New pill could boost brain function, decision making

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INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. (Nov. 10, 2015)-- Just imagine it-- a pill that you could take that would make you smarter, more focused and never sleepy. A drug that could unlock your limitless potential with no side effects.

The idea of a brain-enhancing drug is at the center of the CBS show “Limitless.” The fictional drug called NZT produces genius-level intelligence and super-human abilities. But how far is the TV show from reality?

Becky Radford is taking the drug that some call the closest thing to the “Limitless” pill. It’s called Modafinil. It’s approved for sleep disorders, which is why Becky takes it.

“It was amazing, it was like a miracle drug because I was awake, I was alert,” said Becky.

A research study by Oxford University produced results that started the science world buzzing about the cognitive benefits of Modafinil. It found 24 studies dealing with different benefits associated with taking the drug. It improved planning ability, decision making, flexibility, learning and memory.

Dr. Cindy Bodkin prescribes Modafinil for her patients at the IU Methodist Sleep Disorder Clinic. She admits her patients see dramatic results, at least initially.

"They feel like when they first take the drug, it's like, ‘Wow!’ I can't believe how good I feel,'" said Dr. Bodkin.

But Dr. Bodkin also warns research on the drug was done on sleep disorder patients and not on healthy subjects who had no reason to take the drug.

"What I don't know--is just getting a better night's sleep may improve our memory and focusing just as much or may more than Modafinil," said Dr. Bodkin.

Modafinil does have side effects and is not recommended for patients with heart problems or mental health issues. Doctors say even if it’s not a real life “Limitless” drug, Modafinil represents a real desire to find a short cut to a smarter, better and more limitless reality.

"If we can accomplish more with less effort on our part, just by taking a simple pill, that's a lot easier than going to the gym and getting eight hours sleep," said Dr. Bodkin.

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