Could Modafinil be the First "Smart Drug"?

Could Modafinil be the First "Smart Drug"?
Could Modafinil be the First "Smart Drug"?

There is now additional support for modafinil as a "smart drug," as it has been shown to significantly promote cognitive enhancement in a new systematic review published in the journal European Neuropsychopharmacology.

Modafinil is an eugeroic approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for narcolepsy; it directly increases cortical catecholamine levels, indirectly upregulates cerebral serotonin, glutamate, orexin, and histamine levels, and indirectly decreases cerebral gamma-amino-butrytic acid levels. It is believed to improve cognitive enhancement, but there is a lack of attention on its use in people that are not sleep-deprived. Dr. Ruairidh Battleday and Dr. Anna-Katharine Brem from the University of Oxford and Harvard Medical School evaluated 24 studies from January 1990 to December 2014 that tested different benefits, such as planning, decision-making, flexibility, learning and memory, and creativity, associated with taking modafinil.

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The studies revealed that the more complex the task tested, the more consistently modafinil displayed cognitive benefits. It did not improve working memory or flexibility of thought, but did improve decision-making and planning. Modafinil enhanced cognition more reliably in higher brain functions that needed multiple simple cognitive processes. Seventy percent of the studies that assessed modafinil's adverse effects found only a few side effects such as insomnia, headache, stomach ache, and nausea; these were also reported in the placebo group.

Researchers concluded that modafinil could be the first pharmaceutical nootropic agent; however, more robust and reliable tests of higher cognition must be developed. Issues regarding regulations and ethical debates surrounding the use of modafinil as a cognitive enhancer remain problematic.

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