10 March 2008

Brain Boost: Neural Wave "Surfer's Helper"

In a recent commentary in the journal Nature, two Cambridge University researchers reported that about a dozen of their colleagues had admitted to regular use of prescription drugs like Adderall, a stimulant, and Provigil, which promotes wakefulness, to improve their academic performance. The former is approved to treat attention deficit disorder, the latter narcolepsy, and both are considered more effective, and more widely available, than the drugs circulating in dorms a generation ago.
These are competitive times for top brains. The person who can best keep up with trends while developing his own competitive approach to his field, has the best chance of success. One must ride the wave of discovery--and inject unique input into the wave at the same time. Brains strain to stay "on" all the time. An assist is often needed.
One person who posted anonymously on the Chronicle of Higher Education Web site said that a daily regimen of three 20-milligram doses of Adderall transformed his career: “I’m not talking about being able to work longer hours without sleep (although that helps),” the posting said. “I’m talking about being able to take on twice the responsibility, work twice as fast, write more effectively, manage better, be more attentive, devise better and more creative strategies.”___NYTimes
Cognitive enhancers are being used in many areas where focus and alertness are valued, beyond the academic and research setting.
Cognitive-enhancing drugs are increasingly being used in non-medical situations such as shift work and by active military personnel....There are also situations in which many would agree that the use of drugs to improve concentration or planning may be tolerated, if not encouraged, such as by air-traffic controllers, surgeons and nurses who work long shifts. One can even imagine situations where such enhancing-drug-taking would be recommended, such as for airport-security screeners, or by soldiers in active combat.

...In future, drug treatment may be better tailored to individuals through a better understanding of how genes influence the body's response to drugs. Because domain-specific effects vary between individuals depending on their genetic make-up, drug efficacy may ultimately be enhanced and side effects reduced. Many believe that with increasingly sophisticated and targeted treatments, truly smart drugs with moderate-to-large effects on cognition, will become feasible in the future.___Nature

Investment analysts, stock brokerages, venture firms, commodities traders, and the like certainly support the manufacturers of methylphenidate, adderall, and modafenil. The military is another big customer. And we all know medical students or grad students who swear by the stuff--insist it keeps them going.

The tradeoff is the main consideration. What do you gain, what do you lose? A few drinks of alcohol can make it harder to refuse the next drink. Perhaps once on the mental enhancers, coming off of them becomes doubly or triply hard?

Never forget the evolutionary origins of life. Life is competition. Competition entails risk. For modern humans, making sense of information can be craved more desperately than food or drink.

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Blogger Pastorius said...

Good analysis, Al Fin.

As a person whose creativity comes in waves, I can tell you that there is an addictive qualtiy to being "on".

Friday, 14 March, 2008  
Blogger al fin said...

Thanks, Pastorius.

The key is to bring out the creativity by other means than the pharmacological. I have never liked needing to take any kind of drug.

Monday, 17 March, 2008  

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