Neurocognitive enhancement and wearable neurotechnologies in applied contexts: challenges and opportunities

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Neurocognitive enhancement can be defined as a voluntary attempt to improve cognitive performance in order to enhance the current subjective profile of skills with the support of neuroscientific tools that can modulate brain activity and optimize the functionality of brain structures mediating such cognitive skills (Balconi & Crivelli, 2019). While the desire to better subjective skills, to improve individual physical and mental skills, and to access better opportunities than other peers has a long story, recent research focused on practical implications and new opportunities offered by neurocognitive enhancement techniques, such as those provided by wearable neurotechnologies (Balconi & Crivelli, 2019; Balconi, Fronda, Venturella, & Crivelli, 2017). Here we outline the main outcomes of a research line on the effects of a novel neurocognitive enhancement protocol supported by a wearable neurofeedback device in two applied fields: workplace and sports. Specifically, the potential of such technology-supported protocol was tested by collecting behavioural, psychometric, neuropsychological and physiological measures and comparing experimental and active control groups. Findings, based on all dependent measures, consistently showed that the experimental protocol is effective in empowering attention regulation skills, as well as in reducing anxiety and stress levels and improving mental vigour. Indeed, a consistent positive modulation of behavioural and electrophysiological markers of cognitive efficiency (reaction times and amplitude of the N2 event-related potential) and autonomic markers of improved emotional regulation (perceived stress and heart-rate variability) was found. Notably, such results are consistent with previous proof-of-concept and experimental studies and then extend available evidence on the potential of the protocol even in real-life settings. Present findings suggest that the novel enhancement protocol might act as a valuable opportunity to optimize performance and neurocognitive efficiency even in applied contexts. Such opportunities for individual enhancement, nonetheless, might raise relevant ethical issues concerning inter-individual equity and authenticity of individual’s performance (Butcher, 2003; Fronda, Balconi, & Crivelli, 2018; Fronda, Crivelli, & Balconi, 2019; Nagel, 2014). References Balconi, M., & Crivelli, D. (2019). Wearable devices for self-enhancement and improvement of plasticity: effects on neurocognitive efficiency. In A. Esposito, M. Faundez-Zanuy, F. C. Morabito, & E. Pasero (Eds.), Quantifying and Processing Biomedical and Behavioral Signals (pp. 11–22). Cham: Springer International Publishing. Balconi, M., Fronda, G., Venturella, I., & Crivelli, D. (2017). Conscious, pre-conscious and unconscious mechanisms in emotional behaviour. Some applications to the mindfulness approach with wearable devices. Applied Sciences, 7(12), 1280. Butcher, J. (2003). Cognitive enhancement raises ethical concerns. The Lancet, 362(9378), 132–133. Fronda, G., Balconi, M., & Crivelli, D. (2018). Neuroethical implications of neurocognitive enhancement in managerial professional contexts. Journal of Cognitive Enhancement, 2(4), 356–363. Fronda, G., Crivelli, D., & Balconi, M. (2019). Neurocognitive enhancement: applications and ethical issues. NeuroRegulation, 6(3), Online Advance Publication. Nagel, S. K. (2014). Enhancement for well-being is still ethically challenging. Frontiers in Systems Neuroscience, 8, 72.
Lingua originaleEnglish
Titolo della pubblicazione ospiteProgram of the «16th Annual Conference of the Italian Association for Cognitive Sciences»
Stato di pubblicazionePubblicato - 2019
Evento16th Annual Conference of the Italian Association for Cognitive Sciences - Roma
Durata: 11 dic 201913 dic 2019


Convegno16th Annual Conference of the Italian Association for Cognitive Sciences


  • Neurocognitive enhancement
  • Neurotechnologies
  • Wearable devices


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