A Survey of Drug Effects upon Cognitive Activities of the Aged

  • Murray Jarvik
Part of the Advances in Behavioral Biology book series (ABBI, volume 6)


The present paper is an attempt to review the treatment of senility over the past few decades. It will not be an exhaustive or comprehensive review, but rather will use selected illustrative examples. In order to treat a disorder, it is very useful to be able to understand its cause; that is, the physiological basis of the disease. When such knowledge is available, a rational approach can be used, but in the absence of such knowledge, a more empirical approach is necessary. Although pathologists, biochemists and physiologists are beginning to throw some light on the aging process, we still have a long way to go to understand what causes the cognitive disorders in the senium. This has not prevented the widespread use of a great variety of drugs by an expectant and sometimes gullible public for the treatment of their age-related difficulties. Some of the treatments are very far-fetched, while others have a strong element of plausibility in them. It can be fairly stated that at this stage in history, no treatment has been unequivocally shown to improve the mental status of the aged. However, the problem is so important that a continual search seems warranted. A scientist can adopt two attitudes with such drug treatments. One is destructive and highly critical of inadequate experiments with inefficient controls. This type of sceptical attitude is certainly to be encouraged, but it does not directly result in the discovery or invention of new drugs to treat senility. A somewhat complimentary attitude is a more constructive one in which the scientist takes every new discovery and examines it from all angles to see whether any new discoveries can emanate. This is, by far, the more difficult task.


Nicotinic Acid Cognitive Activity Intellectual Functioning Ergot Alkaloid Cognitive Disorder 
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© Plenum Press, New York 1973

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  • Murray Jarvik

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