Thursday, October 22nd, 2020

Video: Brain Games: Is ‘Limitless’ a Glimpse of Our Future?

Published on March 20, 2011 by   ·   No Comments

By Jennifer Welsh/ LiveScience

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“Everything I ever read, heard, or seen was just organized and available,” Eddie Mora narrates. “I knew exactly what I needed to do and how to do it.”

Mora just took a new, unapproved memory-enhancing drug. Within minutes, everything around him becomes clear as the drug ramps up his brainpower and memory. He can not only access memories long thought lost, he can also make new memories quickly and easily.

In his first month on the drug, he teaches himself to play piano in three days, writes a book and learns several languages, and turns $12,000 into $2.3 million as a day trader.

Sadly for college students everywhere, this drug isn’t real, yet. Eddie Mora’s life on a drug called NZT is the plot of the new movie “Limitless,” in theaters tomorrow (March 18). Though it’s a fantasy world, some researchers say such memory-enhancing drugs might not be far off. Advances in knowledge of long-term memory and the processes that guide and shape it are leading the way to memory-enhancing therapies.

“It’s really amazing; I think we are on the verge of having the essential building blocks of how memories are made in the hippocampus,” Alcino Silva, a memory researcher at UCLA, told LiveScience. (The hippocampus is buried deep within the forebrain and is involved in the formation and storing of memories.)

While the movie-based drug promises to let Mora and other takers use more of their brains (that’s a myth in the first place – people already use most of their brains), real-life drugs would likely focus on enhancing the creation and accessibility of memories. ['Limitless' Brain Potential? Humans Already Use Most of Their Brains]

Researchers are developing memory-improving drugs as treatments for patients suffering from dementia, such as Alzheimer’s, and amnesia from stroke or traumatic brain injury. But such a drug might have different, possibly dangerous effects in non-impaired persons, who might abuse it to improve their mental abilities, like in “Limitless.”

Memory enhancement: now and later

Two recent studies have found memory-boosting molecules in the brain, research that has spurred the memory and cognition field, adding to this possibility. These molecules can enhance the formation of memory, even long after it has been created. Most other research has focused on molecules that block memory formation, so these new discoveries are the best candidates for an NZT-like drug, scientists say.

In late January, researchers led by Cristina Alberini from Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York announced that they had discovered a naturally occurring hormone that could enhance a rat’s memories both during creation and during recall. “We need to know so much more,” Alberini told LiveScience. “But everything we have seen is actually very suggestive that it may work [as a cognitive enhancer].”

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