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Certain Drugs Can Make People Smarter Than Previously Thought, Researchers Find

Science By
(Getty Images)
(Getty Images)


Perhaps the movie Limitless will soon be viewed as a documentary. Scientists now believe it’s possible humans can boost their brain power by popping a pill.

New research exploring the cognitive benefits of pharmaceuticals typically associated with treating ADD and ADHD suggests the drugs improve brain power more than they expected.

Previous studies had demonstrated substances like modafinil (Provigil), methylphenidate (Ritalin), and caffeine could improve mental performance when someone was tired or distracted, Medical Xpress reports. However, a new study, published in European Neuropsychopharmacology, demonstrated people could perform at higher levels than normal—altering and improving the way they process complex information.

Using a game of chess as a measurement tool, researchers from German and Swedish universities found modafinil and methylphenidate increased players’ score significantly, while caffeine showed a less dramatic uptick. The pharmaceuticals also increased the time players took to make decisions, suggesting a deeper thought process according to Medical Xpress.

It’s the first study to use chess as a way of exploring these drugs’ cognitive effects outside of their prescribed use, which the researchers do not condone. Scientists say further research is needed before they condone using the pharmaceuticals for “off-label” reasons.