There has been quite a boom in the development of "smart drugs" or
"cognitive enhancers." Here is an overview of Aricept and other
substances that may help to boost intelligence or improve memory
skills. Some of these, such as Aricept, require a prescription;
others, such as Vinpocetine, are available over-the-counter from some
health food stores and Internet merchants who sell "supplements";
still others, like caffeine and nicotine, are so widely available that
we tend not to think of them as drugs.
Please keep in mind that Google Answers is not a source of
authoritative medical advice; the material I have gathered is for
informational purposes only, and should not be viewed as a medical
recommendation. Not all the sources linked below are of equal
scientific repute. Cognitive enhancement is a field in which anecdotal
claims are quite common. Taking a metaphorical "grain of salt" in
evaluating such claims is perhaps the ultimate in cognitive
ARICEPT (DONEPEZIL HYDROCHLORIDE)
"The first hint that Alzheimer's drugs might have other memory
benefits comes from the work of Dr. Jerome Yesavage of Stanford
University and the Palo Alto Veterans Affairs Health Care System in
California. Yesavage gave Aricept, approved for mild to moderate
Alzheimer's disease, to healthy middle-aged airplane pilots to test
whether it could boost their performance.
In the study, 18 pilots learned a complex series of instructions
during seven sessions on a flight simulator. Then half took Aricept,
and they performed better, suggesting that the memory drug played a
role. The study was published in the journal of the American Academy
Can a pill boost your brain?s ability to hold information?
"Among the sparse findings about the effects of these drugs on healthy
individuals, at least one study suggests that a long-standing dementia
treatment improves cognitive functioning in normal people. In July
2002 Jerome A. Yesavage of Stanford University, Peter J. Whitehouse of
Case Western Reserve University and their colleagues published a study
in Neurology assessing the impact of donepezil on the performance of
A month after their initial training, the pilots on donepezil
performed significantly better than the control group, with especially
enhanced performance on the landing approach and in handling
emergencies. Yesavage, who hopes to conduct an expanded study sometime
soon, noted in the Neurology article that if cognitive enhancement
becomes possible in intellectually intact individuals, significant
legal, regulatory, and ethical questions will emerge."
Nootropics: The Quest for A Smart Pill
"Yesavage JA, Mumenthaler MS, Taylor JL, Friedman L, O'Hara R, Sheikh
J, Tinklenberg J, Whitehouse PJ.
Palo Alto Veterans Affairs Health Care System, Stanford University
School of Medicine, Stanford, CA 94305-5550, USA.
We report a randomized, double-blind, parallel group,
placebo-controlled study to test the effects of the
acetylcholinesterase inhibitor, donepezil (5 mg/d for 30 days), on
aircraft pilot performance in 18 licensed pilots with mean age of 52
years. After 30 days of treatment, the donepezil group showed greater
ability to retain the capacity to perform a set of complex simulator
tasks than the placebo group, p < 0.05. Donepezil appears to have
beneficial effects on retention of training on complex aviation tasks
in nondemented older adults."
Donepezil and flight simulator performance: effects on retention of complex skills.
"Mumenthaler MS, Yesavage JA, Taylor JL, O'Hara R, Friedman L, Lee H, Kraemer HC.
Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Stanford University
School of Medicine, Stanford, CA 94305, USA. firstname.lastname@example.org
The cholinergic system plays a major role in cognitive abilities that
are essential to piloting an aircraft: attention, learning, and
memory. In previous studies, drugs that enhance the cholinergic system
through different pharmacologic mechanisms have shown beneficial
effects on cognition; but dissimilar cognitive measures were used and
samples were not comparable. A comparison within the same cognitive
tasks, within comparable samples appears desirable. Toward this aim,
we compared effect sizes (ES) of performance-enhancing doses of
nicotine (a nicotinic receptor agonist) and donepezil (an
acetylcholinesterase inhibitor) as found in our prior work on pilot
performance. We also compared cholinergic ES to those of
performance-impairing doses of alcohol. In three randomized,
placebo-controlled trials, we assessed the flight performance of
aircraft pilots in a Frasca 141 simulator, testing I: the acute
effects of nicotine gum 2 mg; II: the effects of administration of 5
mg donepezil/day for 30 days; and III: the acute and 8 h-carryover
effects of alcohol after a target peak BAC of 0.10%. We calculated the
ES of nicotine, donepezil, and alcohol on a flight summary score and
on four flight component scores. Compared to placebo, nicotine and
donepezil significantly improved, while alcohol significantly impaired
overall flight performance: ES (nicotine)=0.80; ES (donepezil)=1.02;
ES (alcohol acute)=-3.66; ES (alcohol 8 h)=-0.82. Both cholinergic
drugs showed the largest effects on flight tasks requiring sustained
visual attention. Although the two tested cholinergic drugs have
different pharmacologic mechanisms, their effects on flight
performance were similar in kind and size. The beneficial effects of
the cholinergic drugs on overall flight performance were large and the
absolute (ie nondirectional) sizes were about one-fourth of the
absolute ES of acute alcohol intoxication and roughly the same as the
absolute 8 h-carryover ES of alcohol."
