The Department of Health has asked the Academy of Medical Sciences to assess these so-called “cognition enhancing” drugs, some of which are already being widely used in the US. In the 1960s the self styled guru, Dr Timothy Leary, urged American youth to “tune in, turn on and drop out”. Now a new generation of so-called designer drugs are becoming available. But instead of fuelling a new drop-out culture, they are being used by people who think they will help them do better at school and work.
One of these drugs, Modafinil, was developed to treat people who involuntarily fall asleep. The drug is among a new class of cognition enhancing drugs. Professor Gary Lynch, from the University of California, Irvine, helped invent another class called Ampakines. Professor Lynch designed them specifically to increase memory and cognition. And he claims that animal experiments suggest that the drug enables the brain to rewire itself or make neural connections between different regions that normally people cannot make. This rewiring, he claims, may enable people to “build thoughts that are a little bit beyond the normal brain”.