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Cambridge neuropsychologist Barbara Sahakian on modafinil

For years the mainstream British newspaper The Guardian has been featuring articles about modafinil and smart drugs. Best among them from novelist MJ Hyland, who suffers from multiple sclerosis and wrote a paean to the drug– also a few interviews with Cambridge neuropsychologist Barbara Sahakian. Her book on how modafinil may help those with poor decision making available hereIncluded below are are few relevant and interesting parts from the interviews:

How does the modafinil work?

“We believe modafinil is a drug with multiple actions,” Sahakian says. “This is because it acts on several neurotransmitter systems in the brain. I suspect that because it’s got these multiple actions, you’re getting a number of things improving but not all for the same reason.”

Neurotransmitters are the chemicals which transmit signals between cells in the brain and Dr Peter Morgan from Yale University believes that modafinil affects three in particular. “Modafinil definitely affects the dopamine system and dopamine will make you more alert, and also more interested in things,” he says. “It affects norepinephrine which can again make you more alert and better able to focus, and it also affects histamine which can keep you awake.”

But it is modafinil’s boost to the working memory that interests many, in particular students engaged in last-minute cramming. It is believed to enhance the short-term memory by as much as 10%, through its influence on a neurotransmitter called glutamate. Continue Reading…