Daily Archives: March 19, 2011

Cognitive Enhancers or Bad Eggs?

"I think this egg is off"

I was at Prof Barbara Saharkian’s lecture on cognitive enhancement a few weeks back where she talked about the growing use of drugs to improve academic performance. Apparently the situation is epidemic on US campuses where approximately 16% of students are taking these clinical drugs to help them cram for exams or do all-nighters to complete assignments. She presented evidence where drugs such as Ritalin, originally intended for the treatment of ADHD, have been shown to improve performance on a number of cognitive tasks.

Modafinil, originally designed for the treatment of narcolepsy, is one of the latest growing trends of cognitive enhancing drugs. The market for  Modafinil is estimated to be worth £700m per annum alone with approximately 90% destined for “off- label” or non-clinical use.  According to Saharkian, she found that a number of her US colleagues privately admitted to taking Modafinil when traveling to give lectures as it is very good for overcoming jetlag.

Access to cognitive enhancers is fairly restricted in the UK but there is always the internet. The trouble of course, is that many of these drugs are manufactured in the Far East which has notoriously lax attitudes to quality control. It is simply dangerous to buy your drugs online. In the past, they have been found to contain a variety of toxins.

There again, China also has  more natural ways of maintaining concentration. For example, you may want to try spring eggs hard boiled in children’s urine that have been prepared in Dongyang, Zhejiang province, eastern China, for thousands of years and now culture officials want to take it worldwide.

“The urine is gathered from local schools and the very best comes from boys under 10 years old. They pee in buckets and we collect it fresh every day,” chef Lu Ming explained.  He continued, “Then the eggs are boiled in the wee, first with their shells on and then with them off for a day and a night before they’re ready to be eaten.” The eggs are regarded as delicious and healthy because they help concentration when feeling sluggish or sleepy.

I have a conference coming up in a couple of weeks where I would like to be alert and attentive. But somehow, I think I will not be relying on any Chinese remedies – natural or not.

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