Monday, December 6, 2010

Smart Drugs?

Smart drugs: pills that are said to enhance cognition, memory, intelligence, motivation and attention. Psychology professor Bryan Auday is using his sabbatical semester to write a book that examines the current developments and ethical questions concerning these new drugs in the scientific community. For his book, which has a working title of Smart Drugs’ in an Era of Cosmetic Neurology, Dr. Auday is reviewing the literature in the field of cognitive enhancers while trying to “unpack some of the significant ethical and moral dilemmas that arise from those who oppose or support their use.” Should these drugs be available to anyone? Dr. Auday remarks, “Scientists predict that it is just a matter of time before a whole new generation of selective ‘smart drugs’ will be available to society.” Auday, who is building off of work he began last year, notes his progress is “coming along nicely.” Anyone in the academic setting curious about the nature of these drugs as well as the ethical/moral dilemmas involved, will find Dr. Auday’s book an insightful resource. Provost Mark Sargent shares, “Sabbaticals are wonderful times for faculty to be asking these groundbreaking questions. I am sure Dr. Auday will lay out the issues in his usual clear and accessible style. I look forward to reading the book. After all, there are many days when I can use a few smart drugs myself!


LKD said...

I am a coffee drinker and I've often wondered: are coffee and energy drinks types of "smart drugs"? And, if not, how do they differ?

Anonymous said...

Dear LKD,

Sorry that it took so long to spot your comment. Yes, caffeine in a central nervous stimulant and is frequently thought of as a cognitive enhancing drug, albeit not a very sophisticated one. Caffeine has been shown to increase attention and awareness; in addition, in can speed up the information processing and make general thinking a little more efficient.

Although my book will address the use of caffeine as an enhancer, I'm more interested in looking at pharmaceuticals that claim to produce better results. Specifically, drugs that are targeted to ramp up selective cognitive processes such as memory retrieval, encoding of new memories, and the like.