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A word to the wise on a world of pharmaceuticals that might increase mental ability

A future where in-house lawyers and their external counsel use brain-boosting drugs may not be far away. Just as with steroid abuse in baseball, the winner-takes-all competitions of major league law will mean that some lawyers will dabble in powerful drugs to enhance their cognitive powers (See my posts of March 2, 2008 #4: ampakines and the neurotransmitter glutamate; May 30, 2006: working memory; Aug. 19, 2007 # 2: yohimbine; and Feb. 7, 2006: 40 other drugs that improve memory, including modafinil.).

Support for this prediction comes from Wired, May 28 at 112-113. Aside from methamphetamines and nicotine – notorious and dangerous stimulants – the magazine lists six other products, each with potential mental benefits as well as possible bad side-effects. The six include adderall (“thought to optimize levels of dopamine and norepinephrine, enhancing concentration and turning mundane tasks into wondrous ones”), aniracetam (“seems to boost release of glutamate, speeding neurotransmission and improving memory”), aricept (“thought to reduce the breakdown of acetylcholine, a neurotransmitter that helps relay messages around the brain”), modafinil (“improves focus, pattern recognition, and short-term memory”), rolipram (“may elevate levels of cyclic adenosine monophosphate to boost memory”), and vasopressin (“produced naturally in the pituitary gland … [and] shown to help users learn more effectively (especially men)”).

Brain cocktails are surely coming (See my post of Aug. 20, 2006: neuro-economics.).

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