Absolute Truth About Cognitive Enhancers: The Good, Bad and Ugly.

Have you seen the movie titled “Limitless”? It’s a movie about the use of cognitive enhancers and how they can make people smarter and do more with their brain within the shortest time frame. Just like any other movie, the main purpose is to entertain viewers and not really educate them on the use of cognitive enhancers.

Nevertheless, movies like this have sparked various discussions about the possibility of such drugs in real life, what if everybody can be as smart as the lead character in that movie? What if we can all think in various perspectives simultaneously, what if there is a drug that can get us to be more alert, focused and calm? What is there is a drug that can really make us super smart?

… Well, there is! In fact, there are several drugs in the market, created specifically for such purpose; they are called cognitive enhancers, or nootropics. Although the two terms are used interchangeably, they have slightly different meaning, but for the sake of clarity, I would use the term “cognitive enhancers” all through this article.

Before we delve into what specific drug does and how you can take advantage of them to become smarter, let us look into what cognitive enhancement is all about.

What Is Cognitive Enhancement?

As the most advanced vertebrate on planet earth, humans are known to be smarter and faster. The reason for this is attributed to evolution of the brain and other anatomical structures of the body. The basic explanation to human smartness lies in our cognition; which is the way we see, understand and react to our environment.

There are about seven (7) cognitive abilities; attention, memory, motor skills, language, visual and spatial processing, perception and executive function.

Let’s take a look at few examples of what cognitive ability means before we move on to what cognitive enhancement is all about….

The first one is an example of cognitive ability in the motor skills category:

Remember when you were learning how to drive? When you would put all your attention on the wheels, the rate at which you’re pumping the gas, the gear, the steering, the side mirrors and every other necessary things. As time goes on, you begin to get better at driving, and you can do some other stuffs while driving (for instance answering a phone call), over time, you discover that, you just drive without even thinking about it. At that particular point in time, your brain is performing a cognitive function based on previous knowledge and experience.

Another typical example is cognitive ability in the language category:

When you’re learning a new language, or let’s say when you’re learning a computer program. In the inception, all your focus would be on the syntax, the models and other necessary stuffs. But as you gain proficiency, you discover that you can speak the language with less effort as compared to when you started learning.

Your brain can look at a very minute detail, make connection with several other events that is slightly related to the details, and invariably make sense of it. That is the peak of cognitive functioning.

Cognitive enhancement on the other hand, is the things you can do to improve these cognitive abilities.

Since they are not static throughout life, they tend to be at their peak during adulthood and begin to depreciate with further age advancement; they can as well be improved with the use of cognitive enhancers and a well-tailored lifestyle.

Cognitive enhancement is the conscious effort we make to improve our attention span, our memory and recall ability, our perception skills, our information processing skills as well as our executive function ability, which involves, decision-making, theory of mind, flexibility and others.

Improving these skills through cognitive enhancement would definitely increase our productivity. This would lead to the next section of the article, where the word “cognitive enhancers” is explained in the simplest of term.

What are Cognitive Enhancers?

In broad term, cognitive enhancers (can also be referred to as nootropics) are drugs that improve any of the cognitive abilities listed earlier in this article.

Although, the above definition is very limited, because there are several other ways of improving cognitive abilities without the use of drugs or supplements (much of which will be discussed in the later part of the post). In this post, the main focus is on cognitive enhancers that are taken as drugs or supplement.

This drug comes in different varieties and a larger percentage of them has been shown to play significant role in improving some or all of the listed cognitive skills. Before the recent development of new cognitive enhancers, caffeine is the most popular stimulant used for cognitive enhancement, it is gradually being replaced by more potent nootropics.

In the past, the use of cognitive enhancers is common among those with medical condition such as ADHD and ADD, however the use of new modern, over the counter cognitive enhancers is now prevalent, even in healthy individual.

The reason for this is not far-fetched. We generally want to be more focused, we want to increase our productivity and gain more from the limited time we have.

How Do Cognitive Enhancer Work?

  • Increasing Blood Supply To Brain: 
  • The brain consumes about 20% of the total body energy, meaning it consumes more energy than other organs of the body. The higher the amount of energy reaching the brain, the faster it works.

    You can liken this to the regular fuel consumption in a car, when you want to increase the speed at which you’re moving, you would have to shift to a higher gear, then pump more gas using the throttle.

    Now, let’s imagine you have a full gas tank, and that your gear and other stuffs are functioning very well. However, the fuel pump is not doing well, or the fuel pipe from the tank to the engine is very narrow, you would agree with me that the speed of your car would not be high. No matter how hard you press the pump, the car won’t run fast, because the fuel is not just getting to the engine!

