Real-Life Cognitive Enhancers: Could You Become ‘Limitless’?
This article will ask whether it's actually possible to enhance your brain, similar to the film Limitless, by a 'smart pill' or cognitive enhancer. We will go into the history of 'smart drugs', whether they can actually make you smarter, and other alternatives that don't use pharmaceuticals.
It’s an idea that’s been touted by the media for years, both in news and fiction: Take a pill with breakfast, and before lunch, you’re a genius. Entrepreneurs in Silicon Valley dream about this sort of product, one that turns you into a prodigious figure able to make millions in weeks, learn languages in days and finish complicated projects in hours. Just from swallowing a capsule containing some enigmatic compound. Is it possible? Could Limitless soon be a documentary?
We all know that it’s a bit beyond our current level of knowledge on the human brain. It may be beyond us forever, as the human mind has its limits. But, it is certainly an appealing fantasy. And it does raise the question: Can a pill really enhance your brain in such a way? Can something you go to the doctor’s and get today, really make you smarter? This article aims to answer this question. Read on, if you want to learn more.
What could you use for brain enhancement?
A real-life Limitless pill is something that people have been after for a long time. Quick-fix brain enhancers have been around for centuries - coffee, for example, is often consumed for its nootropic effects, and foods to boost your brain are often used by indigenous peoples such as the Guarani. But the kind of nootropic we all want, a true-blue ‘limitless pill’, only became even slightly viable over the last hundred years. Amphetamines have been used since the 1930s for stimulant and cognition enhancing effects, while racetams, eugeroics (like Modafinil**) and methylphenidate were all invented in the middle decades of the 20th century.
These pharmaceuticals are intended to combat disorders such as narcolepsy, but are also used by amateur brain-hackers off-label to try and boost their brainpower. And, these brain enhancers can provide some benefits. Modafinil has been found to boost levels of neurotransmitters in the brain, which can help people who are already deficient in these chemicals. Ritalin, an amphetamine, can be used to increase uptake of dopamine to improve cognitive function. There’s frequently an increase to alertness and focus as a result of using these pharmaceuticals as study drugs.
However, these effects are ephemeral. After a few hours, or a day or two, the positive effects of the drugs will wear off. It’s also quite possible that a tolerance will form, necessitating a greater dose of the drug to produce the same effect. They ultimately may make you less sharp after using them thanks to tolerance or dependency, so you have to buy more and more just to remain at your ‘base’ level of cognition.
Smart drugs tend also to have a bevy of side-effects associated with them. Headaches, insomnia, loss of appetite and many other potential problems might arise from using pharmaceuticals as brain enhancers. The legality of these products also makes their ingredients dubious; prescription drugs bought online could contain almost anything, and this is often the only way to acquire them as study drugs. If you'd like to avoid these side effects then a natural nootropic is your best bet - see our favourite natural nootropic.
Aside from pharmaceutical options, foods and drinks can also enhance cognition. As mentioned, coffee is a low-impact (but still effective) cognitive enhancer. Matcha tea, guarana, panax ginseng and plenty of other natural-sourced ingredients are all historically prized for their brain enhancing effects. These might have more lasting effects too, with vitamins ingested potentially helping to raise IQ, while still providing short-term benefits to cognition. They are still effective, with far fewer side effects than pharmaceutical 'smart drugs'.
Additionally, food-based cognitive enhancers are much easier to source legally. This means that they avoid most of the concerns over the purity of their ingredients, as they are bought, sold and regulated openly. Food supplement cognitive enhancers are lower-risk, their ingredients are frequently the subject of lots of research due to their being used for long periods, and they still provide cognition-enhancing effects for those who consume them.
Can a nootropic actually make you 'smarter'?
Another important question to ask is: Can a nootropic actually make you smarter? By taking NZT-48, Eddie was able to unlock some huge potential in his brain and boost his analytical skills through the roof. He makes millions on the stock market in weeks. The drug takes his brain and almost turns it into something else entirely, making him hypercompetent. He’s definitely smarter in some ways, and seems to be able to acquire knowledge at an inhuman rate.
Any products, pharmaceutical or natural, you could consume today will not do this. You can’t become a high-flying stock broker overnight, just from swallowing a pill or eating a special food. As mentioned earlier, the human mind has its limits; it’s simply not feasible to push them as far as a fictional 'smart drug' does.
What these brain enhancers can do is make you better at becoming smart. ‘Smarter’ is, of course, a subjective word, but a cognitive enhancer can give you the productivity you need to grow more intelligent, more knowledgeable and (potentially) ‘smarter’. Smart drugs or natural nootropics, they’re both just supplements to help boost you towards your end goal.
Cognitive enhancers might be able to make you more successful. What I mean is: if you consume something that increases your productivity, makes you motivated to work, and more inclined to follow-through rather than procrastinate, you will probably be more successful. As long as side effects don’t diminish your productivity, as those associated with pharmaceuticals might, you’ll stand to be more successful in your studies or work - and if that’s what you’re looking for, cognitive enhancers might be a good option.
Ultimately, an increase in ‘smartness’ is very hard to quantify. As stated earlier, ‘smartness’ is subjective. It might be seen as either innate in a person or changing day-to-day based on their mental state, and as a result it’s difficult to say if a drug or food can make you ‘smarter’. If you define intelligence as reasoning ability, a cognitive enhancer most likely can make you smarter; but, if you see it as proficiency in a practical skill, a cognitive enhancer probably couldn’t grant you that kind of smartness.
The truth is that there are food supplements and drugs out there which can increase some aspects of mental function, which might be connected with intelligence. Both drugs and natural nootropics have advantages and disadvantages associated with them in this regard, and there’s no single thing that’s guaranteed to boost your brain.
But, in our opinion, natural nootropics (or food supplement cognitive enhancers) are the way to go. Their results are as effective while being less disruptive than pharmaceuticals, and are safer than pharmaceutical 'smart drugs'. Food supplement cognitive enhancers tend to be perfectly safe if consumed in moderation. Moreover, there’s frequently a lot of research done on superfoods, herbs and Amino Acids, as they’ve been around for a lot longer than smart drugs, and most food-supplement based cognitive enhancers are legal in the UK. This makes them much more dependable than study drugs.
Our Favourite Natural Nootropic
* = Anecdotally, the improved concentration from BrainZyme enables increased motivation.