Would it be possible to enhance brain function by exposing a person in utero to a given set of drugs?


Enhanced brain function: Increased intelligence, Increased memory, etc.

At a minimum The answer should have three parts:

  1. Is this approach feasible given current technology / knowledge?

  2. Are there any specific examples found using today's technology / knowledge?

  3. What factors influence the two above sub-questions?

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ The reality-check tag expects you to present us with a "complete situation." All the details that lead to a specific consequence. We then judge what you've presented. You're not doing that - you're asking us to create the scenario that would then be judged. $\endgroup$
    – JBH
    Commented Oct 3, 2020 at 2:54
  • $\begingroup$ You might be able in the NEAR future, to be able to enhance a single area of cognition (like memory) but for the foreseeable future there would be substantial risks (autism, ADHD, emotional difficulties, mental illness) so if you want to create human calculators (with no personality) it's possible, or schizophrenic people with eidetic memory. We just don't understand enough holistically to say how things will turn out. Like using a hammer, it will take the shape you want, but everything else will get broken. $\endgroup$
    – DWKraus
    Commented Oct 3, 2020 at 15:55

1 Answer 1


What we know:

  • The neurons in our brain form junctions between them, called synapses. Most of the synapses are then weeded out during the brain maturation, without lack of functionality.
  • Fetus development is extremely sensitive to chemicals. I would dare to say it is a chaotic system: a small difference in the initial conditions leads to large differences in the final outcome. We know quite a few substances which negatively affect the fetus development: alcohol and nicotine, just to name two.
  • Memory is a skill which can be learned and trained, as proven by humanists during the Renaissance.

What we don't know

  • Is intelligence genetic, environment induced, or a mix of the two? We cannot breed an Einstein's or a Hawking's blood line like we do with race horses.

  • What is in a brain that makes for a better intelligence?

  • What is intelligence?


We don't know how to squeeze the performances of a brain. Supplying substances to a developing fetus without a clear understanding of all the interactions it is more likely to break something down than to improve a certain functionality. It's like throwing all the wheels and springs of a clockwork in the case and hoping it will make a working clock.


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