Can a Pill Make You Smarter? The Brave New World of Smart Drugs

Larry Schwartz:

In the 2011 movie Limitless, our loser-turned-hero Bradley Cooper takes a pill, writes a novel in a few days, becomes an investment tycoon, and performs other tricks of mental derring-do. And of course at the end of the movie (spoiler alert!), he gets the girl. If only such a pill really existed.

Well, it may. Sort of. Welcome to the world of nootropics, or smart drugs. Nootropics (derived from Greek words that mean to bend the mind) are categories of drugs, supplements and other additives and stimulants that enhance memory, cognitive function and even intelligence. For thousands of years, humankind has sought ways to improve the mind, and many believe that modern science is on the cusp of achieving that goal, albeit with many caveats.