Is there a Shortcut?

I recently finished watching the movie “Limitless”, in which the main character gets his hands on a pill that enhances his capacity for learning and recalling memories from his past, that he didn’t even realize he had collected! Although it is a movie, and I’m generally inclined to take it with a grain of salt, I had to wonder about the possibilities surrounding this becoming, at least to some extent, a reality. Now if you’ve ever heard anything about The Singularity or Ray Kurzweil, then you realize just how far we could go with this topic, but I wanted to consider this on a more immediate level. I wanted to start with things already at our disposal, maybe things we may already be using. We think about our bodies as this machine that needs to run smoothly, and it is, but we forget that the machine is run by a computer. When we workout, or eat the right foods, or take the right supplements, we see or feel a physical result. What about our brain? How can we enhance its’ ability, aside from the obvious?

Whether or not you’ve heard the term Nootropics is irrelevant. The reality is, you will! These are substances that enhance brain function, and are called everything from “smart drugs” and “smart nutrients”, to cognitive enhancers. And if we can justify spending millions on creating drugs that keep a man erect for 4 hours, this will be like taking candy from a baby, once someone perfects a brain enhancer! Now, keep in mind, although I am the first person to speak to the power of money, I don’t want that to detract from the reality of functional relevance. And as human beings, we’re willing to feed that corporate animal, because we need a good brain enhancer as much as we need a stiff penis. Maybe more! (Perhaps one would decrease the need for another?)

After doing a little research, the reality is that some of these Nootropics are very common, some are easy to obtain, and some are about as safe as a rattlesnake bath! Things like thiamine and iodine don’t really enhance the brain, but are useful for the production of hormones and rebuilding neurons. Also, a substance familiar to most bodybuilders, creatine, is actually a brain enhancer due to the effect it has on the production of ATP, which drives cellular production. This is where we leave the kitchen counter, and move on to the medicine cabinet. This is where you start finding warning labels for those with hypertension and heart disease. Things like centrophenoxine, a memory enhancer used primarily for Alzheimer’s disease. Are you starting to see my correlation with erectile dysfunction? If it works for them, just imagine what it could…… you get the idea. Then you get substances for keeping you awake and focused, like Provigil, Adderall or Ritalin. These days, I bet you couldn’t step foot in a college classroom without finding somebody running Adderall through their bloodstream. (Not including the kids with legitimate ADHD!) Even nicotine can have a positive effect, due to its’ ability to increase dopamine levels. However, if I need to warn you about the long term problems associated with the most common way to obtain nicotine, we’ve got bigger fish to fry. Finally we move out of the medicine cabinet, and into that locked closet at the hospital. This is where we find drugs like Desmopressin, a substance that can drastically improve the formation of memories. Apparently it effects the memory recall, and is a bit like creating a photographic memory. Again though, due to the fact that it shrinks the blood vessels and causes the kidneys to retain water, I think I’d choose to forget a few things and take a C+ on that next test.

My point behind this article isn’t to scare you, and definitely not to urge you to find a shortcut to intelligence, it’s just to make you aware of what is out there. The reality is, if there’s a dollar to be made, somebody is working on it, and will likely succeed. I’ll be sure to let you know when they do, with an article that is twice as long, and twice as well written!

Written By
Brian Bemis, Contributing Author

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