Smart Pills: Would You Try Them?

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Some students who use these smart drugs say that it makes their studying more pleasurable and easier. Since some students take these drugs and do better on tests, will this put pressure on other students to do the same in order to compete?

A professor at the University of Michigan, Dr. Martin Sarter, says that these drugs do not so much improve cognition, but they do enable the user to focus for longer periods of time.

One student told a researcher that he got completely absorbed in one book after another and that he began making connections between the ideas in these books. He said that he found the entire process really enjoyable, putting together ideas in ways that he had not been able to do before he started taking smart pills.

These smart pills sound wonderful, but are they harmless? Our brains are complicated pieces of machinery that we do not fully understand. In trying to do an “upgrade,” will we upset the brain’s natural balance? Professor of Cognitive Neuroscience at the University of Cambridge, Trevor Robbins, says that it is possible to affect the memory and focus with pharmacological substances, but keeping them safe is another story. There are costs that come with narrowing your attention. By making your focus more intense, it narrows the range and scope of associations, and things in your periphery, which you could bring into your process. So, while this may not be a big problem for students who are contemplating the meaning of life, for police dispatchers or air traffic controllers, this could be devastating. Improving one aspect of your brain function might put a damper on other aspects.

As of today, we don’t have drugs that will produce a general, cortex wide expansion of our brain power. Perhaps in the future, but not as of now.

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