The Neuroethics of Transcranial Electrical Stimulation

Neil Levy, Julian Savulescu

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter (Book)Researchpeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)


The use of interventions into the mind and body to treat a diagnosed disorder or disease is uncontroversial, but it is very controversial whether interventions aimed at enhancing function in the absence of disease or disorder are acceptable or not. In this chapter we focus on transcranial electrical stimulation used as a cognitive enhancer, and aim to assess the case for and against its use. We first show that the treatment/enhancement distinction cannot be invoked to draw a distinction between acceptable and unacceptable uses of interventions. We then proceed to assess transcranial electrical stimulation against five common objections to the use of cognitive enhancements, which we call the safety, authenticity, cheating, social justice, and positional goods objections. Though we think that some of these objections provide reasons for caution with regard to the use of some cognitive enhancements, we argue that transcranial electrical stimulation is not seriously troubled by any of them.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Stimulated Brain
Subtitle of host publicationCognitive Enhancement Using Non-Invasive Brain Stimulation
EditorsRoi Cohen Kadosh
Place of PublicationLondon UK
PublisherAcademic Press
Number of pages23
ISBN (Electronic)9780124047129
ISBN (Print)9780124047044
Publication statusPublished - 2014
Externally publishedYes


  • Authenticity
  • Cheating
  • Enhancement
  • Justice
  • Neuroethics
  • Safety
  • Treatment

Cite this

Levy, N., & Savulescu, J. (2014). The Neuroethics of Transcranial Electrical Stimulation. In R. Cohen Kadosh (Ed.), The Stimulated Brain: Cognitive Enhancement Using Non-Invasive Brain Stimulation (pp. 499-521). Academic Press.