A "neurohacking" cream that can help people learn musical instruments or languages faster could be available within five years — but many people may not want it, experts admit.

The neuropeptide dihexa was developed by Washington State University to combat Alzheimer's disease and cognitive impairment by slowing cell death and suppressing enzymes that destroy brain chemicals crucial for memory and learning.

It has initial approval for use in the US after safety trials and is being prescribed to boost general mental performance.

Dr Daniel Stickler, of Apeiron, a US biotech company, prescribes dihexa when clients want to achieve specific goals.

Advertisement

At the Biohackers Summit in Helsinki, he said: "Dihexa is a very short peptide, just six amino acids, and it can be rubbed into the skin.

"It's amazing for learning and memory. They are doing it in clinical trials for dementia and traumatic brain injury and Alzheimer's, but it's also really good, if you're learning to play the guitar or something, for creating that kind of mental response."

Neuropeptides are small protein-like molecules that help neurons communicate, and influence brain activity. They are part of a new kind of medicine called biologics, which seek to use small molecules in the body to fix problems rather than introducing drugs which can cause off-target impacts and side-effects.

But he said early attempts to introduce the drugs into Britain had thrown up an unexpected obstacle.

"When we were in London and meeting people, we were presenting this idea of improving human behaviour and we were finding that as long as there were other people worse off than them it was all okay, they just kept calm and carried on.

"That mindset was very different for us, coming from the US where we have a very large percentage of people who think, 'I know I'm good but I want to get better.' So it's been a foreign concept for people in Britain."

But he added: "I think that is changing and although peptides are only legally prescribed in Australia and the United States right now, I think within the next five years you will see it coming into availability in the UK."

Other neuropeptides being prescribed to boost brain power include cerebrolysin, which is derived from pigs' brains and has been shown to be neuroprotective, enhancing learning and memory, increasing metabolism and decreasing amyloid beta — the stick plaques found in the brains of people with Alzheimer's.

Advertisement

And, the neuropeptide Nasal spray FGL is in phase 2 clinical trials and appears to help repair the myelin sheaths around nerves which are damaged in multiple sclerosis. MT-2, which is used chiefly for people hoping to boost their tan, is also now being taken to stimulate brainwaves.

The brain molecule RG3, which is now also being prescribed, mimics exercise and increases the body's ability to manage free radicals, the unstable atoms that damage cells, causing illness and ageing.

Fabien Foelsch, of the biohacking company Braineffect, said people would increasingly need brain drugs and microdosing in the future to keep up with advancements in society.