Does Modafinil Help Memory?

does modafinil help memory?People have always wished they could enhance their brain function, focus better, retain more memory, but smartness or enhanced brain functionality has always been hard to manipulate by synthetic means. We know that people have experimented with various substances – Adderall and Ritalin are two of the most popular drugs that are known to be used by a lot of students to improve memory, but these drugs have not been shown to have the ability to make any one’s brain work better or make anyone think smarter.The question has always been: is there a smart drug out there? Is there a drug that could do more than help you retain memory for a couple of hours but also enhance your brain function within that open window for you to flex your mental muscle process and apply solutions to questions based on what you would have committed to memory?

A long and systematic review of research done on the drug, Modafinil which is used to treat Narcolepsy, has found that this drug could potentially be the elusive smart pill we’ve all been waiting for. Modafinil not only boosts higher-order cognition, but it does so without adverse side effects. The next question that will help advance studies is: How does Modafinil help memory?

The search for a smart drug

People have been searching for cognitive enhancers for over a century. Some of the brilliant minds that have shaped our society have experimented with pharmaceuticals in one way or another. It is a well-known fact that Siegmund Freud experimented a lot with cocaine in his early career. Other thinkers and scholars like the mathematician Paul Erdos have used various other drugs like amphetamines. Whilst the father of modern psychology and one of the most brilliant mathematicians of our century might have used mind altering drugs to induce a higher cognitive state, their drugs of choice could only lead to one adverse effect addiction and death.

In the last century, scientists have been trying to find the right combination of chemicals that will stimulate different areas of the brain to function on a higher level when needed. So far, modafinil is the one drug that has shown up as a real cognitive enhancer. Researchers have worked extensively to find out how sleep- deprived people focus and how their brains function. A team of Oxford researchers, Ruairidh Battleday and Anna-Katherine Brem decided to take the research further and examined how the drug affected the cognitive abilities of well-rested, healthy people. Their findings, published in European Neuropsychopharmacology are based on reviews of 24 placebo-controlled, studies done on non-sleep deprived people that were healthy and did not have any cognitive deficiencies.

Most basic studies assess a sub-component of cognition. Basic studies are usually done by conducting a series of simple tasks. Basic tests assess just one sub-component of cognition and tend to be very simple tasks. Researchers found that basic tests gave a mixed assessment of the effects of modafinil. Complex tests showed clearer results on various components of cognition. They showed an improvement in attention, the ability to focus on tasks, processing of information, memory and the ability to use information gathered to come up with complex strategies. So, rather than just give you great recall, modafinil enhances the brain’s ability to digest and process information in a creative way. Modafinil can help enhance the way we take in information and the way we approach solutions to problems. It does not engage one sub domain of cognition, but multiple ones.

How does Modafinil help memory?

So far, how modafinil is able to do more than keep people awake, but it helps them think better is still something that has to be explored. What can be speculated is that the drug alters a concentration of a group of chemicals known as catecholamines. Catecholamines are naturally occurring chemicals that act as neurotransmitters and hormones within the body. Catecholamines include Catecholamines dopamine and norepinephrine, which regulate a variety of central nervous system functions. Dopamine has been found to be essential for motor control and emotional learning. Studies have found that a reduction in the synthesis of norepinephrine can lead to a deficiency in latent learning as well as long-term information. This suggests that catecholamines like norepinephrine may control the neuronal activity in the cerebral cortex to maintain cognitive learning.

Bottom line

The short answer to the question: Does Modafinil help memory? Is yes. Does it turn you into a genius? Maybe not, but it does help kick up brain function a couple of notches. Modafinil has been found to help with focus and concentration, however, it has not been proven to have an effect on the physiology of memory for a non-sleep deprived person.

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