Weekend reading: existentialism; nootropics; and sleep

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Neuroexistential terror, anyone?   Philosophy professors Gregg Caruso and Owen Flanagan (also a neurobiologist) posit a new wave of existentialism in Neuroexistentialism: Meaning, Morals, and Purpose in the Age of Neuroscience (Oxford University Press, 2018).   This contemporary take on angst defines ‘neuroexistentialism’ as “a recent expression of existential anxiety” over what it is to be human in the age of the brain sciences.  The term

“expresses the anxiety that even as science yields the truth about human nature, it also disenchants.  The theory of evolution together with advances in neuroscience remove the last vestiges of an immaterial soul or self that can know the nature of what is really true, good and beautiful”.

Read more in Adam Hayden’s thoughtful review in The Polyphony.

Over at Time, Marcus Heid reviews the evidence that nootropics – so-called ‘smart drugs’ – boost cognition including alertness and memory.  Sadly, he concludes that the evidence for cognitive benefits from food-derived ingredients, such as ginseng, is weak.  The evidentiary case for prescription drugs like ritalin and modafinil is stronger, but their side effects remain a drawback.  Question marks also hang over their long-term effects.  Citing a range of studies, Time concludes that the drug of choice for an intelligence boost is actually caffeine, and, for those who wish to remain drug-free, regular exercise.

Finally, Australian public broadcaster the ABC reports on a recent, large-scale study suggesting that early risers have a lower risk of mental illness than those of us who sleep in.  This may prove to be music to the ears of the larks.   What’s your experience?

For earlier weekend reading postings, see:

Weekend reading: Suzi Q, psychosis and werewolves

Weekend reading: Insomnia, terrorism and computational psychiatry


Photo by Jess Watters on Unsplash


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