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Do nootropics really work? © Science Photo Library

Do nootropics really work?

Published: 28th April, 2022 at 11:00
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Also known as 'smart drugs', nootropics claim they are able to boost brain performance.

A nootropic – sometimes referred to as a ‘cognitive enhancer’ – is any kind of drug or dietary supplement that supposedly boosts your mental performance in some way. Caffeine has real benefits for concentration. But more controversial is the use of prescription drugs as cognitive enhancers, such as methylphenidate (used in the treatment of ADHD) and modafinil (used to treat narcolepsy).


While research is ongoing, the current evidence suggests that the benefits of such drugs for attention and memory performance is modest and should be weighed against any potential risks, including anxiety, dependence and over-confidence.

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Asked by: Fraser Stewart, Carlisle

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Dr Christian Jarrett is a cognitive neuroscientist, science writer and author. He is the Deputy Editor of Psyche, the sister magazine to Aeon that illuminates the human condition through psychology, philosophy and the arts. Jarrett also created the British Psychological Society's Research Digest blog and was the first ever staff journalist on the Society's magazine, The Psychologist. He is author of Great Myths of The Brain and Be Who You Want: Unlocking the Science of Personality Change.


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