Neuroenhancement or cognitive enhancement refers to the targeted enhancement and extension of cognitive and affective abilities based on an understanding of their underlying neurobiology in healthy persons who do not have any mental illness. As such, it can be thought of as an umbrella term that encompasses pharmacological and non-pharmacological methods of improving cognitive, affective, and motor functionality, as well as the overarching ethico-legal discourse that accompanies these aims. Critically, for any agent to qualify as a neuroenhancer, it must reliably engender substantial cognitive, affective, or motor benefits beyond normal functioning in healthy individuals, whilst causing few side effects: at most at the level of commonly used comparable legal substances or activities, such as caffeine, alcohol, and sleep-deprivation.
Pharmalogical neuroenhancement agents include the well-validated nootropics, such as Citicoline, Bacopa monnieri and phosphatidylserine, as well as other drugs used for treating patients suffering from neurological disorders. Non-pharmacological measures include non-invasive brain stimulation, which has been employed to improve various cognitive and affective functions, and brain-machine interfaces, which hold much potential to extend the repertoire of motor and cognitive actions available to humans.
Although consideration of individual neuroenhancement agents is usually triggered by success in clinical and technological fields, they have also been used to attempt to help people with lack of normal cognitive, motor, and affective abilities: for example, social skills and empathy. In this case, neuroenhancement drugs try to increase oxytocin and decrease cortisol levels helping people better their communication and social interaction skills.