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Cosmetic Neurology

kdawson posted more than 5 years ago | from the we-have-a-pill-for-that dept.

Biotech 369

The New Yorker has a long piece examining the growing trend of healthy people, not diagnosed with any mental condition, taking drugs that enhance mental functioning, including Adderall and Provigil. The profiles include a Harvard student, a professional poker player, a number of brain researchers, and a self-described transhumanist. "Zack [Lynch]... has a book being published this summer, called 'The Neuro Revolution'... In coming years, he said, scientists will understand the brain better, and we'll have improved neuroenhancers that some people will use therapeutically, others because they are 'on the borderline of needing them therapeutically,' and others purely 'for competitive advantage.' ... Even if today's smart drugs aren't as powerful as such drugs may someday be, there are plenty of questions that need to be asked about them. How much do they actually help? Are they potentially harmful or addictive? Then, there's the question of what we mean by 'smarter.' Could enhancing one kind of thinking exact a toll on others? All these questions need proper scientific answers, but for now much of the discussion is taking place furtively, among the increasing number of Americans who are performing daily experiments on their own brains. ... [A cognitive researcher said,] 'Cognitive psychologists have found that there is a trade-off between attentional focus and creativity. And there is some evidence that suggests that individuals who are better able to focus on one thing and filter out distractions tend to be less creative. ... I'm a little concerned that we could be raising a generation of very focused accountants.'"

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For years... (4, Insightful)

Shikaku (1129753) | more than 5 years ago | (#27723737)

Everyone has been taking caffeine. So what else is new?

Re:For years... (4, Interesting)

RichardJenkins (1362463) | more than 5 years ago | (#27723843)

And alcohol, and caffeine, and all sorts of prescription drugs with adverse side effects.

Society doesn't seem to think drugs need to be banned or even disapproved of just because they can have (extremely) undesirable side effects.

If a nootropic came to exist that made you a whole bunch smarter, and a whole bunch less creative with no other obvious side effects - I think you can kiss creativity goodbye.

Netcraft confirms (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27724243)

Of course it runs NetBSD [zoy.org] ...

Re:For years... (4, Insightful)

Narpak (961733) | more than 5 years ago | (#27724411)

If a nootropic came to exist that made you a whole bunch smarter, and a whole bunch less creative with no other obvious side effects - I think you can kiss creativity goodbye.

"Smarter" is a fairly vague term. Smarter how? Some activities (work related or not) require creativity for you to be effective. Not counting the obvious ones (like design, music, painting, architecture etc) I would say that a scientist or detective without creativity could be hyper intelligent and still not be able to produce a usable result; depending of course on what the desired result is. One could argue that making certain connections requires creativity.

That being said I find this area of research to be fascinating; even if it does at times make me a just a bit apprehensive.

Re:For years... (4, Insightful)

tverbeek (457094) | more than 5 years ago | (#27724637)

Um... "a whole bunch smarter, and a whole bunch less creative" is damn near a contradiction in terms. Granted, there are all kinds of "smart", but some form of creativity (whether analytic or intuitive) is involved in most of them.

Re:For years... (1)

RDW (41497) | more than 5 years ago | (#27723859)

It's much worse than that. Last year the NIH cracked down on scientists found to have indulged in 'Brain Doping [blogspot.com] !'

Re:For years... (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27724215)

Ah, that was an April Fool's Day joke. Helps if you read the article. :(

Re:For years... (3, Funny)

el3mentary (1349033) | more than 5 years ago | (#27723901)

"Looks like I picked a bad day to quit amphetamines..."

Re:For years... (4, Funny)

glavenoid (636808) | more than 5 years ago | (#27724093)

"Looks like I picked the wrong day to quit sniffing glue..."

Re:For years... (3, Funny)

Rob the Bold (788862) | more than 5 years ago | (#27724199)

"There's a sale at Pennies!"

Re:For years... (4, Insightful)

rootofevil (188401) | more than 5 years ago | (#27723979)

not to mention 'creativity enhancers' like acid, pot, shrooms, etc.

it all depends what you want to optimize for.

Re:For years... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27723985)

Try being awake for 40h just with coffee. PS: Yes, i'm on modafinil but because of sleep and tireness problems.

Re:For years... (3, Insightful)

tverbeek (457094) | more than 5 years ago | (#27724111)

The idea of healthy people taking modern pharmaceuticals to enhance their thinking dates back at least to LSD in the 1960s.

Re:For years... (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27724449)

It dates back to the first time a human found something to put in his body to alter his perception.

The Bible says in Psalm 104: [kingjbible.com]
14 He[God] causeth the grass to grow for the cattle, and herb for the service of man: that he may bring forth food out of the earth;

15 And wine that maketh glad the heart of man, and oil to make his face to shine, and bread which strengtheneth man's heart.

Less Creative? (5, Interesting)

Dr. Eggman (932300) | more than 5 years ago | (#27723791)

Bah, I say! I am no more or less creative when I take my prescribed adderall, only more able to apt to finish the task at hand before wondering off into a new creation or idea.

well (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27723835)

more like you get more ideas and never complete them all. Could be cool in a team setting.
At least that's the way i am.
I literally have about a dozen ideas at any time and get to them all to completion in time , i just seem to get inspired and then DO, if it's a sci fi game , ill watch movies similar to the design and that seems to perk the senses.

Perhaps that research should be looked at rather then doping people out with out knowing long term side effects and genetic problems that may result.

Re:well (2, Insightful)

darealpat (826858) | more than 5 years ago | (#27724175)

Depends what kind of team setting you are talking about. If you are talking about team sports, IMHO a lessening of creativity will make a team less likely to succeed. Communication of ideas tend to be burst/spontaneous and situation oriented especially when presented with a shifting/changing situation (opposing team changing defense or offense) and being more focused will not necessarily help that: the focus may only be on the route to be run and its expected variations, and therefore may not be aware of the opponent just ever so slightly tipping their hand at a novel approach.

