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Cognition Enhancer Research

ScuttleMonkey posted more than 6 years ago | from the what-happened-to-ginkgo-biloba dept.

Medicine 189

oschobero writes to tell us the Economist has a look at pharmaceutical research as it applies to cognition enhancers. While the research is obviously focused on things like Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, and schizophrenia, the resulting drugs may also have a benefit to healthy minds. "Provigil and Ritalin really do enhance cognition in healthy people. Provigil, for example, adds the ability to remember an extra digit or so to an individual's working memory (most people can hold seven random digits in their memory, but have difficulty with eight). It also improves people's performance in tests of their ability to plan. Because of such positive effects on normal people, says the report, there is growing use of these drugs to stave off fatigue, help shift-workers, boost exam performance and aid recovery from the effects of long-distance flights."

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Oh, great..... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23523248)

Taking speed is EEEEEEEEvil, unless it makes more money for Big Pharma.

Re:Oh, great..... (4, Informative)

Martin Blank (154261) | more than 6 years ago | (#23523372)

There's a gigantic difference between drugs like amphetamine and methamphetamine and drugs like modafinil (Provigil). They work in different ways, and decades of use by narcoleptic patients shows no significant addictiveness for modafinil (or its predecessor adrafinil, which metabolizes to modafinil). Amphetamine and methamphetamine have strong addictive potential as well as significant side-effects, including jumpiness, jitters, and irritability that are not found in modafinil. (That's not to say there are no side-effects to modafinil, but they are rare or uncommon.)

Re:Oh, great..... (4, Insightful)

aurispector (530273) | more than 6 years ago | (#23523566)

There are no completely safe drugs, there are no drugs without side effects. That being said, even if these drugs are significantly safer, it just seems to be a bad idea to depend on drugs to run your everyday life. The line between theraputic and recreational use is blurring.

If I had to take non-theraputic medications to perform my job I'd get a different job.

Re:Oh, great..... (3, Insightful)

Hojima (1228978) | more than 6 years ago | (#23524222)

There are no completely safe drugs, there are no drugs without side effects.
Jut because it has a side effect does not mean it's unsafe. If the side effect of taking steroids was the sniffles (and nothing else), every athlete would be taking it (regardless of legality). That being said, natural drugs generally have little to no harm in comparison to many other synthetic drugs, mostly because huge pharmaceutical companies pay chemical engineers to find a cheap method to produce something found in nature, and thus their quantum structure, and even their chemical composition, can be altered so that the body does not respond well to it (but the drug works so they don't care). It's even the same deal with multivitamins.

Re:Oh, great..... (1)

davolfman (1245316) | more than 6 years ago | (#23523778)

That said prescription level doses of Ritalin are pretty benign in most cases. Many of these drugs do little more than disrupt your appetite some when you aren't taking the massive overdoses that would be required to actually get a high. That said Adderol (sp?) scares me.

Re:Oh, great..... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23524296)

I have taken Provigil and, even if it keeps me awake, it gives me an awfull headache and increases my blood pressure.

If it were not for the blood pressure issue, It would be perfect

what has been seen... (4, Funny)

bersl2 (689221) | more than 6 years ago | (#23523266)

Paradoxically, another glutamate-booster, D-cycloserine, is being tested not to enhance memory, but to abolish it. The paradox is resolved because unlearning (or "extinction", in neurological parlance) is a process similar in its details to learning.

By binding to certain glutamate receptors, D-cycloserine selectively enhances extinction, suppressing the effects of conditioned associations such as anxiety, addiction and phobias. According to Dr Robbins, experiments have shown that if a rat is given a cue that it previously associated with fear at the same time as it receives D-cycloserine, the bad memory can be eliminated. Not only may this help remove unpleasant memories...
Does this mean that people might be able to unsee things *coughgoatsecough*

Re:what has been seen... (2, Funny)

Bryansix (761547) | more than 6 years ago | (#23523360)

Eternal Sunshine on the Spotless Mind.

Re:what has been seen... (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23523502)

That's "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind." you stupid nigger troll.

Re:what has been seen... (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23523496)

And perhaps things like this: http://images.encyclopediadramatica.com/images/5/5c/Tubgirlfinalform.jpg [encycloped...matica.com]

Re:what has been seen... (1)

Briareos (21163) | more than 6 years ago | (#23523844)

Does this mean that people might be able to unsee things *coughgoatsecough*
Bah... that's nothing that can't be solved with enough sandpaper applied directly to one's brain... if only I could remember where I put it...

np: Saul Williams - Coded Language (Amethyst Rock Star)

Provigil. (5, Interesting)

Bob of Dole (453013) | more than 6 years ago | (#23523306)

I've taking Provigil. It's an amazing and weird drug.

On the one hand, It helps endlessly with functioning while sleepy. As a chronic insomniac, I'm never THAT awake, but after two hours of sleep and a provigil, I'm awake enough to drive and take exams. It doesn't even keep you up after it wears off, something every other sleep aid or wake aid I've ever taken does. It avoids the problem of body/mind disconnect, you're AWAKE, not brain awake/body tired or body awake/brain sleepy.

On the other, it has an effect I can only describe as "positional". You can still tell that you're tired, but you only feel it in one part of your head, kinda towards the lower-right-back area. And yes, that's insane.
What's weirder is that if you get a headache while on provigil, you'll feel it in that area too. It's kinda like it's turned off your brain's natural "error reporting" that tells you you're tired/headachey, but it doesn't do it for the whole brain.
I also had some nasty experiences in the bathroom while on it. That's definitely a downside. (Wee, rather than being late for class because I can't wake up I'm late for class because I'm stuck in the bathroom)

I only used it for about two weeks (despite the above praise, it didn't help with my main problem), but I'd definitely use it again if I had the chance. There's enough times where I've not gotten enough sleep for one reason or another but I really have to be at work the next day that it'd be quite handy to have around.

Re:Provigil. (5, Funny)

caffeinemessiah (918089) | more than 6 years ago | (#23523330)

I've taking Provigil.

That's a great first sentence to promote a cognition-enhancing drug.

