For many centuries, people are looking for a tool, that would stimulate their brains. Hoping to increase their intelligence, they chewed, smoked or decocted various plants. The search continues till these days, but now, shamans moved from forests to well-equipped laboratories.
What drives them this time? They are looking for a cure for the syndrome of distracted attention (ADHD), stroke, Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disease, schizophrenia. The list goes on and on… However, when creating products for those in need, the benefits, that this development will bring to the healthy people, are also taken into account.
Means, stimulating cognitive abilities (cognition enhancers), by changing the ratio of neurotransmitters chemicals, affect the nervous system, which is responsible for the mental operations, such as concentration, learning, memory, perception, thinking and decision-making.
Not long ago, the British scientific community (The Academy of Medical Sciences) has published report – “Brain science, addiction and drugs”, which forecasts, that in the next decade will appear a lot of new drugs for mental activity stimulation. A scientist of Cambridge University, Sir Gabriel Horn, who led the research team that prepared the report, concluded that at this moment, scientists are developing more than 600 drugs, treating nervous system disorders.
Most likely, a lot of these drugs will be not licensed and registered, but taking into account the large number of products, medicines will successfully break through to pharmaceutical market. Although, none of the companies, working on stimulating mental activity drugs development, is not going to license them for use by healthy people, though, they will not miss the opportunity to get acquainted with the so -called “innovations”. This trend is already visible now. Take for example the use of “Ritalin” (Methylphenidate) and “Provigil” (Modafinil) by those people, who simply want to improve their mental and physical abilities.
And these drugs do work for the benefit of a healthy person. For example, taking “Provigil”, a person can memorize to one number/element more (most people can remember seven random digits or elements). When tested for the ability to make plans, again, the result is higher among those, who accept “Provigil”. Let’s go back to the report. It is reported, that Provigil is increasingly used in anti-fatigue (to help those who work in shifts), to improve mental performance during exams, eliminate the effects of prolonged flights.
One of the leading world magazines Nature conducted an informal survey of its audience, which is mostly made up of scientists. Every 5th respondent answered that took “Provigil”, “Ritalin” or beta- blockers (inhibiting anxiety), for unrelated medical reasons, but to promote concentration, attention and memory. They bought these drugs on prescription or through online pharmacies. “Ritalin” has been taken by 62 % of the respondents, “Provigil” – 44 %. In total, 1,400 people were attended.
Relying on the results of the survey, the report concludes: stimulant use for brain activity will only grow for further.
There are several approaches to stimulate brain activity. According to Trevor Robbins, Sir Gabriel colleagues at Cambridge Working Group, a network of neurons in the brain is similar to the wires, that transmit electrical current. Neurotransmitters press to switches, that turns on or off this current.
Glutamic acid is one of these neurotransmitters. It is responsible for the memories. The substances from the recently discovered category of pharmaceuticals – Ampakines – enhance the effect of glutamic acid and it becomes easier to remember.
Cortex Pharmaceuticals of Irvine (CA) is developing drugs, based on Ampakines. One of the latest developments – the drug under the code-name CX717, which is used as a cure for Alzheimer’s disease. The experiments were able to determine, that CX717 can increase the reaction rate in humans, while in contrast to caffeine, amphetamine and other stimulants does not raise blood pressure and affect heart rate.
It is paradoxical that, D-cycloserine (another amplifier glutamic acid), which is not conducive to improving memory, is being tested at the same time. And vice versa – erases memories. The bottom line is that the process of forgetting is similar to the process of learning and is often difficult.
D-cycloserine, reacting with specific receptors of glutamic acid, stimulates forgetting and can be used for treating anxiety, drug addiction, phobias and various post-traumatic syndromes.
Another approach to promoting mental abilities involves taking of medicine – acetylcholine. Synapses, that react to this molecule, are called “cholinergic”. They are responsible for concentration, focus on a particular thought, higher thought processes and memory. That is cholinergic system is destroyed by Alzheimer’s disease.
In this regard, researchers are interested in meds, preventing the breakdown of acetylcholine. Dr. Robbins, in particular, noted that with the help of cholinergic drugs they can slightly increase the rate of reaction, have a positive impact on other secondary cognitive abilities, and similar remedies “have the potential to be beneficial to healthy people”.
Thus, the production of mind stimulants will soon become a major niche in the business. Although the use of drugs, mainly developed for the treatment of diseases, will be difficult to prevent by broad masses. And is there a need to prevent this trend? Unless, of course, these medications will not have negative side effects, they will become a new step on the path to human perfection.