Attempts to improve cognitive function in patients with brain disorders have become the focus of intensive research efforts. A recent emerging trend is the use of so-called cognitive enhancers by healthy individuals. Here, we consider some of the effects - positive and negative - that current drugs have in neurological conditions and healthy people. We conclude that, to date, experimental and clinical studies have demonstrated relatively modest overall effects, most probably because of substantial variability in response both across and within individuals. We discuss biological factors that might account for such variability and highlight the need to improve testing methods and to extend our understanding of how drugs modulate specific cognitive processes at the systems or network level.
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