Then again...it might help the superior performer go through various permutations of the situation quicker. Imagine a more "focused" Michael Jordan in his hey-day (yipes! Cavs fans) or Ronaldo (from Manchester united, if u don't know who he is, replace with Tom Brady).

Could be something to it...and then there will be one more thing to ban.

Re:Less Creative? (1)

prehistoricman5 (1539099) | more than 5 years ago | (#27723853)

I find that when I take mine, I might even be LESS likely to finish (or even start) a task if I dislike it...

Re:Less Creative? (1)

guyminuslife (1349809) | more than 5 years ago | (#27723987)

Same. I just work and work and work and work, but not at what I'm supposed to be doing.

Sort of why I quit.

Re:Less Creative? (4, Interesting)

Dr. Eggman (932300) | more than 5 years ago | (#27724149)

Not to be insulting, but these are not magic pills that make you do what you are supposed to. You still have to want to do what you have to do, even if you don't like it; there's a difference between lack of concentration and simple apathy. Both may lead you to distraction, but only one of them is really treated by the medication. You must overcome the apathy yourself.

...Oh OK, so there is something to be said of the side effects; some people do experience a sort of 'high' while on doses above what they realy need, which may pulverize any apathy and genuinely lead them to doing (even enjoying) tasks they would not normally. But this is really quite far off from my original assertion that the idea these drugs stunt creativity is untrue.

Re:Less Creative? (1)

hedwards (940851) | more than 5 years ago | (#27724397)

That's, unfortunately, quite right.

What I find to be shocking is that people are making all kinds of unsubstantiated claims about what these medications can do for those that don't have a problem. The reality is that unless you've got a deficit in attention that you're unlikely to see much improvement in focus. And definitely no improvement in intellect.

People make all kinds of claims about these sorts of medications, but the effect isn't going to beat just eating a healthy diet, getting exercise and going to bed for a reasonable amount of time. These medications at best give a person back what they've already lost, they are unlikely affect neuroplasticity.

Re:Less Creative? (1)

Narpak (961733) | more than 5 years ago | (#27724463)

"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."

Re:Less Creative? (2, Interesting)

mrchaotica (681592) | more than 5 years ago | (#27724571)

Not to be insulting, but these are not magic pills that make you do what you are supposed to. You still have to want to do what you have to do, even if you don't like it; there's a difference between lack of concentration and simple apathy.

In my experience, that's the case with amphetamines (Adderall/Vyvanse). Wellbutrin, on the other hand, doesn't seem to have any effect at all at the time, but later I can see retrospectively that I chose and completed the important tasks more efficiently when I was using it. In other words, amphetamines don't help with apathy, but Wellbutrin actually does (at least for me).

Re:Less Creative? (1)

Dr. Eggman (932300) | more than 5 years ago | (#27724633)

But isn't Wellbutrin supposed to be an anti-depressant? I would think that unconquerable apathy is a part of depression. In otherwords, while there's certainly overlap in symptoms and treatment, adderall and wellbutrin are for two different problems.

Re:Less Creative? (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27724267)

My insults are much move clever when I take my Blackadderall.

Focused accountants (1)

mork (62099) | more than 5 years ago | (#27723823)

"... I'm a little concerned that we could be raising a generation of very focused accountants.'""

What about those of us that are already "focused accountants" what do we get out of this "Neuro Revolution"?

Re:Focused accountants (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27723871)

Spontaneous combustion.

Re:Focused accountants (4, Interesting)

YttriumOxide (837412) | more than 5 years ago | (#27723939)

What about those of us that are already "focused accountants" what do we get out of this "Neuro Revolution"?

I'd recommend another relatively well known substance that never seems to get enough credit these days - LSD. It's great for creativity and getting yourself out of "single directional thinking". It definitely helped my programming anyway... gave me a chance to reconsider some ideas I'd held as being "true" and instead come up with new ways of doing things. Some worse, but some better. Discard the worse ones, keep the better ones and it's a plus in the end.

Note: I wouldn't recommend it too regularly, but up to 12 times a year (once a month) is generally fine.

Second note: if you consider yourself the kind of person who can't control his/her own thoughts very well, then start with VERY low doses until you're comfortable with it and then increase slowly - a bad trip can be managed if you're strong willed AND know what to expect/look for, but if not, it gets nasty.

Re:Focused accountants (2, Informative)

soundguy (415780) | more than 5 years ago | (#27724289)

Acid is not a toy. As a "bathtub" drug there is no consistency of dosage or quality. There are tens of thousands of people in mental hospitals because of the permanent psychological damage it can cause in certain individuals, most notably those who already walk the fine line between creative genius and insanity.

The music industry is littered with high-profile examples of people who ended up with permanently damaged psyches; Syd Barrett (Pink Floyd), Peter Green (Fleetwood Mac), and one of the more horrifying examples (whom I knew personally), Kurt Struebing, guitarist for the Seattle death-metal band NME. Under the influence of repeated dosages, Kurt developed the idea that his mother was a robot and gutted her with a kitchen knife. A number of years later, after being released from prison, he drove his vehicle off the end of an open drawbridge in Seattle under unknown curcumstances and ended his tragic life.

If any brand of crazy or a high degree of creativity runs in your family, you are well advised to avoid recreational usage of lysergic acid, mescaline, psylocybin, MDMA, and all other psychotropic/psychoactive substances.

Re:Focused accountants (1)

ubergeek2009 (1475007) | more than 5 years ago | (#27724643)

I don't believe we know enough about drugs lke lsd for them to be used in the public like that.

Re:Focused accountants (1)

B33RM17 (1243330) | more than 5 years ago | (#27723961)

More competition for accounting jobs?

Maybe not livelier competition...

But definitely more :-P

Re:Focused accountants (0)

BorgCopyeditor (590345) | more than 5 years ago | (#27724527)

Duh. You become mentats and serve at the pleasure of the Great Houses, unless the Ixians get a hold of you and start experimenting on you. Then you become a warrior-poet-accountant.

