Cognitive-enhancement drugs have been in the headlines a great deal lately—they stoke your gray matter, enabling greater focus and attention for longer periods of time, users say. But their long-term effects are uncertain and unknown, on both brain and body. In the meantime, there’s something you can do that helps both areas but that doesn’t have any known mental health risks. As study after study has shown, simple physical activity not only builds your physique and cardiovascular health: it also helps to sharpen the wetware in your skull and thwarts mental decline as you advance in years. Check out our feature story, “Fit Body, Fit Mind?” by psychologist Christopher Hertzog and his colleagues. You’ll be glad you did.
A different kind of brain performance question is explored in “Do ADHD Drugs Take a Toll on the Brain?” Of course, drugs that treat attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder have provided enormous benefits for many thousands of patients, and nobody should make any decisions about their suitability without consulting a professional. But the article, by Edmund S. Higgins, discusses evidence that raises concerns about the long-term consequences of such medications. Understanding about the related brain mechanisms will grow with further research, and we expect that such medicines ultimately could be improved in the future. Naturally, Scientific American Mind applauds all such efforts to provide better mental health for everyone.
Note: This article was originally printed with the title, "Pump Your Brain."