Re:Provigil. (2, Funny)

Bob of Dole (453013) | more than 6 years ago | (#23523356)

ugh. Well, I'm not taking it now, so naturally I'M SLEEPY!

What? no soviet russia or overlord jokes? (1, Funny)

ady1 (873490) | more than 6 years ago | (#23523588)

Slashdot is loosing its touch.

In soviet russia, cognitive enhanced overlords welcome I?

Re:What? no soviet russia or overlord jokes? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23523750)

Maybe Slashdot just regained its self respect

Re:What? no soviet russia or overlord jokes? (2, Funny)

david.given (6740) | more than 6 years ago | (#23523786)

Slashdot is loosing its touch.

Remember, if you love something, set it lose...

Re:Provigil. (2, Interesting)

Banquo (225167) | more than 6 years ago | (#23523580)

I just started on a "neurotropics regimen" and one of the things I'm taking is modalert (cheap provigil) I've been taking that and other standard stuff (ginko, B-complex, amino's, dhea, C, etc..) for about 5 days @100MG/day.

It's pushed that "post lunch drowsy need a nap" feeling back to about 7pm, and by then I'm up and around (not behind the desk)so there's no worries. My focus is better during the day. Haven't gotten any headaches but most people use 200mg a day from what I read. I've also noticed that I'm in a better overall mood. (of course with me tired=grumpy so...)

I get roughly 5-6 hours of sleep a night and have had no issues at all. I did notice the "You know you're tired, but you don't think/act like you're tired" thing and yeah it's really odd. But I found that if you add a Monster Coffee in the morning it REALLY boosts the whole effect and the "ghost tiredness" is lessened a lot.

Wired had an Article on "smart drugs" [wired.com] and they did a reader survey. [wired.com]

Ever tried sleep? (2, Insightful)

Roger W Moore (538166) | more than 6 years ago | (#23523872)

I get roughly 5-6 hours of sleep a night and have had no issues at all. I did notice the "You know you're tired, but you don't think/act like you're tired" thing and yeah it's really odd.

Instead of drugs have you considered getting an extra 1-2 hours of sleep per night? This is cheaper than taking drugs, does not make you feel odd, and 10 years from now will not be shown to cause cancer/depression/heart disease/... If you are feeling tired during the day the message your body is trying to send you is 'sleep more' not 'take drugs'.

Re:Ever tried sleep? (2, Interesting)

DeadChobi (740395) | more than 6 years ago | (#23524316)

Well, if you've ever been in school, you know that the demands it makes on a person are much greater than a full-time job. Plus there's also the need to have some type of social life outside of work, and for some people a need to cook in order to eat. These things combined mean that there isn't a lot of room in life to sleep.

What I'm saying is that your solution, although the better one, is not the most feasible one.

Re:Provigil. (3, Interesting)

DCGaymer (956987) | more than 6 years ago | (#23523756)

I recently started taking Provigil for fatigue issues related to another condition. Without a doubt....I'm certainly more alert....but it does not help with fatigue. If you're tired and taking Provigil, you're simply going to be tired and awake. NOT a good combo. It's not a great panacea cure all .....but it does help make a formerly dysfunctional person a bit more functional. As mentioned above...it will give you a headache. It does me. They're worse in the beginning but seem to taper off to a mild headache as the weeks goes by. It's an unusual headache that Ibuprofen doesn't seem to really take the edge off of.

Re:Provigil. (1)

Joe Tie. (567096) | more than 6 years ago | (#23524498)

That odd state of numbed tiredness is something I've only ever experienced with it. Even with stimulants, I'm either tired and jittery or awake. With modafinil it's more like what ibuprofin is to pain. It's often still there, but numbed down to a point where one no longer cares.

Ritalin is a great study drug. (4, Interesting)

urbanriot (924981) | more than 6 years ago | (#23523310)

I've used it before and it increased cognition considerably, especially when I was tired and figured I'd have a wasteful night of studying. If I have less than 8 hours sleep, I have difficulty focusing on a single source at one time, and studying is impossible. Ritalin has helped me micro-focus, and not just cram for exams but actually learn topics. If I had a steady source of Ritalin, or a doctor that 'played ball', I might consider experimenting with it more often.

Re:Ritalin is a great study drug. (0)

Tony Hoyle (11698) | more than 6 years ago | (#23523426)

Isn't Ritalin just Speed? You could get that from your friendly neighborhood drug dealer if you really want to. Not sure it's healthy though just to cram for exams.

Re:Ritalin is a great study drug. (2, Informative)

Martin Blank (154261) | more than 6 years ago | (#23523528)

Ritalin is methylphenidate. Speed is amphetamine (and sometimes methamphetamine, but that more commonly goes by other names). They work in different ways and have different effects.

Re:Ritalin is a great study drug. (3, Interesting)

hkmarks (1080097) | more than 6 years ago | (#23523670)

Cocaine, (meth)amphetamines, and methylphenidate actually have rather similar effects. They all boost dopamine. Ritalin is much slower acting, has a longer half-life, and is much less potent, and I think it has some other effects. Some kids crush and snort Ritalin for a cocaine-like high, and it's nicknamed "kiddie coke" IIRC. One of my junior high teachers told us she used to sell her pills when she was in school. I don't think addictiveness or anything have been fully studied. I was going to write a research paper on the subject a while ago, but I had trouble finding sources.

I actually took Ritalin for a while in high school. It didn't do me much good, though it might now that I understand how it works. I wish I could try it again, knowing better, but of course it takes 8 months to get an appointment with my doctor.

I've been taking melatonin for a little while to get myself to sleep (at a reasonable hour). The effect is so much better than any other sleeping pill I've tried that it's hard to believe. Feeling sleepy without feeling bone tired is so much more pleasant than feeling bone tired and drowsy, but not sleepy.

Re:Ritalin is a great study drug. (2, Interesting)

Martin Blank (154261) | more than 6 years ago | (#23524010)

My dad takes melatonin for insomnia. It's made him much easier to be around, though he is almost always in bed by 8:30pm.

