Deakin Communicating Science 2016

EES 200/101

The ‘X’ Factor: Modafinil vs Caffeine

Use of substances for performance-enhancing purposes is not a rarity in this day and age. However, it’s usually the use and subsequent abuse of illegal substances that provides the best headlines, such as the headlines that plagued tabloids after the Lance Armstrong doping scandal. Rules and regulations set by anti-doping bodies internationally dictate that the use of drugs such as steroids and beta-2 agonists is prohibited, but in a setting like a university or workplace; nothing is stopping the controlled usage of non-proohibited substances, such as caffeine, so why should legal substances like Modafinil, a nootropic, be treated any differently?

To summarise the definition of a nootropic is a little bit difficult, as there are plenty of them on the market with various different mechanisms. However, all nootropic drugs share the mutual goal of cognitive-enhancement and improvements to concentration; much like prescription-based stimulants. Modafinil, also known as 2-Benzhydrylsulfinylethanamide (shown below), is a eugeroic, a substance that promotes wakefulness through dopamine reuptake inhibition, and is commonly used to treat narcolepsy and consequential side effects of obstructive sleep apnea [1]. Modafinil was first synthesised in the late 1970’s in Lafon laboratories in France [2], and since the late 1990’s has been used both medically to treat the aforementioned illnesses, and recreationally as a “smart-drug” under the brand name “Provigil” [3].


Modafinil (fuse809 2013) [4]

At this point you’ve probably already picked up that Modafinil is very similar to caffeine in some ways; they’re readily available in one form or another, they both promote productivity, and they’re both stimulants. But the aim of this blog is not compare apples with apples, it’s to show the difference between a common organically-sourced stimulant, and a pharmaceutical-grade nootropic, both experimentally and logically. So with the help of my partner in crime, ‘X’, I devised an experiment to quantify the cognitive enhancement of both caffeine and Modafinil. ‘X’ is a close friend who was more than happy to help out with this experiment. He and I are not on any medication, are physically fit, and are not suffering from any mental health issues, which was my most important factor.


In this case I am acting as the control, I am not an experienced coffee drinker, maybe 1 every month or 2, and have very little to no tolerance whatsoever. ‘X’ has never tried Modafinil before, except for an allergy test the week before for safety’s sake. Between Monday the 11th of April and Monday the 18th of April, ‘X’ and I both abstained from alcohol as to avoid any type of negative interaction between it and the Modafinil.



To quantify the effect of the administered stimulant, a table was created, with a 0-10 rating system, and this table is to be filled out at the end of the day before bed, yielding 14 days’ worth of data for both ‘X’ and me. The experiment will run from the 18th of April and finish on the 1st of May. At the end of the period, results will be tallied and presented to give an experimental understanding of the differences in effects between caffeine and Modafinil on cognitive enhancement.


[1], [2], [3] Ballon, JS et al. 2006, A systematic review of modafinil: Potential clinical uses and mechanisms of action, retrieved 14/4/16,

[4] fuse809 2013, Modafinil2DACS, diagram, viewed 12/4/16,






About sebrawson

19/M, long walks on the beach and Kahlua

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This entry was posted on April 17, 2016 by in Uncategorized.

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