Friday, February 01, 2008

Mike Murphy would allow drug compagnies to be use young children as genuie pigs for testing ground in New Brunswick Canada

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Artificial intelligence

Madeleine Brettingham
Published: 01 February 2008

If a pill could make your pupils brainier would you let them take it?

Are your pupils’ brains the equivalent of an Apple Mac or an Atari 2600? Would it surprise you to know that by popping a pill they could improve their memory, concentration and ability to plan ahead?

It may sound like the stuff of Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World, but dozens of so-called “smart drugs” – brain-boosting compounds that increase academic ability – are being developed by pharmaceutical companies and military organisations, and scientists believe that in 20 years they could find their way into the classroom.

From “brain Botox” to Ritalin, the implications of these drugs, an estimated 40 plus of which are in development, are huge, especially as new chemicals are being developed that deliver bigger improvements with fewer side effects.

Scientists envisage that within decades they could be commonplace in universities, schools and the workplace, giving rise to the science fiction-like prospect of pushy parents paying for pills and children being submitted for Olympic-style drugs tests before sitting exams.

Smart drugs divide opinion like nothing else. Some scientists believe they should be embraced as an educational tool. Others see them as a threat, which could potentially coerce children into self-medicating in order to compete.

The Government is expected to release a report on the controversial subject next month. Ahead of this, The TES Magazine asks: what are smart drugs and how concerned should educators be?

Research into smart drugs, or cognitive enhancers, began after it was discovered that prescription medications such as Ritalin, which is used to treat attention deficit disorder (ADHD), and modafinil, sold as a treatment for narcolepsy, the sleep disorder, can improve the thinking skills of healthy individuals, at least under laboratory conditions.

Experiments at Cambridge University showed that modafinil improves short-term memory and planning while several studies suggest Ritalin, or methylphenidate, boosts spatial memory, the ability that helps you recall locations on a map.

Modafinil, which is commonly sold under the brand name Provigil, is already used by academics and pupils to cram for exams and presentations, and in the United States, 2.5 per cent of eighth graders (13 to 14-year-olds) were found illicitly using Ritalin by a National Institute on Drug Abuse study. Both are available over the internet, with a 100-tablet bottle selling for £20 upwards.

As more research money is ploughed into drugs for conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease and age-related memory loss, it’s inevitable that scientific gains in this area will be made. But should such drugs be sold to healthy individuals? And is it conceivable they will one day be used to boost performance in school?

“In a certain sense it is already happening, in that children diagnosed with ADHD are treated with Ritalin,” says Trevor Robbins, a professor of cognitive neuroscience at Cambridge University. “The medication is used to reduce their disruptive behaviour at school and so prevents them being stigmatised by being expelled or suspended.”

Astonishingly, the number of prescriptions made to pupils in England for behaviour-altering drugs such as Ritalin and modafinil has risen tenfold in the past decade, from more than 48,000 in 1996-97 to more than 450,000 last year, according to the Department for Children, Schools and Families (DCSF).

The prospect of adding smart drugs to the equation worries some experts, and not only because of fears over the long-term effects of existing medications for ADHD. Critics include Baroness Susan Greenfield, a professor of pharmacology at Oxford University and an authority on the issue. She and other academics have warned the drug may have “profound effects” on the way children think and behave.

Inevitably, not everyone feels comfortable with the idea of ambitious pupils popping pills to make them brainier. After all, what’s achievement without hard work and perseverance? But some scientists believe we shouldn’t be so quick to judge.

“Cod liver oil is taken as a cognitive enhancer,” says Dr Anders Sandberg, a neuroscientist at Oxford University’s Future of Humanity Institute, which investigates how technology will affect the human race.

“Even something as simple as eating a biscuit at the right moment can improve your performance, yet no one would complain about that except your dentist. It doesn’t matter how you bring about change. What matters is the result.

“Surely, anything that improves the ability to learn is a good thing,” says Dr Sandberg.

Research on the potential uses of smart drugs is in its early stages. Pharmaceutical companies develop drugs for diseases, not for healthy individuals, meaning their research and development budgets aren’t directed towards lifestyle drugs.

Many cognitive enhancing treatments either already exist or are in development. But no one can yet predict how governments and the public will react to their growing availability.

In the words of Dr Anders Sandberg: “The situation could change relatively quickly over the next decade. In that time we need to set out some ground rules and work out what kind of education system we want.”

Read more on this story in this week's TES Magazine, out Friday February 1


Anonymous said...

Is this a good idea?
Are the smart people now running the world,where 1.3 million kids die a day??????????
Would those kids die if we were running the world???????
Does it not look reversed,the stupid have inherited the extraction of money from the poor,and the smart poor don't have enough money to dislodge the stupid knuckledraggers.
So should we not be more concerned with becoming more stupid,so that the money we spend on our poor and kids could be spend on becoming leaders so that we could end the dying poor and

Anonymous said...

Go on and Keep giving your Children Vaccines laced with Mercury, Aluminum etc,Keep feeding them Refined Sugars and Hydrogenated fats.Continue with boxed and canned foods containig MSG and its 25 or so names it hides under,Continue drinking Water and brushing your teeth with Flouride (a deadly poison)!

Now that You know do the research and stop these rotten people from destroying your lives and your childrens.

Anonymous said...

Absolutly correct.Having just returned from both sobeys and superstore,where you can read the biggest lies ever packaged on the products built to kill.Products like "compliments" and "presidents choice" who have no Idea where they were produced or what was put in them.And then run off to find a doctor you don't need,who loves to see you and will gleefully set you up with a pill or two for all seasons.
Noticing the new parking spots changed from handicapped to Mothers with Babies,I congratulated the manager for finally putting those spaces to sensible use,and guess WHAT,the woman were complaing to him ,that no one was more healthy than a mother with babies and shouldn't have those spots.My reply was as far as i ever saw there was none healther that the people using those spots as handicapped.And no one was more busier than the greatest people in the world,the mothers and could use all the help they get.
What a bunch of complaining storkless dorks.

Anonymous said...

This development marks the eruption of a legal problem that has lain dormant for several years. In the summer of 2003, the issue leaped to prominence when The Wall Street Journal and Barron's ran stories saying Biovail was paying up to $1,000 (U.S.) to doctors in the United States who prescribed Cardizem LA to their patients. Office managers could also get $150 for helping the doctors.