Sociological engagement with debates around the promise, problems and prospects of pharmaceutical cognitive enhancment is still at an early stage. In this paper we attempt to explore how the prospect of cognitive enhancement can be understood using existing sociological concepts of medicalisation, biomedicalisation and pharmaceuticalisation. Drawing on two case studies, that of Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI) and the use of modafinil to enhance alertness, we discuss the idea of enhancement medicine and the use of cognitive enhancers outside of medical authority. We suggest that whilst all three of the above concepts shed important light on these developments, overlapping and converging as they do in various ways, pharmaceuticalisation provides a more precise sociological term of reference. We end with some suggestions for a research agenda for tracing and tracking trends in pharmaceutical cognitive enhancement over time.
Keywords: Enhancement, cognition, biomedicalisation, pharmaceuticalisation, mental health, sociology.