I have a somewhat opposite issue. If I stop moving much and don't have to pay close attention to something active, I stand a good chance of falling asleep. I don't have this issue while driving, eating, typing, or reading websites, which tend to change on a rapid basis (switching tabs, browsing to new sites, etc), but reading books or sitting down to watch TV is difficult for me -- I can be out in a few minutes of TV, or in less than a page of a book. This makes studying and reading technical books -- already not terribly exciting -- tremendously difficult for me. I've been pondering asking about modafinil for about two years now to deal with it, but that means making an appointment with the doctor, and while it's not difficult to get in to see him, it's inconvenient, and so I keep putting it off.

Re:Ritalin is a great study drug. (5, Interesting)

Original Replica (908688) | more than 6 years ago | (#23523490)

Ritalin has helped me micro-focus, and not just cram for exams but actually learn topics.

I was prescribed Ritalin throughout grade school for ADD by the end of freshman year of college I decided to stop taking it because I had learned to "fake" the cognitive effects. Ritalin takes effect so quickly, that I was able to perceive the difference and use that to learn ways to be almost as effective, but without the drug. 14 years later I still have ADD but can function pretty normally because of what I learned with Ritalin. I have to wonder if the same thing could be done with Provigil, learn the thought patterns that give you the increased cognition, but eventually have the benifit without the drug.

Re:Ritalin is a great study drug. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23524450)

Well said.

Re:Ritalin is a great study drug. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23524494)

...learn the thought patterns that give you the increased cognition, but eventually have the benifit without the drug.
Shh! Don't warn them to prevent it from happening.

Re:Ritalin is a great study drug. (3, Insightful)

Jaime2 (824950) | more than 6 years ago | (#23524358)

First person anecdotes are pretty useless for this topic. Many people who have dropped acid will testify in front of the Supreme Court that it enhanced their perception. Only a well controlled, well designed double-blind test is acceptable in this context.

Holy crap, 7 digits? (1)

Eudial (590661) | more than 6 years ago | (#23523334)

Being a physicist, I've got an excuse for being absent minded, but keeping SEVEN DIGITS in your working memory? Holy crap. I'm lucky if I can cram four of them in there.

Seriously, it's an issue with me and older telephones -- I can punch three numbers, then I have to look on the number I'm calling to get the next batch, and by the time I've got it, the phone is already dialing.

Re:Holy crap, 7 digits? (3, Insightful)

crazybit (918023) | more than 6 years ago | (#23523404)

it's probably because of how your brain works.

Maybe you are trying to memorize 7 numbers (symbol + significance in our society) instead of memorizing a 3cm x 1.5cm illustration (the area in a paper where those numbers can be written) or instead of memorizing a 10 second sound (the aprox time in wich those numbers can be pronounced).

The problem might not be your memory, but the way your brain processes and stores the information it receives.

Re:Holy crap, 7 digits? (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23523420)

I think remembering 7 digits is primarily because of the need for knowing telephone numbers. Perhaps you just need to call people more often?

Re:Holy crap, 7 digits? (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23523456)

I am a network systems engineer(among other things) and I have the same issue! remember 3 or 4 numbers and have to look for the next!

I find that my multitasking and fast thought processes lower my memory recall. If I take a few days off from work and just relax or go riding or something I can then remember very long strings of info, like multiple phone numbers.

Back when DVDs were being pushed by the likes of Futureshop and Bestbuy, I could memorize 2 or 3 serial numbers from the DVD players(free DVD with new player promos). Multitasking wrecks memory!

Re:Holy crap, 7 digits? (2, Interesting)

Original Replica (908688) | more than 6 years ago | (#23523546)

Try remembering two, three digit numbers and one single digit. I don't exactly know why it helps, but it makes numbers and their order a lot easier. Perhaps it's something about treating a three digit number like a single concept.

Re:Holy crap, 7 digits? (1)

JimboFBX (1097277) | more than 6 years ago | (#23523770)

Your probably like me and tend not to pay attention to what your reading. When you were assigned reading homework in school, did you find yourself 3/4 of the way through a page and completely lost as to what just happened earlier in the page?

read a 7-digit phone number several times and you should be able to recall it easily and without confusion- as long as your focus doesn't go somewhere else.

Re:Holy crap, 7 digits? (3, Insightful)

hkmarks (1080097) | more than 6 years ago | (#23523866)

That's totally normal, don't worry about it.

Most people can retain 7 +/- 2 (5 to 9) semantic "packets" of information. A "packet" can be a part of a larger packet. Most people can reliably recall 5 random numbers or letters in a row. Or 5 groups of 5 numbers or letters. Or 5 random words. Or 5 unrelated phrases.

But don't try to memorize a paragraph worth of random letters and numbers -- that's more than 9 packets so it's almost impossible without a lot of repetition. That's why phone numbers have a dash in them, to break the number up into smaller packets that are easier to remember.

Re:Holy crap, 7 digits? (1)

jma05 (897351) | more than 6 years ago | (#23523930)

7 is not the hard number the way the summary makes it sound. The range was claimed as 5-9.

http://www.musanim.com/miller1956/ [musanim.com]
A classic 50 yr old paper. Has been a subject of great debate since.

But its trickier than that. It is 5 to 9 "items", not simply numbers. What constitutes an item can change. If you perceive the area code of your phone number as an item, it just counts as 1. So it all depends on how you "chunk" information. That is how experts are said to work better. They chunk at a different level than novices.

As for your phone predicament, you are not alone. At least, I am no different from you in that.

Re:Holy crap, 7 digits? (1)

DeadChobi (740395) | more than 6 years ago | (#23524408)

I've read that a typical person can only remember about 3 strings of 3-4 numbers at a time. This is why phone numbers, social security numbers, bank account numbers, credit card numbers, and a whole host of other numbers are in triplets or quadlets. Try remembering the number using the familiar place names like thousands, millions, billions, and you should be able to recall more of the information.

I don't like drugs (2, Insightful)

crazybit (918023) | more than 6 years ago | (#23523336)

as much as scientist claim they can enhance or reduce certain abilities, it is also a reality science is just beginning to understand human metabolism.

We don't know much about how each part the human metabolism affect the others, so it's very difficult to anticipate possible side effects.

It's also widely known that many of the current drugs where discovered by accident while trying to cure something else (like the discovery of viagra, and the heart benefits obtained from aspirin). So, as much as we don't want see it, our scientist can be wrong.

