“You know how they say that we can only access 20% of our brain?” says the man who offers stressed-out writer Eddie Morra a fateful pill in the 2011 film Limitless. “Well, what this does, it lets you access all of it.” Morra is instantly transformed into a superhuman by the fictitious drug NZT-48. Granted access to all cognitive areas, he learns to play the piano in three days, finishes writing his book in four, and swiftly makes himself a millionaire.

Limitless is what you get when you flatter yourself that your head houses the most complex known object in the universe, and you run away with the notion that it must have powers to match .

Can drugs like Ritalin , Modafinil [ widely believed to be the inspiration for limitless ] and Adderall really make us more intelligent can they really help us to learn more?

We have two separate questions here , the answer to the latter seem quite clear cut
the evidence suggests that smart drug help us to learn more efficiently
but they do not necessarily create smarter version of ourselves .

Yes focus , memory and organisation may be enhanced but at what cost

“There are costs to narrowing your attention,”

Sarter points out.

Smart drugs are a little like blinders on a horse

“If you narrow your attention field, it also narrows the range and scope of associations you could bring into your thought process.”

Smart drugs may enhance focus, but they don't make you smarter , they optimize rather than enhance .

Sarter continues

“I’m just not seeing the evidence that indicates these are clear cognition enhancers,” says Martin Sarter, a professor at the University of Michigan, who thinks they may be achieving their effects by relieving tiredness and boredom. "

“What most of these are actually doing is enabling the person who’s taking them to focus,” says Steven Rose, emeritus professor of life sciences at the Open University.

“It’s peripheral to the learning process itself.”

Or as one US student told researcher Scott Vrecko in 2013:

“I remember getting just completely absorbed in one book, and then another, and as I was writing I was making connections between them [and] actually enjoying the process of putting ideas together. I hadn’t had that before.”


"If paying Paul always requires robbing Peter, we can’t expect drugs to produce a general, cortex-wide expansion of cognition. But by allocating extra resources to one domain or the other, could you surpass the maximum levels you could previously have attained or even the highest levels attained by anyone?

I think you can and you will , but crucially, only for very specific tasks. For example, one of cognitive psychology’s most famous findings is that people can typically hold seven items of information in their working memory. Could a drug push the figure up to nine or 10?

“Yes. If you’re asked to do nothing else, why not? That’s a fairly simple function.”

I can't agree with sarter and would have to side with Tracey Alloway assessment that

"Working memory may not be exciting but working memory she argues is a better test of ability than IQ .Working memory measures potential to learn and can be crucial in determining classroom and working life achievement"

Of course Sarter may simply be talking about simple span rather than complex span which has real life applications

The good news is almost anyone can run the complex digit span up to 10 , you just need a little training in a transferable skills .

So in answer to the question we posed in the title.
Smarter courses [approach if you prefer] or smart drugs a balanced view would be a little of both with the smart pills providing the drive .

Author's Bio: 

Our website has moved we now offer a free introductory course . Our premise remains the same at smartcorzes we promises to replicate the benefits of smart drugs , improve memory and focus without the drugs , it should not be at the cost of wider connections ,it should build on strengths , it should not matter how smart you are and it should be for everybody .