Nootropics: Does NZT-48 really exist?
It’s 2011, and Bradley Cooper holds the key to a vastly improved world – all thanks to a small, mysterious pill. If this rings a bell, then you’ve probably seen or at least heard of the film ‘Limitless’. A story that follows a struggling writer taking on an exciting new life, full of untapped potential. Made possible by taking a ‘smart drug’ that the creators of the film call NZT-48.
But does it really exist?
Before the release of the film, it’s fair to say that I took our brains true potential for granted. Myth or not, the fact that we only use a small portion of our brain’s capability, really captured my imagination. Even if the thriller flick was a little “out there”, it inspired me to dig deeper into the world of boosters. Just a few hours of scouring the internet later, I’d stumble across so much research that would make my head spin. Nootropics, otherwise known as cognitive enhancers – were real!
So how close to reality were the filmmakers and how much-hidden potential could we unlock by using these primo enhancers?
To understand this world a little better, we need to rewind almost 50 years to 1972, when Dr. Corneliu E. Giurgea first coined the term nootropic. The name itself is derived from the Greek words ‘nous trepein’, meaning to bend or shape the mind. Any natural or synthetic substance that enhances mental function is considered to be a nootropic, and there are now over 80 different substances under the umbrella of “brain-boosting” ingredients.
Bacopa Monnieri is a stand-out example for me. The ancient herb has been used in ayurvedic medicine to enhance brain function for hundreds of years. Studies have shown that it contains active compounds that increase reaction times, speed up information processing and improve memory. Without realising it, we’re consuming nootropics regularly. Take caffeine for example… oh yes, it’s a nootropic. Perhaps one of the most widely consumed of all! Rather than providing energy, it actually blocks adenosine receptors in the brain, making you feel less tired.
If we really want to max out the potential of these ‘smart drugs’, we need to think about how they react with our mind and body. Consumption alone, might not yield the results we come to expect. But scientists believe that when combined with regular exercise and brain stimulation, they really do come into their own.
It’s difficult to say just how much potential we’re able to unlock when consuming nootropics, but we are getting nearer to proving their overall effectiveness. And the market for enhancers is growing exponentially, with various nootropic stacks appearing online and in stores.
Merging a spectrum of powerhouse substances definitely brings us ever closer to peak potential, there’s no doubt about it.
So, is it more likely that NZT-48 was a fictionalised combination of powerful nootropics?
It certainly looks that way.