Let's hope we don't see our Universities bloated with new kind of "brain enhancement" drugs.

Re:I don't like drugs (3, Insightful)

geekoid (135745) | more than 6 years ago | (#23523476)

"as much as scientist claim they can enhance or reduce certain abilities, it is also a reality science is just beginning to understand human metabolism."

Bull.
While we don't know everything, we are long past the "Just beginning " phase.
What are you, posting from 1950?

"It's also widely known that many of the current drugs where discovered by accident while trying to cure something else (like the discovery of viagra, and the heart benefits obtained from aspirin)"

discovered through experimentation and observation. You make it sound as if they drop something accidentally and then it cured something.

While they observed unexpected effect during the scientific process, it was the experimentation and testing that brought there discoveries to light.

"So, as much as we don't want see it, our scientist can be wrong."
This is nonsensical.

Re:I don't like drugs (2, Informative)

crazybit (918023) | more than 6 years ago | (#23523708)

from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Viagra [wikipedia.org] :

"It was initially studied for use in hypertension (high blood pressure) and angina pectoris (a symptom of ischaemic cardiovascular disease). The first clinical trials were conducted in Morriston Hospital in Swansea. Phase I clinical trials under the direction of Ian Osterloh suggested that the drug had little effect on angina, but that it could induce marked penile erections. Pfizer therefore decided to market it for erectile dysfunction, rather than for angina."

Evidently doctors had little idea this reaction would happen... why? because we are just beginning to understand our own bodies.
They didn't knew some receptors will trigger when they encounter this substance.

That discovery was completely random, they NEVER expected it. They just gave heart patients a testing drug for their hearts, and the patients ended up with a boner.

Re:I don't like drugs (1)

Sigg3.net (886486) | more than 6 years ago | (#23523576)

Caution and skepticism are to be esteemed with our relation to drugs in everyday life. I see vegetarians taking all sorts of pills in order to "live in accordance with nature". I cannot begin to comprehend what confusion of ideas that would lead to such a misconception.

But people will eat soylent green before they ask what it is. (And I'm not a scientologist, I'm completely for the use of therapeutic drugs where all other means are deemed unsuccessful, or where a balance of drugs and therapy can really help a human being, as a person, to live a sustainable life with his peers. Though it cannot be denied that some "diseases" are symptomatic of choice of society (a theoretical problem scientology cannot account for).)
I'm a habitual smoker, meaning I fill myself with poisonous chemicals every day. But concentrated drugs to enhance abilities science has yet to give a satisfactory demarcation?)

Sorry for the rant. I am also drinking beer.

Re:I don't like drugs (1)

dnwq (910646) | more than 6 years ago | (#23523584)

Do you drink coffee? Good god, caffeine! Or eat chilli? Or potatoes? Not exactly things your evolutionary predecessors would have snacked on. You eat strange new chemicals every day, this one just has the word "drug" slapped on it.

Re:I don't like drugs (1)

aurispector (530273) | more than 6 years ago | (#23524124)

This is great point. The dividing line between food and medicine can be vanishingly small. Food used to BE medicine and in some cultures it still is. Often medicines are derived from natural sources, some of which are foods. Caffeine is found a variety of "food" items. It seems that the difference might simply be the intent when ingested. Still, I eat food when I'm hungry and take medicine when I'm sick. There's a big difference.

Oh no! (3, Funny)

iminplaya (723125) | more than 6 years ago | (#23523338)

Now the competitors in the national spelling bee tournaments will have to rake a piss test.

phone number 7bit 8bit digit theory (2, Insightful)

Vspirit (200600) | more than 6 years ago | (#23523344)

Based on what findings is it stated that most people can only hold 7 digits in memory?

I wonder if there is a connection to how many digit you need to make a local phone call.

In the states I assume you can or could leave out the area code, and then needed to remember xxx-xxxx.
In Denmark as a kid and now, we need to remember 8 digits to make a phone call.

I see a correlation, but.. heck, digits for thoughts.

Re:phone number 7bit 8bit digit theory (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23523402)

Take a look at George Miller's seminal work:

The Magic Number Seven, Plus or minus Two
http://www.musanim.com/miller1956/

This is psych 101 guys...

-Anymouse

Re:phone number 7bit 8bit digit theory (1)

Martin Blank (154261) | more than 6 years ago | (#23523424)

Phone numbers drop to patterns, where you may have a number of friends with a prefix of 995 and you only have to recall the last four digits, or where a pattern is available on the digit pad. The memory that they're discussing is being provided a random string of digits with a short time to memorize them, and then being asked at some point in the future (minutes or hours, sometimes longer) or while performing another task to recite the string of digits in order.

Re:phone number 7bit 8bit digit theory (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23523438)

Working memory dude, aka "short term memory". Think of it like your brain's RAM.

Re:phone number 7bit 8bit digit theory (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23523440)

Yes, that's the reason the phone #'s are 7 digit.

Re:phone number 7bit 8bit digit theory (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23523530)

I think you have a very good point. I can easily remember phone numbers for friends in Denmark and Sweden as well as freinds phone numbers with area code in the states.

Maybe there is some sore of 'memory groove' from the size of numbers usually looked at?

I watched some discovery channel some time ago and there is a tribe of poeple in south american that does not count. they have 4 numbers. none, one, some, and many. they can only remember how much of 1 or 2 things they have. like how many leaves and how many sticks but couldnt remember how many rocks. These people just didn't have the mental dexterity to remember some rocks, 1 leaf, and many sticks, probably because they typically only have to remember 1 or 2 pieces of information.

Re:phone number 7bit 8bit digit theory (1)

UncleTogie (1004853) | more than 6 years ago | (#23524428)

In Denmark as a kid and now, we need to remember 8 digits to make a phone call.

In Germany in '82, our phone number was 011-49-6571-20538, or dialed locally, 06571-20538...

I don't have an eidetic memory, so why'm I able to remember every phone number from age 3 on? I'm not saying that Miller was wrong... It might be that we're more number oriented today than in 1950, h'wever. Cell-phones, credit cards, PIN numbers, passwords; none of this was really available at that time. Food f'r thought...

