Seeing you here, we take as a fact you’re, at least partly, convinced that Nootropics can enhance human brain function. It’s true, taking nootropic supplements is a good way to give your brain an extra boost. In this article, by explaining to you how Nootropics work, we intend to make you a firm believer of smart drugs. Nootropics can improve brain function, recall, memory, cognition, and enhance alertness by influencing one or multiple brain elements such as neuroplasticity, hormones, brain waves, neurotransmitters, receptors, cellular energy, and cerebral blood flow.
There are several naturally ensuing and synthetically created substances that act as cognitive enhancers. We can place these supplements into different nootropic families or categories. Each supplement has its unique way of influencing the brain. Scientists are yet to fully decipher the mechanism of action of these smart drugs.
All things considered. Is it possible to give one clear explanation to the query “How Nootropics Work?” Hardly. So, we’ll win you over by showing how nootropic supplements impact the key neurotransmitters and chemical systems within our brain.
Over the past few decades, scientists have made great strides in unlocking the secrets of how our brain functions. Although they are yet to unravel all its mysteries, they have managed to learn quite a few interesting things.
Our every thought and action in the body is directly or indirectly controlled by the brain. The brain, which is just 2% of our weight, controls our whole body. It works 24/7, dispensing messages throughout our body.
Chemicals called Neurotransmitters act as messengers; carrying nerve impulses or signals from one neuron to another. Neurotransmitters come in two basic forms – excitatory and inhibitory.
The former, excitatory chemicals, transmit the signals, while the latter, inhibitory chemicals, block the message or signal and prevent it from moving along the pathway. The two neurotransmitters perform their respective functions by binding themselves to the receptors on the synapses.
The receptors in the synapses, the neurotransmitters, and the way they interact with each other, are jointly called as System. Our brain boasts of many such systems. These systems are linked to many of the cognitive faculties that we want to improve. Nootropic supplements influence one or more of the systems and enhance the efficiency of cognitive functions.
Acetylcholine, the first neurotransmitter to be discovered, is produced in abundance in the brain. Also referred to as Vagus Stuff by Otto Loewi, this neurotransmitter is directly related to a number of cognitive functions. Furthermore, the Cholinergic System is heavily dependent on the neurotransmitter Acetylcholine.
A number of cognitive faculties such as sensory perception, decision-making ability, focus, memory, and learning depend on the acetylcholine level in the brain. Our body produces the neurotransmitter acetylcholine from a water-soluble nutrient called Choline.
To produce an adequate amount of acetylcholine, we need to supply our body with a diet rich in choline. The mere fact that a majority of the people suffer from choline deficiency clearly proves that people are not eating enough choline-rich food. The best alternative is to take choline nootropic supplements such as Citicoline and Alpha-GPC.
Citicoline and Alpha-GPC, which are both precursors to the neurotransmitter acetylcholine, usually don’t deliver the results you expect from Nootropics. The precursors are usually paired with agonists to boost the number of synaptic receptors without an increase in the levels of neurotransmitter.
By far the best agonists for acetylcholine currently available are Racetams. Nootropic supplements such as Pramiracetam, Oxiracetam, Aniracetam, and Piracetam fall under the category of Racetam.
Nootropic stack created with precursor and agonists produce a powerful combo effect. The agonist Racetam augments synapses and the precursor choline will improve the production of neurotransmitter. The nootropic stack will improve the synaptic plasticity, thereby increasing the brain’s ability to learn new concepts and recall them at will.
The neurotransmitter glutamate matches acetylcholine in significance and function. It plays a crucial role in promoting vital cognitive faculties such as memory and learning. It’s also responsible for maintaining proper brain health. GABA, another important neurotransmitter, which is essential for maintaining a positive mood, is a derivative of glutamate.
To ensure normal brain function it’s imperative to maintain adequate levels of glutamate. Bear in mind that having too much or too little will have negative consequences. Experts say excess glutamate in the brain is indicative of receptor break down.
Any issue with the glutamatergic system or the neurotransmitter glutamate might lead to neurological conditions such as Autism, ADHD, Parkinson’s disease, and Alzheimer’s disease.
Although there are multiple receptors linked to neurotransmitter glutamate, two receptor sites stand out because of their relationship to Nootropics – AMPA and NMDA. The Nootropics we take to promote cognitive faculties closely related to glutamate mainly target AMPA and NMDA receptors.
Ampakines and Racetam Nootropics that include Aniracetam, Noopept, and Sunifiram, are well-known nootropic supplements that regulate and influence receptor sites linked to glutamate. Keep in mind that a single nootropic supplement or nootropic stack won’t stimulate all the receptors. Different receptors have different preferences; based on their function they might prefer one nootropic over the other.
Maintaining adequate levels of glutamate with the help of Nootropics can aid users to improve focus, increase energy, promote learning, and enhance memory.
People who are familiar with brain chemicals would certainly know about Dopamine and Serotonin. These two neurotransmitters are closely related to feelings such as pleasure, happiness, anxiety, etc.
At this time there aren’t many Nootropics that directly target these two transmitters. But, there are nootropic supplements that through different means play a significant role in the functioning of dopamine, serotonin, and their respective support systems.
Even though both neurotransmitters are associated with pleasure and pain centers of the brain, they function differently. Dopamine is relatively powerful and addictive in nature.
Nootropic supplements such as Ritalin and Adderall have a considerable effect on dopamine, hence they are habit forming and highly addictive. Avoid daily use of these Nootropics and consult an expert before you begin on any amphetamine compounds.
