Non-pharmacological Approaches to Cognitive Enhancement

Handb Exp Pharmacol. 2015;228:417-39. doi: 10.1007/978-3-319-16522-6_14.


Pharmaceuticals and medical devices hold the promise of enhancing brain function, not only of those suffering from neurodevelopmental, neuropsychiatric or neurodegenerative illnesses, but also of healthy individuals. However, a number of lifestyle interventions are proven cognitive enhancers, improving attention, problem solving, reasoning, learning and memory or even mood. Several of these interventions, such as physical exercise, cognitive, mental and social stimulation, may be described as environmental enrichments of varying types. Use of these non-pharmacological cognitive enhancers circumvents some of the ethical considerations associated with pharmaceutical or technological cognitive enhancement, being low in cost, available to the general population and presenting low risk to health and well-being. In this chapter, there will be particular focus on the effects of exercise and enrichment on learning and memory and the evidence supporting their efficacy in humans and in animal models will be described.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Brain / physiopathology*
  • Cognition*
  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy / methods*
  • Environment
  • Humans
  • Mental Disorders / physiopathology
  • Mental Disorders / psychology
  • Mental Disorders / therapy*
  • Risk Reduction Behavior*