Nootropics : ' STUDY DRUGS ' can make people worse at problem-solving, not better.

FOR MORE THAN six months, Americans have been struggling to get their hands on medications like dextroamphetamine [ better known as Adderall ] and methylphenidate [ Ritalin ]. Officially, these stimulant drugs are used to treat attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder [ADHD].

Unofficially, the drugs are also popular with devotees of ''nootropics'' - chemicals that supposedly boost brainpower.

STUDENTS and workers in industries from tech to finance take the medications in the hope they will improve their concentration and ability to get things done.

But a new paper suggests that this may be ill-advised. The drugs seem to make people slightly worse at solving problems, not better.

In the paper published, published on June 14th in Science Advances, a group of researchers led by Peter Bossaerts, an economist at the University of Cambridge, tested how Adderall, Ritalin and another stimulant drug called modafinil [Provigil] affected 40 healthy people's ability to perform optimisation problems.

They used the ''knapsack task'', in which participants had to work out which items to put into a bag.

The idea was to maximise the value of the items without exceeding the carrying weight of the sack.

The researchers used several trials of varying difficulty, each with different weight limits and lists of items.

The World Students Society thanks The Economist.


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