all feel pressure to take--or give our kids--focus- or memory-sharpening drugs to compete at school or work. In fact, says Richard Glen Boire, senior fellow on law and policy at the Center for Cognitive Liberty & Ethics in Davis, Calif., 'some schools require kids--not diagnosed with ADHD by doctors--to take Ritalin to attend school.'"
Now I know that Ritalin is over-prescribed, but is this true? Do some school systems really require their students to take Ritalin? Are these children evaluated before being prescribed Ritalin. I've never heard of that until reading this article, so it sounds pretty weird to me. I feel like I'm missing something. This is a topic that I'll definitely have to follow up on.

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