    This is exactly what happens when the supply of blood to the brain is limited by one or more factor. Because the blood carries nutrient and oxygen throughout the body system, any area of the body that does not get enough blood will suffer malnutrition.

    One of the ways in which cognitive enhancer works is by increasing the blood supply to the brain, and by so doing, the amount of energy and nutrient in the brain is high, and the neurons functions is at its peak.

  • Getting Rid Of Free Radicals:
  • Some cognitive enhancer works by getting rid of free radicals and as such keeping the brain cells (neurons) healthy.

    Free radicals are notorious waste products of the oxygen we breathe into our body. When air (which contains oxygen and other atmospheric element) is inhaled, the oxygen is metabolized and other waste product is exhaled. However, some ions such as O- and H+ remains in the body system. These ions are capable of combining with nitrogen or even other ions to form what is known as reactive species.

    These reactive species have damaging effect on the cell structure. When there are numerous free radicals in the brain cell, it begins to affect their cell structure and consequently their functionality. Taking note that brain cells do not undergo mitosis (breakdown and renewal) like other cells of the body. What this means is that, any damage to the brain cell is long lasting.

    Although the body has it’s own antioxidant system that automatically get rid of all the reactive species, in most cases, the antioxidant can only do so much, and further help is needed by the supplementing the available antioxidant in other to avoid stressing out the brain cell.

    Some cognitive enhancers function as free radicals, they basically work as scavengers of free radicals. They move around in the brain cell to mop out free radicals. Other cognitive enhancers in this category work by stimulating the production of the body antioxidant enzymes, that way, the brain has enough antioxidative enzymes to get rid of the free radicals.

    Caffeine is a good example of cognitive enhancers that falls into this category. They are known as antioxidative agent or antioxidant because they are capable of mopping up free radicals and as well stimulating the production of more antioxidant enzymes.

    Some other naturally occurring nootropics contains amino acid that act as precursor for several neurotransmitters in the brain. Neurotransmitters are brain chemicals that transmits messages from one neuron to the other. For effective brain functioning, there must be adequate supply of neurotransmitters within the brain cells.

    Another means by which cognitive enhancers increase the functionality of the brain is by balancing the neurotransmitters in the brain and getting rid of stress hormones in the brain… Stress hormone such as cortisol amidst others.

Who Should Use Cognitive Enhancers?

Cognitive enhancers is not just for unhealthy people with brain medical condition. Traditionally, most cognitive enhancing drugs were developed to cater for the needs of those suffering from mental disorder such as ADD, ADHD, Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson disease, et.c.

But the use of cognitive enhancer has grown beyond that. Healthy people now take cognitive enhancer for various reasons. As a matter of fact, a larger percentage of silicon valley executive take one form of cognitive enhancing drug or the other.

Checking through the benefits of cognitive enhancers, you would agree with me that virtually everybody could benefit from its usage. But for the sake of clarity and specificity, let’s take a look at the category of people that would benefit immensely from using cognitive enhancing drugs.


This is arguably the largest percentage of those taking cognitive enhancers. In a recent study in Germany, it was shown that about 30% of college student in Germany take one form of cognitive enhancing drug or the other. I believe if the same study is conducted in US and other European country, the result would not be contrary.

Students can benefit greatly from the use of cognitive enhancers, especially when it comes to staying focused and alert. The use of cognitive enhancers can improve reasoning ability. In fact, in some cases, cognitive enhancers are also called “smart drugs” or “smart pill”, this terms is usually used amidst students.


One of the benefits of cognitive enhancer is to enhance the executive function of the brain, which includes decision-making, inferential thinking and theory of mind. In simplest term, what this means is that, people with enhanced executive functioning of the brain can easily make decision based on provided information.

They don’t just think from a single perspective, they tend to see issues from various perspective, weigh-in on the supposed end result of each perspective and eventually make their decision from that. You would agree with me that such ability or skill is needed for company executives and entrepreneurs.


The most important skills needed in physical sport is the ability to manipulate your body at will. This all depends on the motor skills coordination. Since cognitive enhancers are known to enhance motor skills, and it’s not against the rule of competition to take them, then athletes can enjoy the benefit of these smart pills.

ADD/ADHD Patients:

People with attention disorder can greatly benefit from the use of cognitive enhancers. Most of the cognitive enhancing drugs in the market are known to increase the ability to focus on a particular thing for a longer period of time. Since ADD/ADHD patients usually have problem with focusing and paying attention, then cognitive enhancer is considered a good fit for such medical condition.

For those suffering from attention disorder, it is advised that you consult your doctor before taking any medication. He/she is in best position to prescribe the right medication to address your current state of health.

Seniors/Aged People:

As we grow old, we tend to lose certain skills and ability. It’s a normal physiological effect associated with ageing. To keep your brain cell alive and at uttermost functionality, aged people can benefit from the use of cognitive enhancers.

