The earliest clinical uses of brain stimulation date back to nearly 2000 years ago, when physician Scribonius Largus endorsed the use of electric rays to treat headaches and neuralgia. By the 1980s, researchers began designing non-invasive stimulators and brain implants for handling specific diseases.
Transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS), a non-invasive treatment that uses direct electrical currents to stimulate specific parts of the brain, has been shown, in a few small studies, to allegedly advance language skills, boost memory and strengthen reflexes.
Transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS), another non-invasive procedure, is occasionally used to treat depression. And clinical trials are underway to see if stimulating the brain can treat other medical conditions, such as Parkinson's.
The researchers at Drexel University planned and oversaw two separate surveys in which participants were asked to report on how willing they would be to "enhance" or "repair" specific cognitive abilities using a hypothetical brain stimulation device called "Ceremode," described as a "breakthrough brain stimulation device" created by scientists. The researchers purposely did not specify what type of brain stimulation "Ceremode" signified, so study volunteers were free to make their own assumptions.
Generally, the study volunteers were more disposed to use Ceremode on others than themselves, and they were more willing to use it with the aim of repairing, rather than enhancing, cognitive functions. This might suggest that additional social characters prevail over certain moral intuitions, the researchers write.