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.

8 Comments

Filed under Research, Weird Story of the Week

8 responses to “Cognitive Enhancers or Bad Eggs?

  1. Arno

    ..Bruce… damn.. and I thought my dog eating links were bad.

    Considering I have been living around Chinese Master students for the last 3 years, and considering the exceptionally bad breath that some of them had, I did occasionally wonder whether this was due to their diet.

    I am suddenly no longer interested in finding out.

  2. someone with concerns

    I am sorry to hear this kind of weak nationalism and arrogance against china. Just a comment from someone without chinese roots.

    • brucehood

      Dear someone with concerns,
      to which nation are you referring and what of the arrogance? The bulk of illegal counterfeit drugs are produced in China and they also believe in supernatural cures. Just saying. No political agenda.

  3. someone with concerns

    my origin is totally not important for my comment.
    anyone doubts that it can be dangerous to take illegal counterfeit drugs. It is the same with any “supernatural” elexir without any effect.
    You said: “any Chinese remedies – natural or not”. As far as I know, it is scientifcally proven that there is at least some chinese medicine which has positive non-placebo effects.
    i believe you if you promise that you did not had any nationalism or arrogance in mind when you wrote these lines. but i would argue that you did not care enough about your thoughts.
    But reading this sentence: “they also believe in supernatural cures” is also a not valid generalization. I would doubt that everyone in China believes in supernatural cures. Would you agree if I would say: everyone in Germany during the 2nd worldwar was a Nazi. Hopefully not. Please take care with your words😉 This is just a friendly comment.

    • brucehood

      Understood, but I would submit, that if every sentence came with caveats and qualifiers then it would hardly make for easing reading (caveat: not all readers will be of the same standard and that is no reflection of their ethnic origin, political persuasion, economic standing or level of intelligence etc) Just a friendly reply;)

  4. someone with concerns

    it would be even worth it to try to be politically correct;

    this is not about explaining every word, it is about the content

  5. Just saw this post, I was at that lecture too. It was certainly excellent.

    You don’t by any chance have a reference for the boiled egg / urine claim do you? – I’m assuming no real research has been done on the matter but hey it seems there’s research on absolutely everything now if you look hard enough so maybe I’m wrong?

  6. brucehood

    No, it was an obscure newspaper item which of course, means it could be totally bogus.

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