Modafinil: Elevating Mental Performance
It’s the closest thing to NZT-48, a fictional mental cognition enhancing drug in 2011 movie Limitless, except Modafinil is real and it exists today. While you won’t be popping pills and making millions on the Forex market, Modafinil has been clinically proven to temporarily:
- Improve brain cognition
- Improve working memory
- Shorten reaction time
- Reduce the effects of fatigue
Perhaps the most pronounced property of Modafinil is its ability to promote wakefulness. It achieves this through a couple of mechanisms:
Modafinil boosts Dopamine levels in the brain. Dopamine is a compound that acts as a neurotransmitter within our brains, regulating our pleasure and reward centers. Interestingly, Dopamine has functions similar to stimulants that increase communication between neurons. A 2010 study found a positive relationship between creativity and brain dopamine levels.
Serotonin levels are also boosted within the amygdala and frontal cortex. Serotonin is a chemical compound responsible for balancing our mood, and possesses the ability to help create new neurons (particularly helpful for improving memory)
Glutamate, an excitatory neurotransmitter, levels soar under the effects of modafinil, much like the effects under caffine. It is responsible for cognitive functions that include working memory and attention. On a long-term basis, glutamate plays a key role in forming associations between our brain’s neurons. Higher levels of glutamate increase our brain’s plasticity and is a key ingredient for learning.
Modafinil also impacts other brain peptides known as Orexins, or hypocretins, which are found in the mainly in the hypothalamus. When activated, they increase norepinephrine, histamine and dopamine in the respective areas which help promote wakefulness.
While Modafinil was first synthesized as a treatment for narcolepsy and excessive sleepiness caused by disorders such as sleep apnea, its properties are increasingly being to improve day to day functioning. Avid, long-time supporters of such “smart drugs” include American entrepreneur Dave Asprey, who details how he added 18 points of IQ by using Modafinil in conjunction with brain training programs.
The recommended dose for Modafinil is 200mg once a day, up to a maximum of 400mg. It should be ingested at least an hour prior for best effects, with or without food. As it functions similar to a stimulant, one should exercise caution to adhere to recommended doses to minimize side effects.
How Safe is Modafinil
Modafinil received its approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 1998 and thus its long-term effects are not fully understood. Side effects include headaches, nausea, dizziness and difficulty in sleeping. Modafinil has also been known to reduce the efficacy of contraceptive pills.