Less creative! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27723825)

I'm a little concerned that we could be raising a generation of very focused accountants.

I'm an accountant, you insensitive clod!

Used in college (4, Interesting)

usul294 (1163169) | more than 5 years ago | (#27723841)

I just finished up undergraduate classes as an electrical engineer, and I would say the majority of people in my department used Adderall to help them study longer. Those people all ended up with better GPA's for it. It's almost the same question with sports and steroids, if I had used that kind of drug to increase my studying capacity, I probably could have gotten enough of an extra boost to enter "free Ph.D." territory.

Re:Used in college (5, Insightful)

techno-vampire (666512) | more than 5 years ago | (#27723967)

Those people all ended up with better GPA's for it.

And how much did they retain a month later, would you think, compared with those who didn't? That's the real point of getting an education, you know, not just grades.

Re:Used in college (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27724065)

I see what you're getting at; you don't want to admit that there is actually a lasting advantage to using a drug to help learn. Your sense of right and wrong desperately wants any benefits to be temporary and even better, have some sort of horrible side effect down the road. I don't think the answer to your question is relevant because whether it's happened or not eventually there will be drugs that enhance intelligence/learning with no significant side effects.

Re:Used in college (2, Interesting)

techno-vampire (666512) | more than 5 years ago | (#27724235)

I see what you're getting at; you don't want to admit that there is actually a lasting advantage to using a drug to help learn.

No. As I explained to another poster, I wanted to know if the advantage were long-term or short. And, as I've been out of school for longer than the average slashdotter's been alive, it's only a case of satisfying my curiosity.

Re:Used in college (3, Interesting)

madsci1016 (1111233) | more than 5 years ago | (#27724317)

I wanted to know if the advantage were long-term or short. And, as I've been out of school for longer than the average slashdotter's been alive, it's only a case of satisfying my curiosity.

I'm not sure about the long term, but i have witnessed first hand the same person studying with and without Adderall and the difference is scary. When on Adderall knowledge retention becomes increased ten fold and immunity to distractions becomes perfect. It reminds me of movies where you see super geniuses recite any line from a book read in the past.

Re:Used in college (4, Insightful)

moteyalpha (1228680) | more than 5 years ago | (#27724549)

Mind and body and personality. I can over clock my CPU until it melts and it gets faster and faster until it dies. In the 60's it was a common expression to hear, "Speed Kills" and it was very true, as I witnessed the slow/fast decay of numerous people, not just from Amphetamines, but LSD-25, Heroine, Cocaine and things that are not even around anymore.
The few that lived after sniffing Chloro-Fluoro-Carbons or OD ing, I see trying to make change at the local ice cream store or equivalent.
To some extent they all eat away at the body and mind. It is a strange road to take and the end of that road is as often creativity or some other advantage, followed by the opposite *10.

Re:Used in college (2, Insightful)

ChrisMaple (607946) | more than 5 years ago | (#27724675)

When on Adderall knowledge retention becomes increased ten fold...

The effect on a person who normally has retention above 10% must be startling.
Someone who can recite any line from a book is more likely to be an idiot savant than a genius.

Re:Used in college (1)

mrchaotica (681592) | more than 5 years ago | (#27724683)

Basically, drugs like Adderall are just really powerful stimulants (in fact, they're essentially the same thing as speed). They work simply because they help you spend more time studying, in exactly the same way as if you had spent extra time studying without them. They just help you compress that time by eliminating distractions (or by allowing you to actually spend more time at it before getting tired). It's like the difference between working a normal 8-hour day, and working for 8 hours without checking your email and Slashdot every 10 minutes -- you get the full 8 hours of actual work, rather than the 4 hours you'd get otherwise.

So yes, the retention of the stuff you learned while taking the drug is the same as for stuff you learned any other time; it's only the ability to learn at that rate that wears off.

Re:Used in college (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27724067)

Why do you expect there to be any difference?

Re:Used in college (2, Insightful)

techno-vampire (666512) | more than 5 years ago | (#27724217)

I don't so much expect a difference as wonder if there is one. It occurred to me that the enhancers might have had an effect on the user's ability to shift things from short-term memory to long. Also, there's the possibility of state-dependent learning involved, so I asked.

Re:Used in college (4, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27724075)

I know the feeling. I went to university with people who were on that same drug. I wasn't taking ANY drugs, but I knew I had some sort of studying-related problem. Now I find out I had undiagnosed OCD/ADHD (a common pairing, as I understand) the entire time. So I know why I got sucky grades compared to all the people I lived with, even though they all thought of me as "gifted."

Looking back, on the one hand I want to go back to school and see how I would do on all my new wonder drugs; on the other hand, I am really grateful for that experience and the humility that it taught me. I was able to work around my condition even though I didn't know anything was "wrong," and I learned a lot from all the F's, D's, and C's I got, eventually raising my GPA to just under a 3.5.

Re:Used in college (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27724323)

You can do well in undergraduate engineering if you have two things: drugs and solution manuals... and most people have both!

Re:Used in college (1)

westlake (615356) | more than 5 years ago | (#27724095)

It's almost the same question with sports and steroids, if I had used that kind of drug to increase my studying capacity, I probably could have gotten enough of an extra boost to enter "free Ph.D." territory.

and what price does the steroid-boosted athlete pay later on in life - in the years when an academic is still likely to productive?

Re:Used in college (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27724631)

well if -not- using steroid will meant -not- getting in the team or -not- getting "free Ph.D" and going to turn burgers your whole life, you wont be a lot productive even not doing them...

Re:Used in college (5, Interesting)

inviolet (797804) | more than 5 years ago | (#27724171)

I just finished up undergraduate classes as an electrical engineer, and I would say the majority of people in my department used Adderall to help them study longer. Those people all ended up with better GPA's for it. It's almost the same question with sports and steroids, if I had used that kind of drug to increase my studying capacity, I probably could have gotten enough of an extra boost to enter "free Ph.D." territory.

