Re: Ampakines

Eliezer S. Yudkowsky (
Thu, 09 Oct 1997 19:34:12 -0500

Anders Sandberg wrote:
> I got a preprint from Martin Ingvar about his experiments with
> ampakines (chemicals which enhance the activation of the glutaminergic
> AMPA channel). He and his co-workers did a double-blind study on
> their effect on healthy volunteers. It turned out that they improved
> visual associative memory, odor associative memory, acquisition of
> a visuospatial maze and memory for the location and identity of
> playing cards. The drug did not affect non-memory cognition such
> as alertness, motor performance and visual recognition.

Strictly offhand, just extrapolating from those instances of Algernon's Law
I've been able to find, I would guess that ampakines disenhance
linear/sequential event memory and temporospatial solutions (catching a ball).
Did they try testing for that?

> This is good news. First, it shows that there are cognition enhancing
> chemicals that work in healthy young people (there are far too few
> studies supporting this). Second, it suggests a whole new category
> of nootropic compounds. Third, while the improvements of memory were
> not that dramatic (10-20% on most tests) they are likely to be much
> better for older people or people with memory problems. Fourth, the
> results gives us new insights into how memory works, which will be
> important for further development.

A 10-20% improvement may be indicative of cognitive resources being entirely
focused on a single class of problem. This may or may not be worth the likely
30-60% disimprovements in cognitive areas outside the narrow ones studied.

--       Eliezer S. Yudkowsky

Disclaimer:  Unless otherwise specified, I'm not telling you
everything I think I know.