Re: Are there smartdrugs?

Anders Sandberg (
12 Oct 1999 21:54:46 +0200

"Bostrom,N (pg)" <> writes:

> Some things might still be possible. For example, if a higher brain
> metabolism would increase cognitive performance, it might still not have
> evolved because of the energy cost. So theoretically, there might be a drug
> (caffeine?) that would make us think better by boosting mental energy. Other

Acetyl-l-carnitine might be a better example than caffeine. Caffeine is a good example of how you get some beneficial effects (alertness) with drawbacks (more reactive, straight thinking).

> examples might be if a drugs that facilitate some aspects of cognition at
> the expense of others. Say, it facilitates memory consolidation but inhibits
> ability to notice patterns and generalities (ampakines?).

We'll see what my research turns up on the effects, I guess this is a likely drawback at least partially.

> If this is correct, what one would predict is the following: We will not
> find smartdrugs that improve cognition in the population as a whole (except
> those that have some downside - like energy expenditure or shift of focus,
> as discussed above). What we may find, however, are drugs that improve
> cognition in some subjects and worsens it in others. Testing on a large
> group of people, we would not find any effect.

And also, drugs that are beneficial under certain circumstances or in certain combinations. I think this is a likely situation.

> Such drugs could still be very useful, but they would require some
> individual experimentation. You have to try many things to see what works
> for you. A proper clinical trial for a proposed smartdrug could thus have
> two stages: the first stage identifies the people who seem to react most
> favorably, and the second stage tests the overall effect on this special
> population. My impression is that this is not usually done today, with the
> possible consequence that many smartdrugs have gone unnoticed.

True. There are some studies that point out individual differences, but most are directed towards getting the mean to increase rather than the abilities of those who react. This is likely because most medical studies are directed towards finding pharmaceuticals that work for everyone; we have not yet reached the level where individually customized medications are practical/affordable.

A very interesting and clear posting.

Anders Sandberg                                      Towards Ascension!                  
GCS/M/S/O d++ -p+ c++++ !l u+ e++ m++ s+/+ n--- h+/* f+ g+ w++ t+ r+ !y