Modafinil As A Study Drug
In any series of articles about Modafinil the one that is bound to catch the eye of most high IQ students will be about using Modafinil as a study drug. Although still the subject of further trials initial investigations indicate that Modafinil can improve the concentration of students and thereby boost their learning performance. So, as well as being a treatment for sleeping disorders Modafinil could yet become officially recognized as a cognitive enhancer.
Chemical study aids in general
There is, of course, nothing new in the idea of students seeking to use chemical stimulants or drugs to boost their academic performance, an idea that even pre-dates ‘Brave New World’ by Aldous Huxley. The fact is that a range of substances from the benign to the downright dangerous have been tried as ‘brain-power boosters’, some with more effect than others. Two classic and relatively benign ones are using coffee and the humble banana. Coffee is a well known and legally available in abundance stimulant, which as such will help students to stay awake for longer periods and thereby be able to study and learn for longer periods. Similarly bananas, being rich in Potassium, are claimed to help students in their learning by making them more alert. The problem with those claims is that popping an amphetamine pill will also keep you awake and alert - just not legally!
However, such claims are not the same as that made by Modafinil - that it can literally boost a student’s brain power. Call them brain-power boosters or smart drugs if you wish, but research into developing cognitive enhancers began following studies into the effects of Ritalin and Modafinil as a treatment for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). One of the side-effects from those trial groups was a reported increase in cognitive functions, which was predicted due to the fact that Modafinil in particular works on the hypothalamus portion of the brain. Those tests took place some years ago now and it didn’t take long before news of the initial reports spread through the student communities, making Modafinil a much sought after drug to help academics and students to boost their performance, especially when cramming for exams.
Research into Modafinil as a cognitive enhancer
Several research studies into the potential of Modafinil as a cognitive enhancer have been conducted. However, one of the stand-out pieces of research was carried out at the University of Cambridge, England. In a combined study between the departments of Clinical Neuropsychology and Experimental Psychology in 2003, a 200mg dose of Modafinil was shown to improve a student’s performance in their efficiency and effectiveness in handling information. One of the researchers, Dr Danielle Turner, said; “It seems to improve short-term memory, the ability to plan and process information, and helps the person to be less impulsive and more reflective about their decision making, which lends itself to greater accuracy”.
Now whilst such improvements to intellectual performance can be applied to many situations, such information is of significant interest to anyone in the ’hot-house’ of academia. Professor Sahakian, also involved in the study, stated that; “Modafinil may well be the first real smart drug … a lot of people will probably take it. I suspect they already do”. However, it is the following comment that may well yet prove to be the making of Modafinil as a cognitive enhancer “… in the case of Modafinil the side-affects appear to be benign”.
Cognitive enhancers in a moral dimension
A discussion that you may well encounter on campus and on the internet is should cognitive enhancers, like Modafinil, be encouraged or discouraged? The arguments go along lines like these. On the one hand technological aids to study are all around us so does a person with a top grade computer and access to fantastic software have a learning advantage over one who doesn’t? Depending on your point of view on that one - is it right that someone should use another form of technology, a chemical drug, to enhance their performance? The fact is that the argument has pretty well already been decided. It is known that students do use various forms of Modafinil and that scientist will persist in trying to develop ever better cognitive enhancers. What you really need to ask yourself is - do you think you need to use a cognitive enhancer, or are you already the perfect student?