Cortexiphan is a highly experimental drug created in 1981 by Dr William Bell and Dr Walter Bishop and patented to Massive Dynamic. Cortexiphan is meant to prevent the natural shrinking of brainpower and mental ability referred to by Bell as "limitation".


Cortexiphan was created by Walter Bishop and William Bell in 1981. They ran clinical trials from 1981 to 1983 in Ohio and Jacksonville. The drug was intended to prevent the natural shrinkage, or limitation, of the human mind. As explained by Nina Sharp, the drug could prevent the shrinkage, but not reverse it. As such, the drug was administered to children.

Nancy Lewis 119 Road Not Taken Photograph

The drug was tested on a group of children that attended a daycare facility run by Walter. The group included Olivia Dunham, Susan Pratt, Nancy Lewis, Nick Lane, and many others. Walter and Bell theorized that it might enhance certain abilities in predisposed children, especially the ability to travel between universes. Administering the drug to young children whose potential had not yet been limited could theoretically help release their extraordinary potential. The drugs were extensively animal tested.

Cortexiphan was not approved by the FDA. At least one participant, Simon Phillips gained telepathic abilities but lacked any way to control them, forcing him to constantly "hear" the thoughts of others while in their presence. This unforeseen consequence forced Bishop to remove him from the trial before it was completed.

Susan Pratt formerly Lewis 119 Road Not Taken

It was later revealed that the trials continued much later than previously stated. Walter had discovered a mechanical method to cross between universes, and in 1985 used it to save the life of an alternate version of his son, Peter Bishop. He successfully brought this version of his son from the other side to this one. However, this mechanical method damaged the barrier between universes, which in turn began a chain reaction that began the slow decay of both universes and ignited a war between them.

Recognizing that any further use of his machine to cross between worlds would accelerate the process, he decided instead to use the children in the hopes that they could safely cross between worlds and return Peter to his own universe.


Olivia Dunham was perhaps the greatest success of the trial and demonstrated a number of abilities after receiving the drug, including the ability to safely cross between universes. However, Walter discovered that this ability was not easily controlled, and required intense emotional stimuli in order to activate, and he began experimenting with frightening Olivia. After realizing that it was the abuse from her step-father that was allowing her to cross over, Walter discontinued his experiments with her emotions, as he empathized with her, and even threatened her stepfather into ceasing his abuse.

Bell and Bishop later discontinued the clinical trials after Peter began to accept this reality as his own. That is not to say that William Bell was done with the Cortexiphan children, however. He hatched a plot that would use the Cortexiphan children to collapse both universes. He catalyzed events that would lead to his ultimate endgame, creating the ZFT manifesto, which detailed how the Cortexiphan subjects would be used in a "war" between the worlds, a war that could realistically be prevented through mutual cooperation. As the war escalated, Bell's organization crippled the soft spots.

It wasn't until a new timeline was created later on down the road that he was able to see his plan through to completion. He began activating Cortexiphan subjects to collapse the universe but was ultimately stopped when Walter shot and killed Olivia Dunham, whom she was able to revive due to the massive amounts of Cortexiphan, which has regenerative properties, pumping through her veins at the time of her death.




According to Nina Sharp, Bell "theorized that the human mind at birth is infinitely capable and that every force it encounters; social, physical, intellectual, is the beginning of a process he referred as "limitation"; a diminishing of that potential. " Cortexiphan works on perception by limiting the process of "limitation".

Cortexiphan is based on the notion that perception is the key to transformation. Theoretically, the reality is both subjective and malleable. "If you can dream a better world you can make a better world ...or perhaps travel between them."

Cortexiphan has a number of possible effects, ranging from telekinesis to mind reading. Cortexiphan subjects are also able to travel safely between universes and sense the presence of alternate universes or items from alternate universes through a telltale "glimmer." Powers granted by Cortexiphan are difficult to control, and many subjects were plagued by an inability to do so, resulting in many deaths, both subjects themselves and people around them. However, it is possible, with practice, to control the abilities. In the series finale, it is revealed that Cortexiphan has powerful regenerative properties; William Bell confessed that he had been injecting himself with massive doses of Cortexiphan to stall (but not cure) the cancer ravaging his body. Walter later confirms this when he removes a bullet from Olivia’s brain; since she too had been dosed heavily with Cortexiphan, the head wound healed instantly and she regained consciousness.

Known Cortexiphan Test Subjects[]

*Picture Name *First Appearance Ability Activated By
Olivia Dunham Pilot

Telekinesis, Total Recall, Pyrokinesis, Electrokinesis, Super-human Strength, Agility

David Robert Jones

Nancy Lewis
Nancy Lewis The Road Not Taken Pyrokinesis Isaac Winters
Susan Pratt
Susan Pratt The Road Not Taken Pyrokinesis Isaac Winters
Nick Lane
Nick Lane Bad Dreams Empathic Transference ZFT
Sally Clark
Sally Clark Over There: Part 1 Pyrokinesis Massive Dynamic
James Heath
James Heath Olivia. In the Lab. With the Revolver Energy Exchange ZFT
Miranda Green
Miranda Green Olivia. In the Lab. With the Revolver Unknown Not Activated
Lloyd Becker
Lloyd Becker Olivia. In the Lab. With the Revolver Unknown Not Activated
Julie Heath Olivia. In the Lab. With the Revolver Unknown Not Activated
Alan DeRosa Olivia. In the Lab. With the Revolver Unknown Not Activated
Timothy Ober Olivia. In the Lab. With the Revolver Unknown Not Activated
Simon Phillips Concentrate and Ask Again Mind Reading Activated in Childhood
Cameron James Subject 9 Electrokinesis, Magnokinesis Activated in Childhood

Additional Names on the Height Chart in Jacksonville[]

  • Cameron A.
  • Lisa B.
  • Tessa E.
  • Rich N.
  • Annie P.
  • Ken T.