What if you could become more intelligent by merely taking a pill? Perhaps such a medicine does so by boosting your cognitive abilities, including memory, attention, motivation, and focus among other executive functions of your brain. 

The NZT pill in the film Limitless gives the best picture of how this would work. And while the Hollywood depiction exaggerates this idea, the reality of it might be closer to the fiction than most people know.

Nootropics: real-life NZT?

The idea of using drugs to boost cognitive ability in healthy people and facilitate neuroenhancement isn’t new. Piracetam, the first drug used for cognitive enhancement, was developed more than five decades ago bu C.C. Giurgea, a chemist and psychologist.

Even though he wasn’t aware of the mechanisms in play, he was convinced that the drug enhanced brain activity. It is this belief that spurred his exploration into “smart pills,” which came to be referred to as nootropics. The term originates the Greek words nous (“mind”) and trepein (“to bend”).

The following is a list of nootropics that are most commonly used for a variety of effects such as promoting wakefulness. 

  • Piracetam. It is considered the “original smart pill.” Studies have shown that it considerably improves working memory and mental ability at all levels. 
  • Aniracetam. This nootropic belongs to the racetam family, and it is a synthetic Piracetam derivative. It was initially made to improve learning and memory, and numerous anecdotal reports strongly suggest that it boosts creativity. 
  • Oxiracetam. A favourite among coders, this is another racetam that has been shown to improve long-term memory and support healing from neurological trauma. It is believed to enhance memory, attention span, focus, learning capacity, logical thinking, and sensory perception. 
  • Modafinil. Referred to as the “genius pill” by some, Modafinil is marketed under the brand name Provigil. It promotes wakefulness and activates glutamate. Still, most people buy Modafinil online because it's much cheaper and convenient.
Before buying using nootropics, it is advisable to carry out adequate research and read trusted reviews such as The Supplement Reviews to get a good idea of what to expect.

A final word

Researchers continue to search for safe, effective ways of creating drugs that enhance cognitive capacity. There are limitations, however. Even though on their own, ingredients are known to improve mental ability in some ways, there are yet enough randomised controlled trials testing the effects of the ingredients when combined.

It is important to note that people who suffer specific substance abuse and mental health disorders may be prone to the ill-effects of some nootropics. So it is advisable to consult a healthcare professional before using nootropics if you suspect that you may be among those individuals.

There is a lot of potential for enhancing cognitive function through medical interventions thanks to neuroplasticity, which is the brain’s ability to reorganise and alter itself as a response to extrinsic and intrinsic factors. For example, research has shown that psychotherapy can lead to some structural changes in the brain. Other helpful interventions include compassion, mindfulness, and meditation.

Proper nutrition and regular exercise also play a fundamental role in the improvement of brain function. Some naturally occurring ingredients such as vitamins B6 and B12, phenethylamine, caffeine, and l-theanine have already been researched extensively.