Cognitive Disease Research Could Lead to Better Brain-Enhancing Drugs

Better brain-enhancing drugs, or nootropics, could be just within reach if more funding was available for cognitive disease research.

Researchers at Oxford told Business Insider that researchers have difficulty attracting the funding needed for the types of studies that could lead to nootropic breakthroughs. The problem is that nootropics don’t address any particular health issue.

Still, the demand is there. Research and Markets reports that the nootropics industry was worth over $1 billion in 2015. By 2024, the industry is expected to grow to $6 billion. Entrepreneurs in Silicon Valley were quick to adopt nootropic supplements, claiming it gave them a competitive edge.

While there are many supporters of nootropics, the scientific community as a whole is skeptical of the industry.

Physicians at an AMA (American Medical Association) meeting in 2016 adopted a policy that discouraged doctors from prescribing drugs for the purpose of enhanced cognition.

But researchers at the Donald and Barbara Zucker School of Medicine at Hofstra may help solve the nootropic industry’s dilemma and help pave the way for more serious studies into nootropics.

A research team was on the hunt for genetic information that may lead to the creation of drugs that treat schizophrenia and Alzheimer’s. Along the way, they gained new insight into the part of the brain that influences cognition. The results of their study have been published in Cell Reports.

One member of the team told Futurism that drugs that enhance or block the activity of certain ion channels could hypothetically affect a person’s cognitive performance. Still, he says these effects would likely only make a difference in people with neurocognitive disorders. They would not likely affect the daily lives of healthy people – at least for the time-being.

As for the nootropics that are on the market today, the science community remains skeptical. CNBC recently reported that the nootropic company HVMN found its SPRINT supplement couldn’t even outperform caffeine. While a blow to the industry, it’s important to note that SPRINT does not contain racetams or modafinil, which are both backed by extensive research.

One new study looked at the effects of different cognitive enhancers on chess players. The findings showed that the drugs methylphenidate and modafinil can improve the performance of chess players.

As part of the study, researchers analyzed data from 3,059 chess games. Players were given a dose of modafinil, caffeine, a placebo, or methylphenidate.

Those who took methylphenidate, caffeine or modafinil did 6%-8% better than those on the placebo. However, researchers found that players spent more time thinking about their moves. The extra thinking time appeared to make them worse at time management. Still, the players made better moves overall.

“In sum, these results suggest that most players will benefit from [cognitive enhancement], in particular from modafinil and methylphenidate, while those who tend to be rather slow thinkers may perform worse in time-restricted games,” the team wrote.

Another new clinical human trial for Neumentix Phenolic Complex K110-42 showed promising results in the cognitive-enhancing department. This particular supplement combines the benefits of a nootropic with physical athletic performance enhancement.

Melissa Thompson

Melissa Thompson writes about a wide range of topics, revealing interesting things we didn’t know before. She is a freelance USA Today producer, and a Technorati contributor.