Nootropics: Drugs That Enhance Your Brain

Nootropics, smart drugs and cognitive enhancers are drugs, supplements, and other substances that are claimed to improve cognitive function, particularly executive functions, memory, creativity, or motivation, in healthy individuals.

There is a pressing need for standardization and transparency principles for marketed cognitive-enhancers and their ingredients, as well as comprehensive data collection and analysis to provide scientific evidence-based decisions for health professionals and society.

Cognitive enhancement is essential to modern society, due to the aging human population and the growing demand for further training in new professions related to technology. As the demand for cognitive training increases, they are also being marketed with claims of benefiting everyone, with or without a medical indication.

As with any supplement or drug, long-term dangers and short-term side effects need to be kept in mind when deciding whether the product is right for you and your lifestyle.

Nevertheless, enthusiasm for the latest and greatest in lifestyle and health psychology has led companies to market these products, and more importantly, these claims, wrapped up in the language of science. Many retailers market these products to prospective customers, who may be under the correct assumption that substances that enhance cognitive function or the brain have a medical use.

For this reason, FDA takes a dim view of the marketing and labeling of any substance, regardless of its purported medical use. Notably, the agency recently reserved the right to approve, or reject, labeling claims made for cognition-enhancing products on the basis of overall safety and efficacy, taking into consideration all relevant evidence and scientific studies.

Although there are legitimate and sometimes life-saving uses for many of the products marketed as cognitive enhancers, they have been linked to no adverse effects in comparison to pharmaceutical prescription products whose side effects may include addiction, dependence, and withdrawal, which can be life threatening, especially when cognitive drugs are continued for long periods or when addiction occurs.

Despite this, academic researchers seem to agree that there is some evidence of increased cognitive performance with long-term use of these products, pointing to improvements in measures of brain connectivity, or improvements in attention and memory that persist even after these interventions end. There are few nootropic companies selling nootropics, however, Nootropics Frontline is one of those companies that stays on top of the latest science with their product offerings.

Neuro-cognitive enhancement (NCE) is defined as a trend in metabolism, physiology and behavior that results from the application of metabolic, physiological, or behavioral changes to the nervous system. NCE involves methods that alter various aspects of the brain, enhancing its normal functions. Traditional drugs used to treat neurological conditions target specific neurotransmitter systems, while cognitive enhancers act at the cellular level and can impact neurotransmitter levels, receptors, targeted signaling pathways, and neuronal excitability. Accordingly, NCE or cognitive enhancement is defined as any method, chemical substance or device that causes or potentially causes a physiological response that has the potential for improving cognitive function, health, or wellness.

The general public often expresses confusion and concern regarding NCE and its various indications and contraindications. An examination of observational studies, clinical trials, case reports, and individual case reports provides a more complete picture of the current state of scientific knowledge regarding NCE. The research literature is both intriguing and sparse; more systematic efforts are needed to arrive at the true picture of the current state of science.

At this stage, it is important to exercise caution when interpreting the available scientific literature, and experience is still required to continue expanding the knowledge base regarding cognitive enhancement and NCE. Specific medical evaluations are necessary when considering NCE in individuals.

Since scientific literature chronicling the latest scientific updates concerning neuro-cognitive enhancement is vast but ambiguous, future research is needed to fill this knowledge gap. We assess strengths of evidence and conclude on a prioritized methodology to appraise the scientific literature regarding consumer use. The results of future research are discussed and a few strategies for future enhancements are presented.

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