Garden Of Eden Model of Health (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23523350)

I think religious people might metaphysically have a hard time with this because this goes against the whole "Garden Of Eden" model of health which is Humans were made perfectly and they fell from perfection when they got curious and ate the special apple hoping for some sort of benefit. Only disease is allowed to be treated in order to restore the system to what god intended.

So you can't get a prescription for viagra because you want to have loads of sex, you can only get it for treating the dreaded disease known as "Erectile dysfunction".

Drug tests (5, Interesting)

jamshid (140925) | more than 6 years ago | (#23523352)

Yup, won't be longer before passing a drug test for employment means your results have to come back positive.

Re:Drug tests (1)

jamshid (140925) | more than 6 years ago | (#23523370)

Maybe I need a little ritalin...

Yup, won't be [much] longer before passing a drug test for employment means your results have to come back positive.

The Crystal Meth-od (2, Funny)

LM741N (258038) | more than 6 years ago | (#23523358)

Enhanced my cognition right into the homeless shelter. Now I'm a homeless genius and use the computer at the library to control vast bot nets. Eventually I will rule the world.

Re:The Crystal Meth-od (1)

4D6963 (933028) | more than 6 years ago | (#23523694)

Enhanced my cognition right into the homeless shelter. Now I'm a homeless genius and use the computer at the library to control vast bot nets. Eventually I will rule the world.
The homeless ruler of the world? If I was you I'd rather use your unfathomable genius to get in the spam business. You'll be so rich you'll never have to dive into a dumpster again!

One small problem... (4, Insightful)

Penguinisto (415985) | more than 6 years ago | (#23523364)

Taking a somewhat little-understood psychotropic drug for treatment of illness is one thing (especially when prescribing it to children), but it is another thing entirely to start talking it up as a performance enhancer.

What is the long-term (or even all of the short-term) effects of this? IIRC, Ritalin comes with a bucketload of side effects.

I guess that drugs specifically made for the mind start (at least for me) creeping deeper and deeper into questions of morality and ethics than one designed to treat any other body part. Just something that makes me a bit wary about them... For instance, is an "enhanced" person more susceptible to suggestion than otherwise? Are they more focused on the task at hand, but not as aware of their surroundings? How does it affect multitasking? Emotions? Attitude and outlook?

Dunno... but caffeine seems to work just fine for me, and I get to keep a clear mind which I retain full control of while I'm at it.

/P

Re:One small problem... (1)

jsnipy (913480) | more than 6 years ago | (#23523410)

True, so being able to work faster is offset by the time you spend dealing diarrhea ...

Re:One small problem... (1)

Martin Blank (154261) | more than 6 years ago | (#23523450)

I've wondered about the personal ethics of such drugs. I'm intrigued by them, especially the possibility of skipping a night or two of sleep each week, but are there ethical concerns with taking a drug that allows me, for example, to read an extra technical book every week, thus perhaps soaring past my colleagues?

From a work standpoint, if my employer begins to depend on my ability to stay far ahead of others (maybe competitors, maybe just the tech industry in general), if I stop taking them, is it ethical for me to be disciplined because I chose to stop taking an optional drug?

Re:One small problem... (3, Insightful)

geekoid (135745) | more than 6 years ago | (#23523506)

you aren't keeping a clear mind with caffeine.
No doubt you believe you are.

Coffee comes with a "bucketload" of side effects as well.

The brain is a part of the body just like your heart, or hands, or belly button.

Re:One small problem... (2, Insightful)

Penguinisto (415985) | more than 6 years ago | (#23523812)

Perhaps, but the effects (side or immediate) of coffee/caffeine taken in moderation are well-known (and have been for literally over at least a century).

The key term is "moderation" - if I were to suck down a case of Bawls in the morning (or even one bottle), then yes, the term 'clear mind' would not be perfectly accurate - just as taking any stimulant in large doses (or in the case of, say, Ampehtamines, in any but the smallest doses) would affect mental clarity.

One cannot say the same for synthetic chemicals whose effects are not known fully.

/P

Re:One small problem... (1)

Joe Tie. (567096) | more than 6 years ago | (#23524540)

Not really on the side effects. It's only fairly recently that good studies have been performed on the subject. I had to sort through caffeine studies for a paper a few years ago, and it was amazing how bad most of the early methodology was. Bad as in taking someone who has three or more cups of coffee a day, keeping them off it two days, giving it to them again, and concluding that it's a cognition enhancer because they did better on tests during the last day than the two days they were off. The addictive side was horribly underestimated in a vast number of studies.

it's all about the spice (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23523384)

It is by will alone I set my mind in motion.
It is by the juice of sapho that thoughts acquire speed,
the lips acquire stains.
The stains become a warning.
It is by will alone I set my mind in motion.

it's getting them that's the problem... (2, Insightful)

crashandburn66 (1290292) | more than 6 years ago | (#23523400)

These drugs would be immensely beneficial to the human race. And what sane person wouldn't want to be smarter? Unfortunately, they will be opposed by very powerful religious and conservative forces. it will probably devolve into a cyclic, pointless, and unyielding debate like the one about abortion.

Caffeine is one of these substances; probably the most widely available, too. Personally I can think faster, clearer, and longer with about 300mg of caffeine in me. Unfortunately, I'm getting tolerant to it now... :(

Regardless, these drugs have the possibility to change the world. Hopefully people will get these things on the market in time for my SATs!

Re:it's getting them that's the problem... (1)

dnwq (910646) | more than 6 years ago | (#23523538)

Provigil has been on the market for ten years. Ritalin even longer. You can get provigil easily already.

Notably, so far there has been no indication that people get tolerant to provigil. It appears to be be less toxic than caffeine. I think we're looking at the next college drug...

Re:it's getting them that's the problem... (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23523590)

Unfortunately, they will be opposed by very powerful religious and conservative forces. it will probably devolve into a cyclic, pointless, and unyielding debate like the one about abortion.
If these forces are so powerful, why is abortion legal throughout the US? Why is gay marriage legal in the largest state of the US -- even though a majority of the population opposes it?

