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Not So Smart - The Times Educational Supplement Not So...

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The Times Educational Supplement June 29, 2001 Not So Smart BYLINE: Saffron Davies Wouldn't it be nice if you could swallow a pill to help you pass exams, to remember all the names of the pupils in your new class, or to banish the forgetfulness that so often accompanies middle age? Who could fail to be tempted by "smart" drugs and nutrients that can improve memory, increase intelligence and restore concentration and alertness? Enthusiasts will tell you that there are more than 140 different chemicals, food additives or drugs that can perform one if not all of these tasks. But what are "smart drugs", and do any of these substances that you see advertised in books, magazines and on the internet actually work? Smart drugs are supposed to work in one of two ways: they either boost a brain chemical that might be involved in learning and memory processes, or increase blood flow to the brain. They are sometimes referred to as nootropics; a term coined by a pharmacologist in the Seventies from the Greek "noos" meaning mind and "tropos" meaning changed or toward. Today the most famous -or infamous -smart drugs are probably Prozac, typically prescribed as an antidepressant, and Ritalin for attention deficit disorders. But one of the earliest, and still the
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