Modafinil which improves intelligence under scrutiny by Health Department

The British government is examining the impact of a new generation of drugs that are claimed to make people more intelligent.

While researchers for the Department of Health are assessing the impact of a new generation of cognition enhancing drugs, warnings are already being voiced over the misuse of the so-called 'designer drugs'.

Unlike in the 1960s when celebrities such as Dr. Timothy Leary were encouraging American youth to "tune in, turn on and drop out", these new drugs are instead being used to improve young peoples academic performances.

The British government has asked the Academy of Medical Sciences to assess the drugs, of which some are already being widely used in the United States.

Modafinil is one such drug which is licensed in the UK to treat narcolepsy, a rare condition where people suddenly fall asleep, but is widely used by students and busy professionals in the U.S. to give their brains a boost.

The drug has been banned by the International Olympic Committee, along with another stimulant, ephedrine, which has also been tested by the Ministry of Defence.

In a trial on 60 healthy volunteers, Dr. Danielle Turner, of the Department of Clinical Neurosciences at Cambridge University, tested the drug out and found as well as keeping them awake, Modafinil had dramatic effects on their brains.

Two hours after they had taken a single dose of Modafinil strong improvements were seen in performance, and as the problems became harder, their performance seemed to improve.

The volunteers say the drug made them feel very alert and able to focus

The drug belongs to a new class of cognition enhancing drugs invented by Professor Gary Lynch, from the University of California, Irvine, who helped invent another class called Ampakines.

Professor Lynch designed them specifically to increase memory and cognition and he believes as a result of experiments he has carried out on animals, that the drug enables the brain to rewire itself or make neural connections between different regions that people cannot normally make.

This rewiring he says may enable people to "build thoughts that are a little bit beyond the normal brain" and enjoy thought processes usually restricted to a genius.

It is the concern over how such drugs may be used or abused that has prompted the British Government to ask for expert advice.

The Academy of Medical Sciences expert group has held workshops across Britain to establish how the public feels about the drugs and what are the implications of it's use.

The experts will attempt to establish whether or not the new drugs could or even should be used to enhance people's abilities and if they pose a new and dangerous hazard to society.

Critics say users risk sleep deprivation and could suffer damage to their brain and central nervous systems.

The Academy's report will be released later this year.

Critics say users risk sleep deprivation and could suffer damage to their brain and central nervous systems.

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