I prefer the term "brain management". It's asinine to assume (as John Q. Public does assume) that everyone's bran operates in the approved western modern 40-hour-work-week manner. Those whose brains do not -- be they ornery, overly type A, sociopathic, a bully, depressed, whatever -- can have a better life if they can make some adjustments. The only question is, what are the risk tradeoffs for the current crop of brain-adjustment drugs?

There is going to be a lot of embarrassing public hue and cry about this, coming from those who luckily do not need any such adjustments.

I once worked for a guy for three years and was always mystified by his occasional "asshole" days, in which he was an insufferable type-A jerk. Years later I bumped into him in another city, and he apologized, explaining that those bad days were the ones when he'd run out of grass. inviolet was enlightened.

Re:Used in college (2, Interesting)

madsci1016 (1111233) | more than 5 years ago | (#27724273)

I just finished up undergraduate classes as an electrical engineer, and I would say the majority of people in my department used Adderall to help them study longer. Those people all ended up with better GPA's for it.

Any chance you go to a Florida school? Because as soon as i saw this article, i was going to post exactly what you said.

I can count at least half of my BSEE graduating class that used Adderall for every test, and they always got better grades because of it.

I'm not going to argue it won't hurt them down the road, but guess what, their drug inflated GPAs are getting them jobs now in this bad economy while the honest are struggling. How is this not a form of cheating?

Re:Used in college (2, Insightful)

rastilin (752802) | more than 5 years ago | (#27724547)

How is this not a form of cheating?

Because they did the work...

Similar to using caffeine to stay up through the night before the exam. What matters is how much work you do, not how you do it.

Re:Used in college (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27724357)

Just to all those that do use it without a prescription - use caution. I was convicted of felony possession of a controlled substance (amphetamines - aka, adderall) after police raided my dorm room (my roommates smoked weed - I did not - and an RA called in a complaint to the police).

I had two pills in my drawer. I had not used it in the past three months; I even took a hair follicle test to prove that I had not used it. Of course, the charge is possession, not consumption, so it didn't matter.

As a consequence I received five years of probation and I was stuck in a detention center for 60 days over the summer (basically jail with a different name). This was in addition, of course, to losing my state's scholarship for a year, $3000 in fines, and $6000 in legal fees.

Don't think it can't happen to you. I had a 4.0 GPA and was the head of many student organizations with nearly a thousand hours of volunteer service done over the course of my three years at school. One could argue that I was used as an "example" but the truth of the matter is that it can happen to anyone.

I am not saying whether using Adderall without a prescription is right or wrong. But I can tell you to be careful. I had never smoked weed or done any other drug in my life. I thought adderall was "different" - after all, they give it to six year olds. It just didn't seem like someone could ever get in serious trouble for it. I was wrong, and I ask others to treat it like any other illegal drug in their efforts to hide it and keeping its use inconspicuous.

On Provigil (1, Offtopic)

Sybert42 (1309493) | more than 5 years ago | (#27723845)

Singulatarian/transhumanist/atheist here. Effects are mostly subtle. The non-racemic Nuvigil may be slightly better, but I wouldn't expect much.

Re:On Provigil (1)

guyminuslife (1349809) | more than 5 years ago | (#27724015)

I spent hours writing lame jokes about Andrew Jackson, then couldn't remember them afterward.

lolwut (3, Funny)

Sybert42 (1309493) | more than 5 years ago | (#27724055)

To reply to this post, or when you took Provigil?

About time (4, Funny)

oldhack (1037484) | more than 5 years ago | (#27723847)

I, for one, seriously, welcome accountants becoming more focused and less creative.

Re:About time (1)

moon3 (1530265) | more than 5 years ago | (#27724099)

Robots, machines and software are here to be focused and efficient. For real competitive advantage of today people should opt and enhance their creativity.

Re:About time (1)

oldhack (1037484) | more than 5 years ago | (#27724359)

Still advocating accounting creativity as a "real competitive advantage", are you?

Who cares about history majors...now scientists? (5, Interesting)

Sybert42 (1309493) | more than 5 years ago | (#27723867)

In the march to the Singularity, we don't need history majors writing papers or Baseball players hitting homeruns. We need science. A neuroscientist taking a cognitive-enhancing drug is a direct example of recursive, exponential growth to the Singularity. Keep it coming.

Focus (2, Interesting)

flaming error (1041742) | more than 5 years ago | (#27723905)

>I'm a little concerned that we could be raising a generation of very focused accountants.

Very focused accountants isn't necessarily a bad thing.

I've taken some of these drugs myself - medical necessity. Couldn't focus on tasks worth a damn. Slept through high school, slept through college. I'd fall asleep at work, fall asleep while driving. Right now I've got a regimen that's working pretty good. If it were really good I would be doing something useful rather than goofing off on Slashdot, but the brain's working well enough that I tend to get my work done, just slower than I should be.

I feel like I'm performing the best I ever have. More ambitious about taking on projects, doing new things. I don't think I'm less creative for it, unless by creative they mean the dream-like half-conscious state I was in for twenty years.

But I've been doing all this by the book, under medical supervision. I don't think I'd be taking this stuff illegally for competitive reasons, like athletes do steroids - not sure if that makes me righteous or stupid.

The general idea of amping up brains seems like a positive to me, but I wouldn't be the guinea pig if I didn't have medical need.

Re:Focus (1)

BiggerIsBetter (682164) | more than 5 years ago | (#27724061)

Seconded. I had to make the choice though... perform better, or go flying legally. FAA et al don't much like folks flying on meds. Shame really, because many will be better pilots with their drugs of choice (or necessity).

I'mnotaddicted!! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27723927)

Ithinkthisstuffisgreatialreadyfeelreallysmartandnotatalladdictedwhere'sthatpillbottle???????

