If there is one quality a person needs to achieve great things in life, it’s intelligence. Success comes easier to those who are smart- just ask the many college students who take study drugs they don’t really need to absorb more, work faster, longer and better, and get the good grades they would literally kill for- even if it means they are slowly killing themselves.
We all wish success came in a pill form. That was the premise of the hour and half Adderall commercial/ thriller film ‘Limitless’ starring Bradley Cooper. In the film he popped a transparent round pill and instantly his brain power skyrocketed- anything became possible. Most of us wished that pill existed- and now it does. Donepezil is a drug that is used to treat Alzheimers, but it’s effects on normal people make Adderall and Vyvanse look like a cup of coffee.
Here’s how it works: Donepezil boosts serotonin and acetylcholine in the brain, chemicals that are usually found in high concentrations in the brains of young children which naturally decrease with age. As a cholinesterase inhibitor, Donezepil boosts brain function by increasing the amount of acetylcholine around nerve endings. In dementia and Alzheimer’s patients, the drug has been shown to improve memory function.
Takao Hensch, a Harvard professor of cellular biology and part of a Boston Children’s Hospital team, found that the drug encouraged the brain to learn new skills as quickly as the sponge-like brain of an infant in her patient Shannon, an otherwise normal 14-year-old girl who suffers from extremely poor eyesight brought on by amblyopia, commonly known as lazy eye. In a matter of months, the drug helped Shannon’s brain relearn how to use her eye which resulted in markedly improved vision.
Hensch explained to The Atlantic that the drug helps a developed brain return to the chemistry of the “critical periods,” when our brains are young and learning new things at peak capacity, making it easier to learn new languages, absorb more information faster and remember it all- the possibilities are literally limitless.
“At no other time in life does the surrounding environment so potently shape brain function – from basic motor skills, sensation or sleep to higher cognitive processes like language.”
As we get older, our brains lose this elasticity, making it harder for us to learn new skills, but for good reason. Our brains continue to learn:
“But through evolution, it’s created a lot of molecules to make sure it doesn’t rewire too much… Much of our adult behaviour reflects the neural circuits sculpted by experience in infancy and early childhood.”
That’s why adults aren’t as crazy as teenagers, because adult brains aren’t as sensitive or reactive to external factors and experience teaches us to know better. That’s the potential danger with a drug like this. You return your brain to a state when you can learn a lot easier because you are ultra-sensitive to all stimuli in your environment, but it also makes it easier for that stimuli to affect you, for better or worse. The worst case scenario? You take this drug to be smarter but your personality can be destroyed by external stresses- it’s like being an emotional mess and losing yourself in high school again.
“Our main interest is not really to create super humans but to help with developmental disorders or brain injury in adulthood.”
As this drug is pretty much only used for Alzheimer’s patients, don’t get your hopes up on getting your hands on it. As amazing as this drug is with all the potential it could bring to a normal person’s brain, is it worth the danger? Who would consider taking this drug?