Psychoactive drugs and pilot performance: a comparison of nicotine,
donepezil, and alcohol effects.
OTHER POSSIBLE 'COGNITIVE ENHANCERS'
"Adrafinil (Olmifon) Enhances vigilance, alertness, memory and
creativity. Adrafinil is totally unlike any other mental stimulant.
Increases sensitivity to external stimulation and the 'quality' of
presence without interfering with sleep patterns."
"Aniracetam is a member of the nootropic class of drugs, which have
possible cognition enhancing effects."
"In the August 1999 issue of Physiology and Behavior, for instance,
English researchers reported that volunteers who drank caffeinated
coffee in the morning performed better than nondrinkers on tests that
involved learning new information. A study published in the
International Journal of Sports Medicine in August 1999 found that
attention, psychomotor skills, and long-term memory all improved
during the few hours after volunteers drank caffeinated beverages.
Why? Caffeine keeps us alert not by speeding us up but by keeping us
from slowing down, according to Michael Bonnet, PhD, professor of
neurology at Wright State University in Ohio. Each time brain cells
fire, they produce a squirt of a chemical that serves as an 'off'
switch that keeps neural activity in check. Caffeine, in effect,
blocks the chemical -- jamming the switch so that it can't be turned
Caffeine may also boost levels of brain-cell calcium, a mineral we
know is important in memory. In experiments reported in the October
1999 issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, an
Israeli researcher observed a calcium increase in brain cells exposed
Massachusetts General Hospital Department of Neurology: Attention,
long-term memory and caffeine
Centrophenoxine is an intelligence booster and also an effective
anti-aging therapy. It has been shown to cause improvements in various
aspects of memory function and a 30% increase in lifespan of
Hoboes: New Drugs That Make You Smart
"According to many reports, life span is lengthened, aging is slowed,
and quality of life is improved. Cognitive brain function improves and
intelligence increases. DHEA increases the number of neurons (brain
cells) and expands the network of neural connections."
"DMAE is the abbreviation for Dimethylaminoethanol. It is a precursor
of neural transmitters and it gets rid of old age pigments deposited
in brain cells. It improves nerve impulse transmission in the brain
and the function of brain cells when cleared of the brown pigment,
Lipofuchsin, that collects with old age."
"A recent study conducted at the Brain Sciences Institute(BSI) at
Swinburne University of Technology, Melbourne found that Ginkgo biloba
significantly increases and improves intelligence, concentration,
memory, can help sexual function and may prevent Alzheimer?s and
dementia. Dr Con Stough, Associate Professor in Cognitive Neuroscience
at BSI conducted the double-blind placebo controlled trial on 55
people aged between 18 - 40 years for 30 days. The group was randomly
divided into two groups, one group receiving Blackmores product
GinkgoforteTM and the other receiving a placebo.
Psychological tests were used to assess each participants
intelligence, concentration, attention, memory, problem solving, speed
of visual information processing and social intelligence before and
after taking the tablets...
This is the first study on Ginkgo biloba?s effect on memory and
information processing in young healthy people... participants with
more average IQ?s or intelligences improved significantly more than
those with higher IQ?s on tests of attention and problem solving."
Blackmore's: Ginkgo Biloba Improves Memory
"Relatively few studies of cognitively normal adults are available. An
early report found that a 600 mg dose of Ginkgo biloba extract
improved memory scanning performance in eight females
(Hindmarch,1986), although the same dose level in another study
obtained no psychomotor, perceptual, memory or choice response time
effects in 12 female adults (Warot et al., 1991). A more encouraging
set of results using computerized methods with 64 healthyvolunteers
found appreciable dose-related improvement with Ginkgo biloba at 320
Human Psychopharmacology: Cognitive effects of a Ginkgo bilobalvinpocetine
compound in normal adults
"Hydergine has found to have a wide variety of cognitive enhancing
properties including increasing the blood flow to the brain,
increasing oxygen flow to the brain, acting as a free radical
scavenger in the brain. Hydergine reduces symptoms of tiredness, and
helps with the intake of new material in learning. Hydergine is known
to increase intelligence and recall."
In Home Health
"Nicotine and other nicotinic agonists have been found to improve
performance on attention and memory tasks. Clinical studies using
nicotine skin patches have demonstrated the efficacy of nicotine in
treating cognitive impairments associated with Alzheimer's disease,
schizophrenia, and attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder.
Experimental animal studies have demonstrated the persistence of
nicotine-induced working memory improvement with chronic exposure, in
addition to the efficacy of a variety of nicotinic agonists.
Mechanistic studies have found that alpha7 and alpha4beta2 nicotinic
receptors in the hippocampus are critical for nicotinic involvement in
cognitive function. Clinical and experimental animal studies provide
mutually supporting information for the development of novel nicotinic
therapies for cognitive dysfunction."
Nootropics: Cognitive effects of nicotine
"Chemically, oxiracetam is similar to piracetam, though stronger in
effect. It is one of the more commonly used smart drugs."