PR footwork for Big Pharma? (4, Insightful)

openfrog (897716) | more than 5 years ago | (#27723955)

There have been a few pieces of that kind in recent months, among those one in The Economist. They all follow the very same scenario and use the same rhetoric. Comments from readers testified of few benefits (confusion and excitation rather than concentration) and dramatic, often tragic side effects, with dependency consequences, etc. Each time the piece resurfaces, none of the downsides are mentioned and the same rhetoric: benign use, everybody uses it, unquestioned efficiency is brought back. Deregulating the sale of those drugs seems to be a coveted objective of Big Pharma and no wonder, considering the fabulous sums involved. Soma anyone?

Too conservative (0)

Sybert42 (1309493) | more than 5 years ago | (#27724081)

Same way you don't businesses catering to gay marriage--big money usually has religious hangups.

Re:PR footwork for Big Pharma? (1)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 5 years ago | (#27724083)

While I trust drug companies approximately as far as I can throw them, I'm not at all sure that that is what is at work. Most of the compounds mentioned in TFA are either still in the experimental/underground use stage, where there is No Chance that they'll be over the counter anytime soon, Economist articles or no, or are compounds that are already at, or nearing, the end of their span of patent protection.

Generics are big business; but their margins absolutely suck compared to the on-patent stuff.

Re:PR footwork for Big Pharma? (1)

glavenoid (636808) | more than 5 years ago | (#27724497)

For that matter, paxil anyone?

The best neuroenhancer of them all. (0)

techno-vampire (666512) | more than 5 years ago | (#27723975)

The best neuroenhancer the world will ever see is obecalp. Remember, boys and girls, obecalp is placebo spelled backwards!

marijuana (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27724037)

I would like to see an analysis for controlled marijuana usage and the effects it has on the brain (long term and short term). Of course this would be for people not diagnosed with any mental conditions.

I know some people who say it actually helps them be more productive (and creative) which I am sure is a biased opinion because of the fields that they are in (design, programming, etc).

Maybe there is a report like this already out there?

Drugs for bipolar (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27724039)

Lots of people take mind altering drugs:

1% of the population is bipolar - and
society will treat you as more of a freak if you do not take the tablets.

The red pill or the blue pill - hell take them all. anti depressants, stabilizers, drugs that make you shake, drugs that make you put on weight (or not care about anything - which amounts to the same thing), drugs that make you shake, drugs for stopping you shaking.

Hey chemistry set for grown up psychiatrists... I wish they had better things to do...

How is this "cosmetic"? (3, Insightful)

Virak (897071) | more than 5 years ago | (#27724043)

It's like saying driving a car instead of walking is "cosmetic transportation". Something whose main purpose is to provide functionality is pretty much the exact opposite of "cosmetic".

Re:How is this "cosmetic"? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27724145)

Yeah, "cosmetic neurology" would refer to surgery destined to improve the brain's appearance... I predict there will be such a fad in the future, when medecine finally allows to replace parts of the cranium with transparent "windows" displaying the brain. People will make their brains display messages or symbols, kinda like present-day tattoos (by the way, the captcha for this reply is "glamor").

And back OT, "cosmetic neurology" has a nice cyberpunk-ish sound to it, and works well in a headline to grab the reader's attention. Accuracy, schmaccuracy. This is Slashdot.

Evolution versus artificial modification (2, Interesting)

Twinbee (767046) | more than 5 years ago | (#27724117)

While I am not against the use of such drugs because of safety reasons per se, to me, it feels like we're cheating evolution. Perhaps evolution could come up with many of these modifications (intelligence/less drowsiness) naturally.

Heck, it's only a theory, and would be impossible to enforce in reality, but if nobody say... showered, shaved or brushed their teeth, I bet evolution would eventually bias towards those who were naturally less smelly, or clean-shaven looking. Thus saving everyone half an hour per day or whatever in the future.

Re:Evolution versus artificial modification (3, Insightful)

blahplusplus (757119) | more than 5 years ago | (#27724241)

"While I am not against the use of such drugs because of safety reasons per se, to me, it feels like we're cheating evolution. Perhaps evolution could come up with many of these modifications (intelligence/less drowsiness) naturally."

Sigh... why do people keep thinking that things are "unnatural" technically everything we do is NATURAL by definition, value judgements that x is good and y is bad because it is not 'natural' is cultural thing not ab objective truth.

If we were really so concerned about "cheating evolution" we would not save the sick, we would not have hospitals that keep people who are "wasting resources" on life support for x many years, we would let diseases run their course and not have anti-biotics or drugs, only our natural immune systems to deal with sickness.

The whole idea that we are "cheating evolution" or doming something "unnatural" is bogus, psychologically generated bullshit that we inherit from the culture and our proclivities.

IS playing video games natural?? or inventing computers? What about programming? What about making machines that do work for you so you no longer have to work at hard labour which kept your muscles in shape?

This whole obsession with an unreal version of nature that never was in our cultural mythos is the culprit.

Re:Evolution versus artificial modification (1)

Twinbee (767046) | more than 5 years ago | (#27724353)

[quote]IS playing video games natural?? or inventing computers? What about programming?[/quote]
I enjoy doing those things. I don't enjoy 'wasting' time brushing my teeth for the 5723rd time.

As for the sick, well that's going to be a touchy subject, but one has to try and balance the advantage to evolution with the degree of pain suffered by said person and family related to them. I can't discount the possibility that most/much health treatment would be a thing of the past in 500-5000 years though if nobody was ever treated.

Re:Evolution versus artificial modification (1)

Moridin42 (219670) | more than 5 years ago | (#27724575)

There was nothing said about anyone's ability to enjoy (or not) an "unnatural" activity. Completely beside the point. Either they're cheating evolution, or they are inherently part of it. It may be possible that doing away with medical science would improve the health of those that survive and their descendants. I imagine an organized eugenics program would do lots to reduce and possibly eliminate many genetic conditions, while simultaneously improving mental and physical ability. But humankind hasn't evolved in that direction. May never go that way. We treat the sick because that is how we were wired by evolution. We develop new ways to treat the sick because that, too, is how we are wired by evolution.