To put some things in perspective: The Roman Catholic Church is one of the largest and best organized branches of Christianity. But the total annual budget of the Vatican is only $190 million, which is about 20 times smaller than the smallest corporation of the Fortune 500. Barack Obama raised $90 million for his campaign in just the first two months of this year.

Or, look at it this way: if you're a particularly devout person in the US, you'd probably spend an average of one to two hours per week doing specifically religious activities... and then you'd spend over forty hours a week in the office, slaving away for The Man.

So who's likely to be more powerful: the religions, or the corporations, the CEOs, and their lobbyists?

Re:it's getting them that's the problem... (2, Interesting)

crashandburn66 (1290292) | more than 6 years ago | (#23523976)

Why are these things legal when the population opposes them? The court system, of course. A person in a black robe can effectively dictate laws to the popular masses.

And the religions have one weapon that no corporation or political figure can wield. If they can convince someone that doing something will bring someone eternal ecstasy or eternal damnation, they can make that person do anything. Most of the most horrific wars and killings in history have been brought about by religions telling their followers that god wanted them to go kill people.

And nobody I know of is willing to martyr themselves for Halliburton, Wal-Mart or Exxon.

Re:it's getting them that's the problem... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23524208)

So, you think that religious leaders are going to tell their legions of followers to go out and KILL KILL KILL in order to stop Provigil and Ritalin?

Would you be willing to take a wager on this by any chance?

Re:it's getting them that's the problem... (1)

urcreepyneighbor (1171755) | more than 6 years ago | (#23523762)

Personally I can think faster, clearer, and longer with about 300mg of caffeine in me.
300mg? That's all? Do you drink your coffee from a sippycup, too? ;)

Anything less than a gram isn't worth talking about.

Re:it's getting them that's the problem... (1)

Creepy Crawler (680178) | more than 6 years ago | (#23524162)

I bout 10 oz of caffeine from unitednuclear.com

I can take about 1g hit in the morning and not need any for the rest of the day. I just mix it with cold distilled H2O.And, it feels nice... Not as nice as the percocet I was taking for my shoulder though ;D

Not that ethically clear (1)

Roger W Moore (538166) | more than 6 years ago | (#23524084)

These drugs would be immensely beneficial to the human race. And what sane person wouldn't want to be smarter?

If the decision were that simple there would not be a problem. The question you should be asking is "What person would want to be smarter given the risk of unknown side effects from long term use?". These things are messing with your brain chemistry so side effects could be subtle: suppose they suppress happiness (not cause depression mind you)? Would you want to take them then?

If there are long term effects, say like early dementia, is it fair for the rest of us to pay for the required health care? There is a big difference between taking drugs to restore normal functionality and enhancing performance of a perfectly healthy human being.

A musical interlude... (2, Interesting)

argent (18001) | more than 6 years ago | (#23523418)

Richard Shindell's Confession [richardshindell.com] ...

Hey Doc
How's about a refill
Hey Doc
The pretty little blue pill...

Incomplete measurement? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23523442)

FTA:

Provigil, for example, adds the ability to remember an extra digit or so to an individual's working memory (most people can hold seven random digits in their memory, but have difficulty with eight).
Ok, so that's fairly interesting, but it's not enough. You also need to ask: would a placebo add an extra digit as well?

Usually a placebo does have some minor effect, so I wouldn't be surprised to see an improvement in performance on the same order.

Withdrawal and Other Downsides? (2, Insightful)

Doc Ruby (173196) | more than 6 years ago | (#23523458)

What happens to your cognition once you stop taking it, after you've gotten used to taking it? Do you get a tolerance, so you not only need higher doses for a smarts boost, but you also just return to your base performance after getting used to it?

What's the withdrawal like?

I suspect that maybe the many kids given Ritalin while growing up learn to depend on it for their baseline. When they outgrow their "hyperactivity" (AKA "childhood"), they quit the drugs, and sink into an unfamiliar dullness in which they can't think at their previous baseline without the artificial stimulation. And how much do they just get burned out from the steady drugging?

Something's got to explain the evident steady decay in average intellect as the years wear on [imdb.com] , despite these synthetic boosts.

Re:Withdrawal and Other Downsides? (5, Informative)

grammar fascist (239789) | more than 6 years ago | (#23523802)

I can answer these questions on the average for Adderall and Dexedrine (dextroamphetamines) and Ritalin (methylphenidate).

What happens to your cognition once you stop taking it, after you've gotten used to taking it? Do you get a tolerance, so you not only need higher doses for a smarts boost, but you also just return to your base performance after getting used to it?

Tolerance is rarely an issue with the low doses given to treat ADHD. A couple of back-of-the-envelope calculations suggest that an average dose of Adderall (20mg) is about 1/10 an average "first hit" of meth or cocaine. Prescription medications are also designed to metabolize much more slowly than recreational drugs.

Tolerance mainly results from neurons being overexcited and altering receptor sites in response. (This is in fact how caffeine tolerance develops.) People who take these medications under a doctor's care are generally not overstimulated. In fact, with ADHD, because medication corrects understimulation it's usually not an issue at all.

I would be more worried about tolerance if the general population started on them, though.

What's the withdrawal like?

Usually a little mentally fuzzier than before medication and maybe a bit crankier. It lasts about half an hour to an hour. People report that Ritalin and Dexedrine have "rougher edges" than Adderall, which makes sense since Adderall is a mixture of amphetamine salts that metabolize at different rates.

I suspect that maybe the many kids given Ritalin while growing up learn to depend on it for their baseline. When they outgrow their "hyperactivity" (AKA "childhood"), they quit the drugs, and sink into an unfamiliar dullness in which they can't think at their previous baseline without the artificial stimulation.

If they don't outgrow ADHD and they need medication to function, they shouldn't stop.

However, often the medication does have a lasting effect, though not one that people with "OMG DRUGGIES!!!" in mind would predict. It can train your mind to mimic the patterns it gets used to while on medication. People will often lower their dosage over time, and some quit altogether. I'm not aware of anyone needing more until they're a prescription crack-head. Both anecdotal evidence and the literature (peer-reviewed studies) support this.

