*The FDA has not approved intravenous ketamine or NAD+ for the treatment of any psychiatric or pain condition. These articles reference off-label use. Like all medical treatments, the discussed therapies carry risks and benefits. Speak with a doctor at Clarus Health to learn if these therapies may be right for you.

Ketamine Therapy
Apr 24, 2024

Ketamine, Dementia, and Intelligence - Can Ketamine Make You Smarter?

Elok Musk champions Ketamine for his cognitive performance - learn the science behind Ketamine's pro-cognitive effects

Ketamine, Dementia, and Intelligence - Can Ketamine Make You Smarter?

Elon Musk recently described Ketamine therapy as critical to his entrepreneurship and success. IV Ketamine therapy is a powerful treatment for depression, anxiety, PTSD, and chronic pain... but can it improve our intelligence or affect our risk of dementia?

IV Ketamine Has Pro-Cognitive Effects

Depression can reduce our working intelligence. Treating depression with IV Ketamine can therefore impact our cognitive performance.

However, the pro-cognitive effects of IV Ketamine have also been shown to be independent of depression treatment. These improvements have been observed in:

  • Composite fluid neurocognitive performance
  • Working memory
  • Processing speed
  • Episodic memory

Such improvements have been noted in multiple studies. Importantly, these improvements in cognition persist for several weeks after the last infusion, and likely persist longer. It is believed that cognitive behavioral therapy may prolong these beneficial effects of Ketamine therapy.

How Does IV Ketamine Help Cognitive Performance?

We suspect multiple mechanisms are responsible for Ketamine's positive impact on our apparent intelligence:

"Hot Cognition" vs "Cold Cognition"

Learning and cognition can be categorized as "hot" or "cold:"

  • Hot cognition: emotionally valenced cognition, such as reward learning or social perception. Environmental and emotional factors are influential in hot cognition.
  • Cold cognition: cognitive processing independent of emotional involvement
Hot cognition underlies the "catastrophic response to perceived failure" observed in patients with depression

Depression impacts both hot and cold cognition. Most of our cognitive processing involves some emotional or environmental influences, and is therefore "hot cognition." Notably, Ketamine objectively improves cold cognition, and likely has improvements in hot cognition as depression improves.

Patients With PTSD may also Experience Pro-cognitive Effects with Ketamine

Given how inter-connected depression and PTSD are, it is not surprising that patients with PTSD may also find improvements in cognition with IV Ketamine. This may be due to several reasons:

  • Facilitation of glutamatergic neurotransmission
  • Neuroplasticity (also referred to as "increased synaptogenesis")
  • Improved connectivity in the PFC and its connectivity with the hippocampus and amygdala

Improving PFC functionality may restore top-down cognitive control that is impaired in mood disorders. Furthermore, the amygdala and hippocampus are also affected in patients with depression or PTSD. It is believed that IV Ketamine can improve fear regulation by improving our executive and emotional regulation, and through the hippocampus, reduce our fear response. Regulating our fear response may confer some of the pro-cognitive effects in patients with PTSD. Exposure therapy is a key part to achieving "fear extinction" in the model using IV Ketamine in treating PTSD.

Shiroma et al. 2022

Acute Effects of IV Ketamine are Short-Lived

Immediately after an IV Ketamine infusion, there are transient decreases in attention, executive function, and verbal memory. They are noticeable to varying degrees for several hours after an infusion, and patients should not be driving, operating heavy machinery, nor making large financial decisions. These effects resolve within 1 day after the infusion.

Ketamine Does Not Influence Dementia Risk

IV Ketamine has not been shown to cause dementia. To the contrary, there is interest in investigating Ketamine's ability to possibly improve symptoms of dementia because of:

  • Ketamine's beneficial modulation of neuroinflammation, which is believed to worsen dementia
  • The stimulation of neurotrophic factors, or "nerve fertilizer," that may heal a damaged brain

There is no compelling evidence that IV Ketamine can help reduce dementia risk, but this fascinating topic will likely be studied in the future.

Uncover Your Healing Potential

You deserve to find healing from depression and PTSD, and to regain your peak cognitive performance. Ketamine therapy is not safe for everybody, and it is important to speak with your doctor about the benefits and risks of IV Ketamine therapy. Schedule a free consultation with Clarus Health to learn if IV Ketamine Therapy may be effective in uncovering your healing capacity.

Anthony Kaveh MD

Anthony Kaveh MD

Dr. Kaveh is a Stanford and Harvard-trained anesthesiologist and integrative medicine specialist. He has over 800,000 followers on social media and has guided hundreds of patients throughout transformative healing experiences. He is an authority on Ketamine, NAD, and SGB therapies. He is a registered continuing education lecturer in the Bay Area.