Re:Evolution versus artificial modification (1)

Culture20 (968837) | more than 5 years ago | (#27724285)

Except that it didn't favor those people before 100-200 years ago. It seems there's an advantage to being hairy and smelling strongly of pheromones.

Re:Evolution versus artificial modification (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27724319)

Your evolution-based solution has been shipped. Please allow ten to twenty thousand years for delivery.

Re:Evolution versus artificial modification (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27724363)

Heck, it's only a theory, and would be impossible to enforce in reality, but if nobody say... showered, shaved or brushed their teeth, I bet evolution would eventually bias towards those who were naturally less smelly, or clean-shaven looking. Thus saving everyone half an hour per day or whatever in the future.

So we're going to spend hundreds of thousands of years with bad breath, beards and really bad BO just to (potentially) save future generations 30 minutes each day?

You'd also have to enforce artificial selection so absolutely no breeding occurs between those with the less desirable traits.

Re:Evolution versus artificial modification (1)

Twinbee (767046) | more than 5 years ago | (#27724431)

I'm not convinced it would take 'hundreds of thousands' of years. Maybe even 1000 years tops would be enough. Perhaps someone with more knowledge on this kind of thing could step in.

Re:Evolution versus artificial modification (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27724375)

Why, exactly, should we wait for evolution to come up with this naturally? It's not like it's going to be any better if evolution does it; in case you hadn't noticed, many of evolution's creations have some rather serious flaws. If we can do things faster and better than evolution, then there's no need to keep relying on it. (Admittedly, we're not quite at the point where we can do everything evolution has, but we're getting there.)

Re:Evolution versus artificial modification (2, Insightful)

bnenning (58349) | more than 5 years ago | (#27724399)

it feels like we're cheating evolution

Yes, and that's a good thing. Unless you want nearsighted people to be eaten by bears.

Perhaps evolution could come up with many of these modifications (intelligence/less drowsiness) naturally.

Quite possibly, but I'd rather have them in 20 years instead of 200 million.

Re:Evolution versus artificial modification (1)

slothman32 (629113) | more than 5 years ago | (#27724445)

Th first thing I thought of when I read that was "Bear City" from SNL.
"There were 2 people left but they were quickly eaten by the bears.

Not a terrible thing (2, Insightful)

Pedrito (94783) | more than 5 years ago | (#27724187)

I don't really see anything wrong with this, as long as the drugs aren't over-used to the point where health is compromised.

I took Ritalin for a while. It was effective for a number of months and really helped me to focus, but it did cost me a great deal in terms of creativity, which is something I depend on more than I realized before taking Ritalin.

Eventually the Ritalin stopped working and my choice was between raising the dose (and probably having to boost my blood pressure meds concurrently), or quit. I chose to quit since I was missing my creativity.

While I understand the concern of doctors from the "if it ain't broke" camp, most doctor are happy enough to start throwing Paxil, Prozac and other SSRIs at people at the first hint of anxiety or depression, without even a hint of trying to address the real problem (whatever is causing the anxiety or depression). Why should they be so skittish about giving drugs to make people focus better and otherwise improve the quality of their lives?

Re:Not a terrible thing (1)

Dr. Eggman (932300) | more than 5 years ago | (#27724369)

I find this interesting because I do not notice a change in my creativity. I was thinking perhaps my definition of creativity is different; would you mind expanding on what you considered "your creativity?" Mine refers to both creative works, like writing stories, 3D modeling, as well as developing alternate, better or otherwise different means of accomplishing tasks, such as how to go about implementing a simple physics simulation.

Reinvented wheel (3, Insightful)

anonum (1057442) | more than 5 years ago | (#27724191)

AFAIK amphetamines were popular already in WW2 among soldiers being able to stay sharp extended periods (weeks or so), in 1960's truck drivers and students did it for the same purpose. This is really nothing new, just amphetamines renamed. The extremely addictive nature of amphetamines will create once again another generation of drug addicts from unsuspecting students who fall for the hype.

Focus more on long-term health than on enhancement (5, Interesting)

wjwlsn (94460) | more than 5 years ago | (#27724193)

Many people are taking smart drugs now -- solely for advantage, without prescribed a medical need -- but in most fields, I don't think it's to the point that *not* taking them is a disadvantage, yet. I admit to a certain amount of interest in nootropic drugs, especially those that could help me hyperfocus. However, I've limited myself to vitamins, minerals, and herbal products, with a primary goal of maintaining long-term brain health.

I've seen too many retirees and seniors slide away into fuzziness, dementia, or worse. On the other hand, I've seen a few that remained sharp as tacks into their 80s and 90s. There are some pretty clear differences between the lifestyles of these two groups. I've tried to learn something from those differences.

I'm turning 40 this year, which is about when most people say they start to feel age-related decline. I want a healthy, well-functioning brain for now and the future. So, I pay a lot more attention to my nutrition than I used to, have started a regular exercise program, and engage in a few different "brain training" activities on a regular basis. I actually feel many benefits now -- I feel better, I'm happier, and my mind seems a little sharper.

In addition to the above, I take a prepared "stack" that includes a variety of nutrients and compounds for both mild cognitive enhancement and neuroprotection. I did a lot of research before I picked AOR's Ortho-Mind, which seems pretty well-balanced and reasonably priced. I also take an Omega-3 supplement daily, along with a good multi-vitamin and a "green" drink with a lot of antioxidants and phytonutrients. My monthly investment, dollar-wise, is less than $100. I have friends that spend that amount each month on coffee.

The big thing here is to be careful in what you choose to take. I chose to focus first on overall brain health, and I'm happy with results so far. Only then did I start adding some mild cognitive enhancers, but even then, I made sure my chosen stack included agents specifically chosen for their neuroprotective properties. If I ever become convinced that any of the various smart drugs make sense from that perspective, then maybe I'll change my strategy... but right now, I think a little conservatism is a good thing.

