Friday, September 23, 2011

Improving general intelligence with pharmacological intervention

From the journal Intelligence:
Cognitive enhancing substances such as amphetamine and modafinil have become popular in recent years to improve acute cognitive performance particularly in environments in which enhanced cognition or intelligence is required. Nutraceutical nootropics, which are natural substances that have the ability to bring about acute or chronic changes in cognition have also been gaining popularity in a range of settings and applications including the workplace, driving and in the amelioration of age related cognitive decline. Huperzine A, Vinpocetine, Acetyl-l-carnitine, Rhodiola Rosea and Alpha-lipoic Acid are popular nutritional supplements that have shown promising benefits in improving a range of biological (e.g., blood flow, anti-inflammatory, anti-oxidant, and direct neurotransmitter effects) and cognitive processes from in vitro, animal and human clinical research. We report here the first human randomized clinical trial for cognition in which we administer a combination of Huperzine A, Vinpocetine, Acetyl-l-carnitine, R. Rosea and Alpha-lipoic acid (called Ceretrophin) vs placebo. Sixty participants (40 females and 20 males, with a mean age of 45.4 years, SD = 12.6) completed either the odd or even items from the Raven Advanced Progressive Matrices (APM) at baseline and the opposite odd or even items at week 4 after consuming either the combination nootropic or placebo. A significant study visit (time) × treatment condition interaction was found: F (1, 57) = 7.279, p = 0.009, partial η2 = .113, with paired samples t-tests revealing a significant improvement in mean APM score from baseline to retest (week 4) (t(34) = − 4.045, p < .001) for the Ceretrophin™ group. Improvements in APM scores could be attributed to the active intervention over the placebo, indicating that the treatment improved general intelligence. Implications for improving our understanding of the biological basis of intelligence and pharmacologically improving human cognition are discussed.


  1. Anonymous9:49 AM

    Finally. I was looking for data n the topic

  2. Anonymous9:11 PM

    How many IQ points is the difference?

  3. The improvement was 6 IQ points.

  4. My interpretation is that pharmacology could - on average - improve performance at IQ tests; just as it could reduce performance (by making people sleepy, feel ill, be demotivated or many other things).

    But improved test performance is not, of course, improved real IQ (genetic IQ).

    Few people are performing at max on any cognitive test - indeed there are likely whole populations of people (eg populations suffering from serious endemic parasitic illnesses causing conditions like severe anemia) where you would expect the performance curve to be shifted down - everybody perfoming below their genetic max. If you were to treat the disease, you would see all round improvement in testing.

    But if people were already performing at their maximum genetic potential in IQ tests, pharmacology could only makes this worse.

  5. Bruce, in that sense there is no "real genetic IQ" in the same way that there is no "real genetic height." Yet improved nutrition, sanitation, etc. has greatly increased false just at look at 'em height. The main questions about smart drugs are, besides side effects, long term use, yadda yadda about any drug, does the IQ test increase transfer to real-world performance, and will it accelerate the dysgenic trends.

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