The struggle to find a drug that makes you so fast that you save more time taking it than you lose reading about it

Medication for brain performance enhancement. Anecdotally common in my highly competitive field, and amongst dotcom types. Tweaking brains with ‘smart drugs’ to get ahead in Silicon Valley is notorious. Also my brief contact with finance types leads me to believe it is common there. I am sure it is in many industries besides.

My advice on this is mostly worthless, as I know nothing of pharmacology etc. But even if I did, I would not endorse the taking of performance enhancing drugs without professional medical and legal advice regarding the impacts upon your own health and compliance with the local governmental regime and its positioning/branding regarding regulation of bodily autonomy.

Assessing effectiveness of


DIY? “Neurohacker toolbox”.

Aella, Are you just pushing the “insight” button? on taking LSD for the (feeling of?) insight.


Scott Alexander speculates on Cognitive enhancers: mechanisms and tradeoffs. Relates to Gwern’s Drug Heuristics.


SMBC on uppers


Thanks oglaf

In practice, many nerds seem to take modafinil plus some other things. Reports are generally positive, though I have heard reports of undesired side effects such as suddenly liking house music.

A profusion of sites with names like Nootropics Depot,, and and presumably suggest that doing this without prescription is pretty common. One might imagine it is a kind of ‘viagra for the brain’ niche that is being filled by these suppliers. I not certain how legal this drug is, nor how safe, nor how effective it would if it were both legal and safe.


Is ISRIB any good?



Choline stuff

Cholinergic systems etc. I know little about this. Alpha-GPC seems popular.


Review of write-ups

My (Elizabeth’s) tentative conclusion is that it would take tens of hours to beat an Examine general write-up, but they are not complete in either their list of topics nor their investigation into individual topics. If a particular effect is important to you, you will still need to do your own research.

Sam Atis, in More notes on ADHD, connects ADHD medication to nootropics and finds no meaningful differentiation between medicalisation of a disease and cognitive enhancement.


Astrid, Nehlig. 2010. Is Caffeine a Cognitive Enhancer? Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease, no. S1: 85–94.
Avgerinos, Konstantinos I., Nikolaos Spyrou, Konstantinos I. Bougioukas, and Dimitrios Kapogiannis. 2018. Effects of Creatine Supplementation on Cognitive Function of Healthy Individuals: A Systematic Review of Randomized Controlled Trials.” Experimental Gerontology 108 (July): 166–73.
Chen, Ning, Mi Yang, Muke Zhou, Jing Xiao, Jian Guo, and Li He. 2017. L-carnitine for cognitive enhancement in people without cognitive impairment.” The Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 3 (March): CD009374.
Frank, Kurtis, Kamal Patel, Gregory Lopez, and Bill Willis. 2021. Alpha-GPC Research Analysis,” October.
Lopez, C. M., S. Govoni, F. Battaini, S. Bergamaschi, A. Longoni, C. Giaroni, and M. Trabucchi. 1991. Effect of a new cognition enhancer, alpha-glycerylphosphorylcholine, on scopolamine-induced amnesia and brain acetylcholine.” Pharmacology, Biochemistry, and Behavior 39 (4): 835–40.
Moran, Rosalyn J., Pablo Campo, Mkael Symmonds, Klaas E. Stephan, Raymond J. Dolan, and Karl J. Friston. 2013. Free Energy, Precision and Learning: The Role of Cholinergic Neuromodulation.” The Journal of Neuroscience : The Official Journal of the Society for Neuroscience 33 (19): 8227–36.
Pepeu, G., and G. Spignoli. 1989. Nootropic drugs and brain cholinergic mechanisms.” Progress in Neuro-Psychopharmacology & Biological Psychiatry 13 Suppl: S77–88.
Rae, Caroline D., and Stefan Bröer. 2015. Creatine as a Booster for Human Brain Function. How Might It Work? Neurochemistry International 89 (October): 249–59.
Sakellaris, George, George Nasis, Maria Kotsiou, Maria Tamiolaki, Giorgos Charissis, and Athanasios Evangeliou. 2008. Prevention of Traumatic Headache, Dizziness and Fatigue with Creatine Administration. A Pilot Study.” Acta Paediatrica (Oslo, Norway : 1992) 97 (1): 31–34.
Schindler, U. 1989. Pre-clinical evaluation of cognition enhancing drugs.” Progress in Neuro-Psychopharmacology & Biological Psychiatry 13 Suppl: S99–115.
Smith, A. 2005. Effects of Repeated Doses of Caffeine on Mood and Performance of Alert and Fatigued Volunteers.” Journal of Psychopharmacology 19 (6): 620–26.
Vossel, Simone, Markus Bauer, Christoph Mathys, Rick A. Adams, Raymond J. Dolan, Klaas E. Stephan, and Karl J. Friston. 2014. Cholinergic Stimulation Enhances Bayesian Belief Updating in the Deployment of Spatial Attention.” The Journal of Neuroscience 34 (47): 15735–42.

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