What? No mention of Neurotropics? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27724227)

No mention of energy of Aniracetam? Or the focus of DMAE?

Come on! Get with the program! Speed is an old drug

Spectacluar (5, Informative)

DynaSoar (714234) | more than 5 years ago | (#27724259)

For once, an article that carries through the excellent understanding of the researchers. They have a very good grasp of the current state of cognition research. I've not seen the balance between focus (under control of executive function) and heuristic (purposefully instigated but unconsciously operating) cognition.

However, they answer has already been obtained. True nootropics (cognition enhancing drugs) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nootropics [wikipedia.org] were first created/discovered over 50 years ago. If it weren't for the fact he discovered/created LSD, Albert Hoffmann would have been in line for a Nobel for Hydergine. It, and its many derivatives (the racetams), have been in use for more than half a century. Hoffmann himself credited hydergine for his longetivity (he died not long ago at age 103). These drugs are frequently reclassified, almost invariably downwards, to "possibly effective" in the US, and only recommended for late stage dementias. Elsewhere these drugs are used for all stages of cognitive decline as well as cases such as illustrated by TFA, desire for improved cognitive processing.

Despite widespread positive results, clinical and real life, in the US the FDA has been dragging its feet on approving these drugs so long that the patents on some are expiring. Their efforts have been so effective that Nobel winner Eric Kandel (major player in describing the dopamine system) announced that he would use his prize money to start a company to create the first nootropic, apparently unaware that he was at the time almost 50 years too late.

Thanks to the 1989 AIDS law, people in the US can obtain a 90 day supply of any drug approved anywhere in the world, as long as they can get a prescription for it. There are many non-US pharma companies willing to accept such prescriptions and ship the meds. I won't go as far as to suggest their use by others for any particular purpose, but I will state that despite the correlation/caustion problem in a single data point, I credit a 9 month course of hydergine and nootropil with a decade long suspension and even partial reversal in the progress of my Parkinsons. I only have a background in these nootropics as can be obtained by sources not under the influence of the FDA. I do have a professional research background in Parkinsons and other dopaminergic disorders and can find no other reason for such a lengthy remission and reversal of some symptoms beyond the frequent but under-reported medical observation of "inexplicable".

The use of drugs that force the system into a state of enhanced cognition will always prove futile and usually addictive in some sense. Drugs that promote natural enhancement have already proven effective.

Re:Spectacluar (4, Informative)

Obyron (615547) | more than 5 years ago | (#27724567)

Hear hear. I actually clicked on this thread to post about my experience with hydergine, piracetam + lecithin + choline supplements, 5-HTP, etc. There's no doubt that these drugs are making a big impact for some people, but the results can be spotty. Finding the proper attack dose and then tapering to your needed dose of piracetam can take a little time, unless you're just one of those people it doesn't work for. The main thing with nootropics is taking the time to work out your stack, and figure out what doses work for you. I'm glad you've had such great experiences with hydergine, which is, in my opinion, a wonder drug.

A less-discussed topic is the use of currently illegal or semi-legal (ie: controlled substance analogue) drugs in a nootropic capacity. MDPV is a (currently) non-controlled stimulant active at the range of just a few milligrams for which I've read great results for nootropic use. Unfortunately it's also prone to abuse, so who knows how it'll last. I had some interesting results for anxiety and depression with low doses of methylenedioxymethcathinone (aka: MDMCat, Methylone, etc.) which is a beta-ketone analogue of MDMA (aka: Ecstasy). I've also read of good results using low (sub-hallucinogenic) doses of LSD and psilocybin for nootropic purposes. And then there are all the synthetic tryptamines-- iprocine, ipracetine, miprocin, psilacetine-- and some of the phenethylamines as well. These are mostly used for recreational purposes, but show promise for therapeutic use at low doses.

I think we're ultimately doomed on this one unless people wise up and throw off their preconceived notions, though. Even though LSD has proven useful in helping people overcome alcoholism, even though psilocybin has shown promise in helping people who suffer from cluster headaches, and even though MDMA has proven very effective in psychiatric counseling, these drugs are all classified by the US Government in Schedule I as having no recognized medical use.

The fact is that for every Albert Hoffman or Alexander Shulgin who pushes the boundaries of organic chemistry for the benefit of mankind, there is a Timothy Leary who pushes too far with their creations and ruins everything for people who would use them responsibly. We have been programmed in this country to believe that using a drug to expand your mind is unlawful and without any redeeming medical value. With the puritanical bastards we have running the FDA and the DEA, I'm amazed things like the -racetams and hydergine are even still legal.

I call BS (1, Flamebait)

MoellerPlesset2 (1419023) | more than 5 years ago | (#27724283)

"Cosmetic neurology"? What's wrong with the existing term for someone who takes Adderall without a prescription: Amphetamine abuser. Take it from someone actually has (quite pronounced) ADD: It doesn't work the same way on someone who doesn't have ADD. Likewise, if I overdose, I don't get the intended effect either. (and the dosage that 'works' best for me is about ~30-60 mg a day. Not really an addictive-level dose. In fact, I have a much harder time holding up on coffee) It's hardly news that someone taking amphetamines can be more productive than someone who's not. But not for the same reasons that an ADD patient is. Amphetamines don't make ordinary folks more concentrated. It makes them more active. Whereas, at the correct dosage, it has the opposite effect in an ADD patient. (I can literally take 30 mg of amphetamine and then go to bed and fall asleep.) When you're using a prescription drug without a prescription, that's drug abuse. When you're using a drug in a way its not intended to be used, that's drug abuse. Let's not kid ourselves with name games here.

Re:I call BS (1)

Failed Physicist (1411173) | more than 5 years ago | (#27724493)

But who are you to tell other people which drugs they should have a legitimate right to contain in their bodies? If it is a clear-headed decision for their own benefit, you shouldn't be allowed to deny them the right.

Re:I call BS (1)

rickyb (898092) | more than 5 years ago | (#27724619)

But who are you to tell other people which drugs they should have a legitimate right to contain in their bodies?

