New York, May 14 IANS | 5 months ago

Do you often give memory boosting 'smart' pills to your children to increase attention span and memory to stay awake and score high in exams? Stop this as such drugs pose special risks to the developing brain of young adults, researchers warn.

Such "smart" drugs are getting more and more popular owing to peer pressure, stricter academic requirements and the tough job market.

"But young people who misuse them risk long-term impairments to brain function," said Kimberly Urban at University of Delaware and Wen-Jun Gao at Drexel University College of Medicine in the US.

The study found that any short-term boost in mental performance due to smart drugs may come at a heavy cost - a long-term decrease in brain plasticity, necessary for task switching, planning ahead, and adaptive flexibility in behaviour.

Methylphenidate is the most popular smart drug among kids today.

Trials on rats have shown that even low dosages of Methylphenidate early in life can reduce nerve activity, working memory and the ability to quickly switch between tasks and behaviours.

Another popular smart drug is modafinil, sold under the name Proviigil.

Believed to work by raising the levels of dopamine in between synapses of brain nerve cells, it can boost memory as well as the ability to work with numbers and do other mental tasks.

New research indicates that modafinil could have similar long-term undesired effects as methylphenidate on the developing brain, researchers noted.

"More research on the long-term effects of such drugs, especially in young people, is urgently needed," the authors cautioned in a paper that appeared in the journal Frontiers in Systems Neuroscience.

(Posted on 14-05-2014)

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