Amphetamine like Stimulants include the amphetamines and similar drugs such as Ritalin (methylphenidate). They seem to improve memory and attentional control and improve performance on tedious tasks. They also improve inhibitory control. (Inhibitory control involves the ability to focus on relevant stimuli in the presence of irrelevant stimuli e.g., to attend to the teacher’s instructions in a noisy classroom and to override strong but inappropriate behavioral tendencies).
Eugeroics: are wakefulness promoting agents used fortreatment of disorders such as narcolepsy, shift work sleep disorder, and excessive daytime sleepiness associated with obstructive sleep apnoea. They have also been used widely as an off label cognition enhancing agent. examples are Armodafinil and Modafinil.
Xanthines: the most common of which is coffee. In addition to the undisputed wakefulness that coffee causes, it increases alertness and improves performance.
Nicotine: Sorry folks, but a meta-analysis of the acute effects of nicotine and smoking on human performance concluded that nicotine or smoking had had significant positive effects on aspects of fine motor abilities, alerting and orienting attention and episodic and working memory. So perhaps the few cigarettes that I had lined up on the table and I used to ration to myself on an hourly basis (when I could afford them) when I settled down for a night of study really did help! Fortunately, my impecunious situation sharply limited my consumption.
Miscellaneous: There is suggestion that Valproate, an anticonvulsant drug used in epilepsy, bi-polar disorders and migraine may enhance some cognitive ability.
Racetams: I must confess that I had never heard of racetams before I started working on this blog. They are a class of drugs that share a pyrrolidone nucleus, whatever that is! My interest is that some of them, paticularly piracetam are considered 'smart pills'. Even stranger is the fact that they appear to be available 'over the counter', i.e. without a prescription. (I haven't checked this yet). In studies with aged rats they apparently result in great improvement in cognition!! So if you are a......... ! They appear to be used quite extensively as over the counter 'smart pills'. Their mode of action is not clearly understood but they appear to work on the cholinergic system and on AMPA receptors.
Tianeptine is an antidepressant of the seratonin re-uptake enhancer type. It is believed to increase synaptic plasticity and to improve learning, brain cognition and memory. It is still under study, like most of these drugs. Its side-effect profile seems to be relatively mild.
I believe nootropics have been much more widely used than generally thought and we will look at that in the future.
Let me know if you have had any experience with nootropics or are interested in learning more about them.