The words "legitimate" and "legal" share the same root. That's the point. Someone without an FDA-approved use for these medications does NOT have a legitimate right to take them. Just because we want to doesn't mean we have the right to (although on a case-by-case basis this can be debated, and rights often change. This is what our legislative system is for.)

Let me guess: you're in favor of legalizing marijuana?

Re:I call BS (4, Insightful)

Obyron (615547) | more than 5 years ago | (#27724635)

When you're using a prescription drug without a prescription, that's drug abuse. When you're using a drug in a way its not intended to be used, that's drug abuse.
Let's not kid ourselves with name games here.

When you're using a drug in a way it's not intended, that's off-label use. When you're using a drug with a prescription, that's prescribed use. When you're using a drug without a prescription, that's illicit use. It is possible to abuse a drug even with a prescription, and it is possible to use a drug responsibly without one. I have, for example, used benzodiazepines for which I have no prescription to control anxiety. With no health insurance it's easily possible for buying the medicine on the street to be more cost effective than paying for a doctor's appointment, scheduling time off from work to go to the appointment (for which you won't be paid), and then paying outlandish prices for prescriptions, depending on the medication the doctor agrees to give you. And that's not to mention subjecting a person with anxiety to the harrowing process that is convincing your doctor that you need a controlled medication. I now have a prescription for anxiety, but I battled it in my own way for years because the thought of going to a doctor and being subjected to their suspicion was enough to put me into a panic attack. I realize that's irrational, but that's anxiety.

I'm glad your Adderall works for you, but I'm sorry that you can't accept that there are other people who can also benefit from the medication who, for one reason or another, do not have or want a prescription. It's not like ADD isn't real until a doctor tells you it is. It's worth remembering that drug regulation laws were not enacted because people were abusing drugs, but rather because drug companies were putting out tainted shit that killed people.

WTF - This is the silliest thing I have heard (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27724291)

in a long time. So taking speed is now called "Cosmetic Neurology". The meth- and coke-freaks will be very glad to hear that.

What about the legality? (2, Insightful)

rickyb (898092) | more than 5 years ago | (#27724297)

What hasn't yet been brought up in this discussion is the fact that these are all controlled substances, meaning that they are not just prescription drugs, but that their use and prescription by a physician is closely monitored to ensure they they are only given for FDA-approved uses. In fact, Adderall is a Schedule II controlled substance, which puts in in the same category as Opium, Morphine, Percocet, Hydrocodone, etc. Whatever your position on using these substances is, all of the above uses are not FDA approved and if a physician is caught prescribing these medications for these uses, he/she would have his/her medical license revoked.

The above summary makes it sound as if anyone can go to their physician and ask for Adderall or Provigil to enhance their study routine. As a physician myself, this is simply not the case.

Re:What about the legality? (3, Informative)

rickyb (898092) | more than 5 years ago | (#27724379)

And I forgot to mention that on February 9, 2006, the FDA voted to include a Black Box warning on all stimulant drugs used to treat ADHD due to the sometimes significant cardiovascular side-effects. In medical ethics, there is a principle of nonmaleficence, or "do no harm." Prescribing these drugs to otherwise healthy individuals would, in my opinion (and the opinions of some very smart individuals at the FDA, including the author of this New England Journal of Medicine article: http://content.nejm.org/cgi/content/full/354/14/1445 [nejm.org] ), be causing the potential for more harm than good.

Re:What about the legality? (2, Interesting)

ColdWetDog (752185) | more than 5 years ago | (#27724407)

That's an interesting point that tends to be glossed over ... Provigyl is Category III but the amphetamine derivatives are Category II. One doesn't prescribe these drugs like candy^HProzac. Who the hell is doing this?

This is a separate argument from whether or not it's a good idea, but from the physician's point of view, it's pretty dangerous to routinely prescribe these for boderline to non existent conditions.

If you knew anything about the brain,... (1)

Hurricane78 (562437) | more than 5 years ago | (#27724315)

...you knew, that question "Could enhancing one kind of thinking exact a toll on others?" is always answered with "yes". See it as a partially limited resource.

Nootropil has been used a long time... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27724499)

In Soviet Union there was common practice to give Piracetam to children with headaches or suspected neurological problems. The usage habit stayed for some... I doubt there is research that looks for long term usage (~30 year); I suspect there are some changes in behaviour.

Pilots say: "Speed saves" (2, Interesting)

billsf (34378) | more than 5 years ago | (#27724539)

How can such a helpful class of drugs be so demonised? Pilots, mostly military -- presumably -- have often said it was what got them and their plane home alive. Clearly there is a downside,
but 15mG of a racemic mix is a very small dose of amphetamine. Its a very common 'programing fluid' which can be borne out by studying some code. No names mentioned, but there are those that smoke pot, drink coffee/Jolt and those that do amphetamines and amphetamine-like drugs or even beer. :)

If I was stoned, I might have to get stoned to understand what I did, same for 'drunk', wired or jacked up on caffein or any combination. MODERATION is key -- always. I never used stimulants,
alcohol or pot in university. (college was the reward for not using)

What's the big deal? I guess its 'still shocking' to the New Yorker types, but used properly, drugs get the job done. Personally I can't type stoned, but I can make written notes. LSD is
certainly not very smart, but it can in rare moments provide access to 'hidden insights'. Only once did I get a good piece written while tripping that impressed many when published in the
S.F. Chronicle.

Finally drugs are best on the short term. Take speed (meth) to kick out those lines of code and meet a deadline. Maybe a week of use is about all its good for? As another reader said: "What's new" and I agree. Smoke a joint to relax when done. :) If you are leaving the wrong impression on
others: Moderation! Be cool.

BillSF

Old news (1)

NotAsGeekyAsYou (1313769) | more than 5 years ago | (#27724661)

See Discover Magazine, April 2009. It cites an article in Pharmacotherapy from last year.
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