It also tends to train behavior. While on medication, functional behavior is much easier, and people who learn to function effectively while on medication have an easier time off of it than they did before medication.

Again, I wouldn't apply this to the general population, just to people who use medication to treat neurological problems.

And how much do they just get burned out from the steady drugging?

They only do if the dose is too high. The beautiful thing about stimulants at these dosages is that their cognitive effects don't last into the next day, except for the gradual effects I mentioned.

Digits and Nootropics (4, Informative)

DynaSoar (714234) | more than 6 years ago | (#23523468)

To first address the comments regarding number of digits in working memory: the "magic number" is 7 plus or minus 2, the variance being context dependent. To hold more items in memory, which people obviously do, they employ "chunking", or grouping them together and remembering the chunks in the necessary sequence. The 7 digit phone number was based on the original 7 digit idea, the grouping of area code XXX, prefix YYY, and last 4 ZZZZ was based on chunking. Since this chunking is a major action of attention and memory, simply adding a single digit to a single chunk is a weird way to claim improvement.

Yet once again an article on cognition enhancement fails to note its origins and long standing history. The first nootropic, hydergine http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hydergine [wikipedia.org] , was developed by Albert Hoffmann of Sandoz. While he is best known for LSD, his "problem child", he considered hydergine to be his most important discovery. He credited his longentivity (he died recently at age 102) to using hydergine regularly.

Speaking of which.. (1)

Sigg3.net (886486) | more than 6 years ago | (#23523484)

What cognitive abilities do you decrease?

legalize it (4, Interesting)

Deanalator (806515) | more than 6 years ago | (#23523492)

Modafinil [wikipedia.org] (provigil) is safer, more effective, and less addictive than caffeine.

Unfortunately, possession without a prescription can get you a year in jail. Strangly, it's chemical predecessor, Adrafinil is perfectly legal to buy over the counter (at about a tenth of the cost as well). It actually turns into modafinil in your stomach, but it takes longer to take effect, and the chemical byproducts cause stomach pains and liver problems.

Re:legalize it (2, Informative)

Martin Blank (154261) | more than 6 years ago | (#23523536)

Adrafinil is legal to import for personal use. It is not legal to sell OTC (at least in the US).

Re:legalize it (1)

bencoder (1197139) | more than 6 years ago | (#23523676)

and yet adrifinal has more side effects and is potentially more harmful to the body than modafinil.

Ritalin: Mentats for the 21st Century (1)

E. T. Moonshade (591333) | more than 6 years ago | (#23523540)

Best part is: Only a 15% chance of addiction, and you're unaddicted after a week!

Those aren't the only options... (5, Interesting)

slifox (605302) | more than 6 years ago | (#23523554)

Ritalin (methylphenidate), Provigil (aka Modafinil), Adderall (mixed amphetamine salts), etc are not the only options. In fact, there is a whole class of cognitive-enhancement drugs, called Nootropics.

The best of these (and arguable one of the safest), in my non-medical opinion, is Piracetam. It is a cyclic derivative of the neurotransmitter GABA, and has been used extensively since the 1960s in clinical studies, for treatment of Alzheimer's (and more), and off-label as a "supplement." Many studies suggest it increases blood flow (and hence oxygenation) to the brain, and protects the brain against damage from alcohol poisoning. It has no known LD-50, and has been clinically tested in daily doses exceeding 50 grams!

I personally use Piracetam to help study, and through my (obviously non-blinded and partially-biased) self-tests, I found that it really does help me learn things faster. After a cramming/studying session, I'll usually look back and realize how much material I've been able to learn in such a short time. All friends I've recommended it to have come to the same conclusion. My dosages vary from 1 gram up to 5 grams at a time, repeating every 3-4 hours.

Unfortunately, the reason why Nootropics aren't used much is because they don't have the intense effects that *stimulants* such as Ritalin do. The effects of Piracetam are very subtle (though the first time is more noticable)--enough so that its easy to get discouraged. However, when you take Ritalin, the stimulation effect is VERY noticeable (and fun, for many people).

The big problems with stimulants are that they aren't great for your body, they can encourage bad sleep habits, they are fun to use (possibly leading to irresponsible use), and they can lead to distraction for those not used to the effects at the used dosage. Additionally, they have terrible come-downs. A responsible stimulant user must recognize these aspects and make efforts to control them, otherwise they will not get any work done, or worse harm themselves!

Disclaimer: I'm not licensed to give medical advice. These are my opinions and are for informational purposes only. Using the mentioned stimulants without a prescription is stupidly illegal (but illegal nonetheless). I won't get into how prohibition is stupid and doesn't work (I think free-use regulation and accurate dispersion of information is the way to go). More importantly though, using these drugs improperly can be unsafe. Make sure you thoroughly research any drugs you use, including over-the-counter drugs, and consult a medical professional when unsure about possible interactions with other drugs or your health conditions.

Wikipedia on Piracetam: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Piracetam [wikipedia.org]

Erowid on Nootropics: http://www.erowid.org/smarts/ [erowid.org]

Re:Those aren't the only options... (1)

Orbijx (1208864) | more than 6 years ago | (#23523678)

That's some pretty interesting stuff.

Before this topic, I was honestly in the dark on these drugs -- I didn't really notice any of their existence. Given how unable I am to focus on a topic, I don't think it'd hurt me too much to try out one of those.

Plus, the links you've offered are a perk -- It gives me something to start with.

Thanks. :)

Re:Those aren't the only options... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23523862)

so where do I get it?

Re:Those aren't the only options... (1)

slifox (605302) | more than 6 years ago | (#23524232)

I buy Piracetam very cheaply in powder form in bulk on eBay. The seller I buy from is Nutraceuticals, which seems to provide decent quality (and they do have a lab analysis report attached to their auctions--though how applicable it is to all their shipments is questionable). I haven't tried others, but I'm sure there are other quality sellers/stores. Nonetheless, be careful buying things you'll ingest from places that aren't regulated (and/or don't have proper quality assurance and analysis).

I also buy 000-size empty gelcaps and pack the Piracetam into those. Some people mix the Piracetam into a drink, like OJ, but I find the taste to be way too disgusting. Gelcaps are much better, easier, and faster to use (with the downside being they take longer to prepare). Gelcaps also give you a more regulated dosage, though overdosing is not really an issue with Piracetam AFAIK.

