The medication known as modafinil used to treat narcoleptic patients has been documented from a different perspective in a new study: is it safe and does it act as a “smart drug” enhancing cognition? The findings published in European Neuropsychopharmacology suggest that it does improve concentration and other cognitive abilities.
The team of researchers reviewed past studies on modafinil’s impact on cognitive enhancement. The effects of the medication on tasks related to planning, decision-making, learning and creativity as well as features such as memory were evaluated.
The researchers found that modafinil could indeed constitute cognitive benefits which vary as per the task: it enhances the capacity to make decisions and to plan. On the other hand, it was not shown to have positive effects on working memory and thought flexibility.
Another advantage attributed to it related to side-effects which were found to be very few.
“[I]n the face of vanishingly few side effects in these controlled environments, modafinil can be considered a cognitive enhancer,” said co-author Anna-Katharine Brem in a press release.
Does a drug carrying the benefit of improving cognition come without a price? This issue might stir quite some controversy. The president of the European College of Neuropsychopharmacology, Guy Goodwin, who was not involved in the study, commented on this, breaking down the ethical side of the drug’s use.
“Previous ethical discussion of such agents has tended to assume extravagant effects before it was clear that there were any. If correct, the present update means the ethical debate is real: how should we classify, condone or condemn a drug that improves human performance in the absence of pre-existing cognitive impairment?”