...Alzheimer Drug Shown To Boost Cockpit Performance...

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Scientists already have experimented on pilots with drugs available today, to see if they can make us better, more alert and more responsive. Of particular note is a test done at Stanford University in 2002 with donepezil, which is widely used to ease the memory loss of Alzheimer patients. It found that pilots taking donepezil performed better in tests in a Cessna 172 simulator than those given a placebo, and that the drug-taking pilots were particularly superior at landing and maintaining a scan of the panel. In that study, researchers first trained all the pilots in the simulator. Then they then split the group, with half getting the drug for a month and the other half getting the sugar pill. At the end of the month, they threw the book at all the students in the sim, giving them complicated air traffic control sequences and in-flight emergencies, including a sudden drop in oil pressure. The memory-enhanced students did significantly better than their undrugged counterparts, particularly in the most difficult parts of the test. However, the effects were "subtle," said Jerome Yesavage, director of the study. "I would suspect that the major market for these compounds will be professional older adults who want to continue working professionally as long as they possibly can," Yesavage said. "But the effects are indeed subtle, and whether people would be willing to pay $100 or so a month for such a treatment is questionable."