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Brain/ Cognitive Enhancement with drugs… and cereal?

Several recent articles and news:

Brain Gain: the underground world of “neuroenhancing” drugs (The New Yorker)

– “Alex remains enthusiastic about Adderall, but he also has a slightly jaundiced critique of it. “It only works as a cognitive enhancer insofar as you are dedicated to accomplishing the task at hand,” he said. “The number of times I’ve taken Adderall late at night and decided that, rather than starting my paper, hey, I’ll organize my entire music library! I’ve seen people obsessively cleaning their rooms on it.” Alex thought that generally the drug helped him to bear down on his work, but it also tended to produce writing with a characteristic flaw. “Often, I’ve looked back at papers I’ve written on Adderall, and they’re verbose. They’re belaboring a point, trying to create this airtight argument, when if you just got to your point in a more direct manner it would be stronger. But with Adderall I’d produce two pages on something that could be said in a couple of sentences.” Nevertheless, his Adderall-assisted papers usually earned him at least a B. They got the job done. As Alex put it, “Productivity is a good thing.”

Eschew Enhancement: Memory-boosting drugs should not be made available to the general public (Technology Review)

– “Who might use them? Students will be tempted, as might players of any game involving counting or remembering (chess, bridge, and even poker and blackjack). Certain professionals might desire a boost in attention or memory”

– “But these potentially powerful medicines should not be made available to everyone, for two reasons. The first is safety. The last several years have provided many examples of side effects, some life-threatening…The second reason is that we still know relatively little about learning and memory and how they are integrated to make judgments and decisions.”

Kellogg Settles with FTC over Health Claims on Cereal (Promo Magazine)

– “The FTC said that Kellogg promoted the cereal as “clinically shown to improve kids’ attentiveness by nearly 20%,” when in fact the study referred to in the ads showed different results.”

– “The study found that only about half the children who ate Frosted Mini-Wheats for breakfast showed any improvement in attentiveness, and only about one in nine improved by 20% or more, the FTC said.”

Brain shock: The new Gulf War syndrome (New Scientist)

– “The US army also screens for symptoms of mTBI when soldiers return from a tour of duty, and again three months later. The army is also carrying out neurocognitive tests on recruits before they are sent into combat so that doctors can check for deterioration in later tests.”

– “When it comes to combat trauma, unpicking the physical from the psychological is bound to be highly complex. As Barth says, perhaps the greatest danger could be in trying to simplify the picture too much. “I recommend that we get comfortable with the complexity,” he says, “and treat it as a challenge.”

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