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The composition of the pills is unknown. In Tony Gilroy's original script for The Bourne Identity, it is identified as a medicine with caffeine.
- PROFESSOR: ...pills, right? Treadstone had those pills...
- BOURNE: What is Treadstone?
- PROFESSOR: ...what did you do?...you must've really fucked up...
- BOURNE: I think so.
- PROFESSOR: ...someone said caffeine -- for a headache...doesn't seem...
The pills may be an Ephedrine Caffeine Aspirin stack (ECA), as Ephedrine acts to increase energy by its actions as a sympathomimetic amine. It directly acts in the brain to increase the release of norepinephrine into the synaptic cleft, and also partially serves as a norepinephrine reuptake inhibitor, thereby also partially functioning as a dopamine reuptake inhibitor due to the shared action between the two terminals. Caffeine blocks adenosine receptors which lessens feelings of tiredness, and also increases dopamine levels, resulting in greater concentration, focus, and memory. The effects of caffeine on dopamine levels are usually short lived, but ephedrine's partial action as a dopamine reuptake inhibitor lengthens the duration.
Or it may be any number of nootropics
Cholinergics are substances that affect the neurotransmitter acetylcholine or the components of the nervous system that use acetylcholine. Acetylcholine facilitates memory, concentration, focus, and high-order thought processes (abstract thought, calculation, innovation, etc.). Increasing the availability of this neurotransmitter in the brain may improve these functions and increase the duration in which they may be engaged without slowing down or stopping. Oversupplying the brain with acetylcholine may have the opposite effect, temporarily reducing rather than improving mental performance. Cholinergic nootropics include acetylcholine precursors and cofactors, and acetylcholinesterase inhibitors:
Piracetam (Nootropil) is a prescription drug in Europe. It is the original and most commonly taken nootropic drug. It is a cholinergic agent synergistic with DMAE, Centrophenoxine, choline, Alpha-GPC and Hydergine. It increases brain cell metabolism and energy levels, and speeds up interhemispheric flow of information (left-right brain hemisphere communication). It increases alertness, improves concentration, and enhances memory. Protects neurons from hypoxia,and stimulates growth of acetylcholine receptors. It may also cause nerves to regenerate. Piracetam markedly decreases the formation of neuronal lipofuscin. It improves posture in elderly people. It is not regulated in the US. It is a pyrrolidone derivative.
Aniracetam is a pyrrolidone derivative drug, analogous of piracetam, and considered more potent. Like piracetam, aniracetam protects against some memory impairing chemicals, such as diethyldithiocarbamate and clonidine. Also like piracetam, aniracetam may enhance memory in aging adults by increasing levels of brain biogenic monoamines, which are beneficial to learning and memory. Both racetams have possible therapeutic use in treating fetal alcohol syndrome. Aniracetam increases vigilance. Aniracetam has shown to positively potentiate AMPA receptors.
Effect in the movie
The Professor is the only Treadstone operative that identifies a medicine (pills) which may contribute to the assassin's performance. After The Bourne Identity, behavior modifying medicine is not touched on again; although in The Bourne Supremacy Jason is seen visibly affected from headaches, which may be attributed to withdrawal from the medicine. The pills played a larger role in Robert Ludlum's books. They do make a return in The Bourne Legacy and are frequently referenced by Aaron Cross.