To fill a lot of gelcaps at once, you can get a capsule filler tool, which is basically a board with holes for half of the capsules to fit in, and which you pour the powder over and tamp (pack) down using a tamping tool. The cheap ones still require you to separate the gelcaps by hand, and replace the covers by hand at the end. It won't make it go much faster than packing the gelcaps one-by-one, but its a lot more enjoyable.

Re:Those aren't the only options... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23524050)

Ritalin is not always noticeable. Even at high dosages I never felt any real significant effect. My personal experience may or may not be a statistical anomaly, however it should be taken into consideration that stimulates do not affect everyone the same way.

Re:Those aren't the only options... (1)

hxnwix (652290) | more than 6 years ago | (#23524146)

it should be taken into consideration that stimulates do not affect everyone the same way
I wonder about this perception of methylphenidate (ritalin). Being a dopamanergic reuptake inhibitor, methylphenidate increases the amount of dopamine in the synapse.

If you are sensitive to dopamine, which you most certainly are, then you should be sensitive to methylphenidate. Perception is complex; perhaps you fail to notice ritalin's effects or feel motivated to deny them.

Cognition Dehancer Research (1)

jpmattia (793266) | more than 6 years ago | (#23523718)

Cognition enhancers just make your life more complicated. I'm currently engaged in cognition dehancer [winespectator.com] research. It's much tastier, too.

Now if only I could get funding for it...

Setting the Curve (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23523818)

As a few people have touched on above, there are some huge problems with the enthusiasm for these drugs. They are very poorly understood, not least with regard to side effects. So, let's say that the benefit outweighs the risk for people who truly need them (severe disorder, or what have you) - not only are they over-prescribed, but they are widely abused by people with no prescription ... any student at an American university can confirm. By my observation, people who have used too much legal-Speed (Ritalin, Adderall, etc) think and act a lot like people who have used too much Speed-Speed.
It does improve their performance in the short run though. And what do you think a professor sees? More kids getting more work done in less time - time to assign more problems; it isn't necessarily quality work, but if it was just busy-work to begin with (or it's just a large class), that doesn't matter.

Re:Setting the Curve (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23523912)

{edit for AC}
by 'touched on above', I esp. agree w/ penguinisto

Normal People (1)

PPH (736903) | more than 6 years ago | (#23523914)

Because of such positive effects on normal people...
The normal people referenced are Ciba-Geigy stockholders and the positive effects are primarily to their portfolio value.

Cognition improvement for MS (3, Interesting)

perkyx1 (1104245) | more than 6 years ago | (#23524142)

Personally I'm keen on the idea - from a selfish point of view :-) As I have progressive MS it seems like cognitive problems aren't due soon (hopefully) and will be less than with other forms (again, hopefully) but if there's a hope for something that'll help prevent this - then that's great. Not walking too well is ok, and being a wheelchair user is something I can surely cope with - but difficulty with thinking? That's the most terrifying thing I can imagine.

Re:Cognition improvement for MS (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23524200)

I've been dumb all my life, my fear is that I'll lose the other eye ;)

most people can hold seven random digits (2, Informative)

non (130182) | more than 6 years ago | (#23524356)

i disagree. people can hold however many digits in their head as they are accustomed to holding. to say that the number of digits just _happens_ to coincide with the number of digits in an american phone number is obviously ethnocentric.

not only that, but people become accustomed to structuring that memory in different manners. is it 2-2-3, or 3-2-2. or 3-4. people remember strings of digits in the patterns that they learned as a child.

i learned an 11-digit number on first go last weekend, its a swiss telephone number dialed from overseas; 414354#####. what is this bullshit about adding an *extra* digit to one's memory?

My Experiences with Nootroics (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23524362)

I have taken just about every nootropic I could get my hands on. It's my personal choice... better living through chemistry and all that. I would say that my favorites are Provigil and the racetams (Piracetam, Aniracetam and Oxiracetam). Provigil (Modafinil) is what I prefer, but when I can't get my hands on it, it's easy to order Olmifon (Adrafanil) legally online from overseas and import. Olmifon is a precursor to Provigil. There are waste by-products, so it's not recommended to use for more than three months without liver tests. In regard to the racetams... I've found the three that I've mentioned to be all useful and unique in their qualities. Piracetam is great for communication. Words flow much easier and eloquence is heightened. Aniracetam is good for anxiety. It's been likened to the relaxation of valium without any grogginess. Oxiracetam is the turbo-booster. Big, huge effects, very quickly. It's like clicking a light switch in your head. Great cognitive enhancer all around. I like this one a lot. For the newly initiated, i would recommend trying Olmifon and Oxiracetam. Also, a good multivitamin including Phosphidatyle Serine is good for overall brain health. I currently take "Higher Mind", which I find to be pretty good. Side effects from all the supplements I've mentioned can vary. At time, any may cause a slight headache which can usually be remedied by eating a carbohydrate loaded meal. Do I feel that the supplements are worth the considerable cost? If I am studying for an exam or if I want that boost, yes. No doubt. For daily use, probably not. Something to keep in mind is that the brain is very clever and can build tolerances to anything, so the effects can wear off or become less noticable with daily use. That's why I try to use Olmifon/Provigil no more than 2 - 3 times per week. The rest of the supplements can be used daily, if desired. Racetams have no known lethal dose and are considered very, very safe.

Beta-blockers also work in this way... (3, Interesting)

Bones3D_mac (324952) | more than 6 years ago | (#23524402)

Beta-blockers medications commonly taken by patients with varying heart conditions, such as Atenolol or Metoprolol, can also generate similar effects in brain function and memory. For example, as a child, I was regularly a D to F student during my middle school and early high school years. But after having been diagnosed with a heart murmur and placed on Atenolol, I suddenly started generating A's and B's in my classes. Although I never really pieced it together until a few years ago, I do know I was able to focus on my work far more easily due to a perceived "slow-down" in my overall personality

Also, it seemed to improve my ability to work with logic problems, making programming a far simpler task... especially when it came to tracing/debugging my own code.
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