Performance-Enhancing Drugs For The Mind

Professional athletes aren't the only ones who turn to drugs to enhance their performance. People who work mostly with their minds are also looking for that vital edge.

The medicine cabinet of so-called cognitive enhancers also includes Ritalin, commonly given to schoolchildren for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, and beta blockers, such as the heart drug Inderal. Researchers have been investigating the drug Aricept, which is normally used to slow the decline of Alzheimer's patients.

They are all just precursors to the blockbuster drug that labs are racing to develop.

"Whatever company comes out with the first memory pill is going to put Viagra to shame," said University of Pennsylvania bioethicist Paul Root Wolpe.

Science fiction authors have created a variety of predecessors for this idea.

In his 1985 story Stone Lives, Paul Di Filippo wrote about a drug called mnemotropin:

One day Stone notices a pill on his lunch tray. He asks June its nature.

"It's a mnemotropin - promotes the coding of long-term memories," she replies. "I thought it might help you..."
(Read more about mnemotropin)

In an earlier story, The Mind Game, Norman Spinrad wrote about "epitifier" drigs. (I could use a quote for this one!)

Of course, fans of Dune recall sapho juice, favorite of Mentats everywhere for cognitive enhancement.

"I've always prided myself on seeing things the way they truly are," Thufir Hawat said. "That's the curse of being a Mentat. You can't stop analyzing your data."

The leathered old face appeared composed in the predawn dimness as he spoke. His sapho-stained lips were drawn into a straight line with radial creases spreading upward.

Via a very nicely written article in the LA Times - Drugs that build up that mental muscle. Thanks to Adi and an anonymous reader for providing the tip on this story.

Scroll down for more stories in the same category. (Story submitted 12/28/2007)

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