Why isn’t there more research on cognitive enhancement?

One issue is that cognitive enhancement as a research area suffers from the same problems as life extension, unfortunately, in that it kinda attracts a different sort of person. Most researchers feel it’s more noble to fix something that’s broken instead of trying to improve something that’s currently working, however inefficiently. I generally agree with that sentiment, but certainly there is some worth to improving things, too. I’m not suggesting that more brainpower should be spent on inventing “smart drugs” than on curing cancer, but, as many have noted, this isn’t a zero sum game. There’s just so little that’s been done in the past decade on “nootropics” that there must be just bushels of relatively low-hanging fruit, ripe for the picking, and if gains could be made relatively quickly, they’d have a large payoff because they’d be applicable to everyone, instead of just the people with disorder or disease X. There would also be an additive effect of increasing the rate at which progress could be made in all the other fields.

This kind of work will face the same class issues as other types of medical research like genomic profiling, with people worrying that the discoveries will only be available to those who can afford it, thus widening the have-have not gap still further, but that’s not really a good argument for not doing the research, because it has to be available before it can become affordable, doesn’t it?

It’s a difficult thing to argue for, trying to fix something that ain’t broke, but I’m convinced given the utter lack of progress in this area over the past decade, that just one competent researcher in this area could make significant advances relatively quickly. Am I wrong? Has there been significant advancement in the last decade? Am I being too hard on sports performance researchers?

Checking Usenet, they’re still talking about the same stuff they were 10 years ago:

Little of this is available OTC in the US. The only thing I’m aware of with US OTC availability that’s not essentially repackaged caffeine is this stuff.1 Has anyone tried these? Let me know in the comments.

1. I personally like it; I’m not connected to the company in any way.

2 thoughts on “Why isn’t there more research on cognitive enhancement?

  1. Well, the wikipedia article only goes back to 2004, so I can’t compare it a decade ago with it now. Checking the page I don’t really see anything new or novel there either, though.

    Actually, Tolcapone seems to be novel, though not really suited for nootropic use due to the dangers associated with its use.

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