Cosmetic Neurology and Cosmetic Surgery: Parallels, Predictions, and Challenges
As our knowledge of the functional and pharmacological architecture of the nervous system increases, we are getting better at treating cognitive and affective disorders. Along with the ability to modify cognitive and affective systems in disease, we are also learning how to modify these systems in health. “Cosmetic neurology,” the practice of intervening to improve cognition and affect in healthy individuals, raises several ethical concerns.1 However, its advent seems inevitable.2 In this paper I examine this claim of inevitability by reviewing the evolution of another medical practice, cosmetic surgery. Cosmetic surgery also enhances healthy people and, despite many critics, it is practiced widely. Can we expect the same of cosmetic neurology? The claim of inevitability poses a challenge for both physicians and bioethicists. How will physicians reconsider their professional role? Will bioethicists influence the shape of cosmetic neurology? But first, how did cosmetic surgery become common?