Smart drugs: Just say noo

USA (Austin)

If you’ve seen the film Limitless, you’re already familiar with the concept of nootropics. They are ‘smart drugs’ that provide the ultimate ‘lifehack’ – substances that are consumed to enhance cognition and mental performance. Eating or drinking things to improve alertness is nothing new; we drink coffee, the Mayans chewed coca leaves.

Recent development in neuroscience, and specifically how our biological brains respond to nutrients and compounds, has resulted in a rapidly growing market for cognitive-enhancing drugs. Often characterised as ‘the knowledge economy’, wealth in the 21st century is determined what you know, so society invests resources in education. Nootropic fanatics, or ‘noots’, claim that smart drugs grease the cognitive wheels. They promise increased memory, focus, alertness and energy levels – and Alpha BRAIN is an example of a popular concoction.

There are parallels between the way athletes train their bodies and brain exercises such as games, meditation and smart drugs. Training your brain and improving memory retention can protect you for degenerative mental disease such as dementia, and some argue that a long-term combination of nootropics and neuroscience could lead to a cognitive revolution. As robots displace jobs, people are required to have a higher skill-set, which may not be obtainable without augmentation either through smart drugs or neuroscience.

Before you rush to order brain boosters online… a few words of warning. The research on nootropics is still lacking and they are a poor substitute for a healthy diet. To give your brain a further boost, try physical exercise, sleep and meditation. There the risk that consuming relatively high doses of one substance may put your system temporarily out of balance. Food for thought, so proceed with caution.


BrainTrainUK Neurofeedback was mapped by Phil Dobson in his AtlasChart Top 5 brain hacks – a trip through his favourite neuroscience projects from brain-zapping to neural prosthetics.

Written by

Phil Dobson (13 October 2015)


As the founder of BrainWorkshops, Phil turns insights from neuroscience, cognitive and behavioural psychology, neurolinguistic programming, and hypnotherapy into applicable skills and techniques for the workplace: brain-based training that transforms thinking and performance.

Project leader

Aubrey Marcus, CEO

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