brainEMO: Smart pills

brainEMO is a fresh BRAINetwork venture centered on emotional well-being and mental health. This is the second entry in the series, where features will take multiple forms and approaches. 

Since 1992, April has been declared the National Stress Awareness month in the United States. Indeed, stress is one of the leading causes of diseases and mortality worldwide, be it at home, work or school settings. Much emphasis has been given on educating the public on the effects of stress on health, as well as effective coping or stress management skills. These include reappraising mindsets, effective time management, having a good work-life balance, tackling things in manageable chunks, learning to say no, getting enough sleep, nutrition and exercise, unwinding with music, meditation or yoga and maintaining a strong social support system of friends and family. But what if a solution came in the form of a pill?

Ensuring optimal work or school performance, often in overextended and fatigued conditions, are common sources of stress in modern society. This situation has encouraged the practice of ingesting pharmacological cognitive enhancers like Modafinil (originally used to increase arousal in patients with sleep disorders) in healthy individuals to boost attention and alertness, be it for work (e.g. performing surgery) or study (e.g. cramming for an exam). While controversial, this topic is by no means new and many have weighed in on the issue. Opinions however, remain divided. For example, proponents feel these pharmacological cognitive enhancers are no different from traditional aids like coffee or tutoring, and we should adjust our mindsets. Opponents opine that it encourages undesirable habits, which leads to an unhealthy lifestyle and mentality.

Read one of our researcher’s take on the topic here. Please note that it is the author’s personal view and may not necessarily represent the views of BRAINetwork.

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