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Published On July 23, 2009

CLINICAL RESEARCH

Defined: Cosmetic Neurology

Some drugs lend extreme wakefulness and focus—but are the enhancements worth the risks?

cosmetic neurology: coined in 2004 by University of Pennsylvania neurologist Anjan Chatterjee for the use of drugs to hone cognition.

For their intended users, Adderall and Ritalin calm the frenzy of attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder, while Provigil perks up the excessively sleepy. But for everyone else, these drugs lend extreme focus and wakefulness, attractive effects for the overextended college student or older worker trying to keep up with younger, more agile minds. Their use has become commonplace even in the scientific community; in a recent online survey, Nature found that 20% of respondents admitted to using acuity-boosting drugs. The downside: The long-term effects of prolonged neuroenhancement are unknown, and because such drugs are easily obtained (illegally) online, users are more susceptible to abusing them.

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