1. Do nootropic drugs like modafinil make you smarter?
  2. Are they like coffee?
  3. Do they improve working memory?
  4. Is there a potential for a pill like NZT-48 from the movie Limitless? From the Wikipedia plot summary:

After taking [a nootropic drug, NZT-48,] Eddie finds himself able to learn faster and recall memories from his distant past, with the only apparent side effect being a change in the colour of Eddie's irises while on the drug - his eyes becoming an intense shade of electric blue. He uses this ability to finish ninety pages of his book. The next day, the effects [have] worn off...

Testing his new ability on the stock market, Eddie makes large returns on small investments...


1 Answer 1


Your question is very vague, and on a subject where a lot more research needs to be done, so forgive me but my answer is also going to probably be more vague and less definitive than you were hoping for.

Provigil, as far as I can tell is just another brand name of modafinil, which has some very clear advantages when it comes to increasing your concentration and stamina. Military experiments show increases to precision and alertness in pilots after being awake for extended periods while on the drug compared to the control. Its actual capacity to increase your intelligence is harder to determine however. Some studies have shown it is effective, but in a meta analysis the benefits appeared to be mostly limited to those who did not have a high IQ to start with.

From what I have seen so far, modafinil is more reliable as a stimulant. It can increase working memory and performance at a selection of tasks in some people, but is not a magic bullet for becoming a genius temporarily. In addition, it is not particularly safe for long term use. Other drugs with less severe side effects, and measurable long term side effects exist, but they are not nearly as dramatic. Piracetam and choline are probably the best known and most widely studied combination for this.

As for NZT, there is unfortunately nothing at all like that yet and my speculation on the matter would be meaningless.


Kelley, A. M., Webb, C. M., Athy, J. R., Ley, S., & Gaydos, S. (2012). Cognition enhancement by modafinil: A meta-analysis. Aviation, Space, and Environmental Medicine, 83(7), 685–690.

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    $\begingroup$ Please check if I've edited in the meta-analysis to which you intended to refer. $\endgroup$ Feb 23, 2014 at 21:47

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