Better Drugs, Better Brains, Better Pilots…?

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Pills, Pilots And Public Perception

Against a backdrop of moral, ethical and even job-security considerations, scientists continue to probe ways to make our brains work better. And, according to one researcher, the day is not long off when a pilot popping a pill before flight will be "as ordinary as a cup of coffee" added to the preflight routine. As AVweb told you last year, researchers found that pilots taking donepezil, normally used to slow the onset of Alzheimer symptoms, performed significantly better during simulated flight emergencies than their non-drugged counterparts. Another study has found that modafinil, used to treat sleep narcolepsy, is a virtual cure for sleepiness and can allow people to function for days at a time without sleep (unions beware). Other researchers have found modafinil improves concentration, learning speed and mental agility. So, why aren't we all taking it? Wait for it, says neurologist Dr. Anjan Chatterjee at the University of Pennsylvania. According to the Independent, Chatterjee sees a future where airline executives offer incentives (like keeping your job?) to pilots who take the mind-enhancing drugs so they can claim that theirs is a potentially safer company to fly with. Chatterjee also suggests people might be willing to pay more to fly on an airline that guarantees its pilots are chemically enhanced. No, we are not making this up.