Laslett: Smart Drugs
Phenylalanine is the most common of brain boosting amino acids; it
will help one to fight off stress and it may also elevate one's mood
and increase alertness."
Nootrope: Better Thinking Through Chemistry
"Piracetam or Nootropil has many different uses. It corrects memory
loss, improves concentration, increases mental activity, stabilizes
emotional behavior, protects the brain against free radical damage
such as from alcohol and drugs and enhances mental deficiency
regardless of age."
"Piracetam (aka Avigilen, Cerebroforte, Cerebrospan, Cetam, Dinagen,
Encefalux, Encetrop, Euvifor, Gabacet, Genogris, Meo-Puren, Nootron,
Nootropil, Normabrain, Norzetam, Novocetam, Pirrozil, Psycoton,
Stimucortex and UCB-6215)
The most common smart drug out there is probably Piracetam, probably
because it's not the most recent, it has a wide variety of uses and is
quite inexpensive. It is used to treat several illnesses, like
alcoholism, dementia and stroke, but should also improve memory and
learning in healthy humans. It is supposed to increase the flow of
information between the right and left hemispheres of the brain, thus
helping in creative problem solving. It is sold as pills and the
effective dose is 2400-4800 mg in three divided doses (Smart Drugs &
Nutrients, p. 43), although some sources report significantly smaller
dosages ranging from 800 mg to 2400 mg (Brain Boosters, p. 97). It has
no know serious side effects, although insomnia, headaches, nausea and
stomach disturbances are possible. As with any other smart drug it is
the best to try and find out the dose that is good for you while
keeping in mind the possible toxicity of the drug (Piracetam has no
know toxicity meaning that one probably can't overdose it). Piracetam
has a synergistic effect with DMAE, centrophenoxine, choline and
Hydergine, which means that the effects of Piracetam are amplified
when taken at the same time with these drugs. Piracetam is a
prescription only drug in many countries, but is widely available via
Nootropics: Better Thinking Through Chemistry
"Chemically related to piracetam, and has a similar effect in
improving the operations of certain brain neurotransmitters involed in
mind function. Pramiracetam is a more potent version of piracetam."
Z.L. Damen: Drug Descriptions
"Some of the nootropic drugs being tested now on humans include
vinpocetine (being developed by Ayerst Laboratories), which speeds up
learning, improves memory and recall and seems to block the action of
substances that disrupt memory; aniracetam (Hoffman-La Roche), which
appears to be about ten times more potent in improving and protecting
memory than piracetam, pramiracetam (Warner-Lambert/Parke Davis),
which seems to improve learning and memory by enhancing the firing of
neurons in the hippocampus (a key to the formation of long-term
memories), and oxiracetam (Ciba-Geigy), apparently two to three times
as powerful as piracetam."
Dr. Steven Mizrach - Home Page: "SMART DRUGS" FAQ
"Over 50 clinical studies involving over 1,300 people conducted around
the world demonstrate the multiple benefits of Vinpocetine
supplementation. Key benefits include:
Mental Acuity and Awareness
Vinpocetine enhances memory by improving cerebral circulation,
promoting oxygen utilization and optimizing energy transport.
Vinpocetine increases energy use and improves the utilization of
oxygen and glucose leading to healthy circulation in the brain.
Glucose, the only energy source for the brain, is vital to optimal
brain function. Clinical studies show that Vinpocetine increases
mental acuity and awareness, thereby enhancing overall cognitive
US Food & Drug Administration: Phamavite
Regarding the matter of which of the smart drugs are most effective,
the jury's still out on that. A number of medical studies using
cognitive enhancers have been conducted on patients suffering from
Alzheimer's disease, but tests on healthy patients are few and far
between, and most of the evidence is anecdotal. Here's a bit of advice
for those who want to try smart drugs:
"Which of the smart drugs is best to start with? -- MH
Answer: This is a question we're frequently asked. The answer is, 'it
depends.' Unfortunately, there is no magic bullet smart drug that
works well for everyone. Nor is there any known way to test in advance
who will respond best to which smart drug. Therefore, the use of smart
drugs remains empirical, and the choice of which drug/substance to
start with is a very individualized one. For example, many users of
cognitive enhancing substances prefer to use natural (non-drug)
substances. For them, the best substances to start with are 1)
over-the-counter nutrients from health food stores, like
dimethylaminoethanol (DMAE), Gingko biloba, or phenylalanine, or 2)
preprepared combination products containing neurotransmitter
precursors like choline, tyrosine, phenylalanine, pyroglutamate, etc.
For those that have a cooperating knowledgeable physician, Hydergine
and vasopressin may be tried initially. For those who live close to
the Mexican border, or who can order from overseas pharmacies,
well-tested drugs that can be highly recommended for first-time
include piracetam and deprenyl. -- WD
Cognitive Enhancement Research Institute
aricept OR donepezil
I hope this is helpful. If anything I've said is unclear, or if a link
doesn't work for you, please request clarification; I'll be glad to
offer further assistance before you rate my answer.