Acceptability of Neuroscientific Interventions in Education

A. Schmied, S. Varma, J. M. Dubinsky

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Researchers are increasingly applying neuroscience technologies that probe or manipulate the brain to improve educational outcomes. However, their use remains fraught with ethical controversies. Here, we investigate the acceptability of neuroscience applications to educational practice in two groups of young adults: those studying bioscience who will be driving future basic neuroscience research and technology transfer, and those studying education who will be choosing among neuroscience-derived applications for their students. Respondents rated the acceptability of six scenarios describing neuroscience applications to education spanning multiple methodologies, from neuroimaging to neuroactive drugs to brain stimulation. They did so from two perspectives (student, teacher) and for three recipient populations (low-achieving, high-achieving students, students with learning disabilities). Overall, the biosciences students were more favorable to all neuroscience applications than the education students. Scenarios that measured brain activity (i.e., EEG or fMRI) to assess or predict intellectual abilities were deemed more acceptable than manipulations of mental activity by drug use or stimulation techniques, which may violate body integrity. Enhancement up to the norm for low-achieving students and especially students with learning disabilities was more favorably viewed than enhancement beyond the norm for high-achieving students. Finally, respondents rated neuroscientific applications to be less acceptable when adopting the perspective of a teacher than that of a student. Future studies should go beyond the acceptability ratings collected here to delineate the role that concepts of access, equity, authenticity, agency and personal choice play in guiding respondents’ reasoning.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number52
JournalScience and Engineering Ethics
Issue number4
StatePublished - Aug 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Support for this work was provided by the Fulbright Program, Becas Chile, and the International Student and Scholar Services at the University of Minnesota to AS.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021, The Author(s), under exclusive licence to Springer Nature B.V.


  • Cognitive enhancement
  • Educational neuroscience
  • Neuroeducation
  • Neuroethics
  • tCDS


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