Frankly, anybody can benefit from the use of cognitive enhancing drug. Since it as potent effect on the functioning of the brain, and using them won’t make you dull or less smart, then why not take them if there is a need to.

Various Methods Of Achieving Cognitive Enhancement?

Earlier in this article, I noted that there are several means by which the cognitive functions of the brain can be enhanced. This section of the article would explore various methods by which cognitive enhancement can be achieved, towards the end, I would specifically state the best method of cognitive enhancement.

  • Brain Training
  • Exercise
  • Meditation
  • supplements
  • Enhancers

Before the advent of smart pills, this is probably the most common means of enhancing the cognitive functions of the brain. Brain training involves taking up mentally strengthening activities such as planning Sudoku, chess and other type of games. Although this method usually have little impact on the brain cognitive functioning, but it’s considered more effective in younger children, once the game or activity is mastered, then such brain training serves no purpose than entertainment.

Best Method Of Cognitive Enhancement?

Having listed various methods of cognitive enhancement, it’s only fair to be specific on which of them is the best method for improving the brain’s cognitive functions.

Looking at the methods listed above, you would agree with me that, each of them has a specific focus, take for instance, brain training is only effecting in improving the theory of mind, meditation is only effective for focusing, etc…

The only exception to this is exercise and cognitive enhancers. While exercise is a very good way to improve cognitive functioning of the brain, it should be noted that it is not as effective as the use of cognitive enhancers.

In a nutshell, the use of cognitive enhancers is the best method of improving cognitive functioning of the brain. Their effect is known to last longer than that of exercise, they’re not stressful to use and not time consuming as the case is with exercises.

List of cognitive enhancers

Although there are handful of cognitive enhancers in the market, only a fraction of them are known to be as effective as advertised. The reason being that, the market is not regulated, and there are no specified standard for the production of cognitive enhancers (I hope this changes in the nearest future).

This list consist of few specific product based on research conducted on amazon. It is not in any way the “holy grail” of cognitive enhancers. But I have done my possible best to careful select products with good reviews based on users comment, pricing and company’s reputation.

    • Citicoline Supplements
    • NeuroEnhance Natural Brain Function Booster Supplement for Memory, Focus, Mental Clarity & Cognitive Function Enhanced Ginkgo Biloba
    • Himazol Natural Anxiety and Stress Supplement Promotes Mental Well-Being And Cognitive Support.
    • Alpha GPC Choline Supplement.
    • Memory & Thought Support - Cognitive Nutrition & Mental Performance Enhancer - w/ Ginkgo Biloba, Asian Ginseng, Gotu Kola, Vitamins B12 & E
    • Nature's Wellness Memory Mind Matrix Dietary Supplement
    • Nootropics Brain Function & Memory Booster.
    • Ciltep Nootropic Stack
    • Neuro-Peak
    • Neurolon

Any Adverse Effect?

Just like any other drugs or medication, too much of it might result into unwanted deleterious effect. So far, there is no proper documentation on the adverse effect of the known cognitive enhancers. This is not to show that they won’t have an adverse effect.

Probably, in the long run when enough data has been accumulated, there would be a solid evidence to analyze the side effects of taking cognitive enhances. But as at the time of writing this article, there is a proper documentation of their side effects.

Another thing to take note is body tolerance. The more you get hung up on certain medication, the more your body builds tolerance against its effect. It is advisable to watch out for this when taking supplement based cognitive enhancers.

Best Cognitive Enhancers

I know this is the part most readers are interested in. Having considered everything that is to be known about cognitive enhancers, it’s only fair to give specific direction about which of the product is the best in market.

The selection of this product is based on their chemical constituents, users reviews, pricing, and overall effect. We are interested in supplements that is capable of improving all brain cognitive skills rather than ones with specific interest.

So here is our pick for the top 5 cognitive enhancement. Taking note that the list is not in any specific order.

#1. Neurolon - This supplement is known to improve mental sharpness, clarity, focus and memory.

#2. Neuro-Peak – It’s a natural based brain supplement, appraised for it’s potency as far as mental sharpness is concerned.

#3. Neuro-Enhance – It’s a natural herbal based supplement that aids recall, memory, concentration and focus.

#4. Ciltep Nootropic Stack – It’s potent for improving focus, memory and motivation.

#5. Vimerson Brain Health Supplement – Completely natural contents, and has great reviews for improving memory, focus and alertness.

Don't Be Selfish!
Augustus O.

Studying Biomedical Sciences made me realize that the body is such a delicate system, and lots of things could go wrong when the body is not properly taken care of. This arouse my interest in dietary supplements, because deficiency of a single element could render the entire system helpless. Follow me as I explore.

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