Supplements that regulate the serotonin do not promote or influence any cognitive faculty. Their primary function is to treat depression and boost our mood.
By now it should be clear that neurotransmitters in the brain are in charge of much of the cognitive faculties and functions. How we perceive, feel, focus, reason, and learn, etc. is, in fact, dependent on the functioning of neurotransmitters and synapses. We hope, by understanding the way nootropic supplements influence the key neurotransmitters mentioned above, you have a clear picture of how Nootropics work.
Modafinil is a smart drug used in the United States under the brand name of Provigil. It was approved by the USFDA in 1998 and is used for obstructive sleep apnea, shift work issues, attention deficit, and narcolepsy. Other non-approved uses of Modafinil include treating multiple sclerosis, relieving depression, enhancing memory, improving attention span, increasing concentration, and enhancing productivity.
Adrafinil is a good alternative to Modafinil. In fact, once inside the liver, Adrafinil converts to Modafinil. Like modafinil, this nootropic supplement is an effective stimulant that’s mainly used to increase alertness, focus, and concentration. Adrafinil is a psychostimulant that is not regulated and easier to buy in the United States.
L-phenylalanine is a form of Phenylalanine – an amino acid that aids production of protein. Since our body needs it, but can’t produce it, we need to take it from food sources or as a supplement. To boost the potency of the supplement, it’s usually taken with vitamins (C, B3, and B6), iron, and copper. Phenylalanine or Phenylalanine offer many mental health benefits.
Aniracetam is part of the racetam family of Nootropics. It was developed by a Belgium company in the 70s. It’s widely used to help improve a broad range of cognitive functions. Although the supplement is chiefly used to improve focus and memory, the anxiolytic properties of Aniracetam make it an effective mood enhancer.
The benefits of ashwagandha are quite extensive, even though its exact mechanism of action is still subject to great speculation. Researchers believe the herb has powerful antioxidant, neuroprotective, adaptogenic, and anti-microbial properties. It is also used as an aphrodisiac and a sleep promoter. All these properties and more are because of Withanolide-D and Withaferin-A – the main active ingredients in Ashwagandha.
The huge structures, complex machinery, life-saving medicines, and technological innovations are all proof of the fact that as humans we’re constantly looking for ways to improve ourselves and enhance our brain power.
The Chinese were familiar with the brain enhancing effects of Gotu Kola, Ginkgo Biloba, and Ginseng many thousands of years ago. They were also the first to realize the amazing stimulating properties of tea. It was only recently, a few decades ago, that scientists have come to realize the powerful stimulant properties of tea and coffee.
Let’s move away from mild stimulants and enter the world of powerful brain enhances. While on the one side neuroscientists are exploring the brain and nervous system, an equally dedicated group of experts are using science to come up with substances that can enhance our cognitive faculties.
Special chemical substances that are used to improve our cognitive capabilities are nowadays widely referred to as Nootropics. Nootropics, also called as cognitive enhancers or smart drugs, alter or regulate the chemicals in our brain to achieve the goal we desire.
We take smart drugs to improve mental performance, learn new skills, focus better, remember for a long time, recall at will, memorize more information, and to help us use more of our brain capacity.
A single drug won’t make us smart all of a sudden. There are several brain enhancers and they have all been classified into categories based on the function performed, chemical structure, or their mechanism of action.
Generally, most experts place Nootropics under seven different categories. Normally, we can choose any one group or combine supplements to produce a nootropic stack; the decision depends on what we want to achieve.
A brief introduction to the seven categories of Nootropics is given below.
Racetams hold the distinction of being the first brain enhancers to be developed. Till date, they also happen to be the most popular and widely used Nootropics. The Racetam group has around 20 members; the most well-known ones are Piracetam (the first Racetam to be invented), Pramiracetam, Oxiracetam, Aniracetam, Phenylpiracetam, and Nefiracetam.
All the 20 or so racetams have one thing in common – they activate the brain receptors that are in charge of releasing acetylcholine and they all have a common chemical structure (they share pyrrolidone nucleus).
Acetylcholine is a familiar name to many. It’s one of the most important neurotransmitters in our brain. Improving the level of acetylcholine in the brain can have a very positive impact on cognitive capabilities such as awareness, focus, memory, learning, and motivation.
Racetams are known to perform the dual function. It promotes the growth of brain cells and simultaneously delays the deterioration and death of brain cells. Racetams sometimes exhibit Ampakine-like properties by activating glutamate receptors.
Ampakine is a relatively new category in the world of Nootropics. They are powerful NDMA and AMPA glutamate receptor, agonists. They improve certain cognitive faculties by increasing glutamate levels in the brain.
The Glutamatergic System and neurotransmitter glutamate are said to have a significant impact on synaptic plasticity. This neurotransmitter is directly linked to memory and learning. Researchers say that Glutamate nootropic supplements, when taken in the right doses, can have a beneficial impact on alertness and attention span.
As we discussed above, Racetams sometimes act like Ampakines, but their influence on AMPA receptors is weak. Unifiram and Sunifiram are true Ampakines. When it comes to stimulating AMPA glutamate receptors, Unifiram and Sunifiram are way more powerful than any Racetam Nootropics.
Researchers are still studying the long-term impact of Sunifiram and Unifiram. Hence, certain experts suggest the use of Piracetam (a Racetam with Ampakines-like properties) to activate glutamate receptors.
Those wanting to increase acetylcholine levels in the brain often turn to Choline and Acetylcholine Intermediates. More often than not, the Choline group is stacked with Racetams to ensure better performance.
Choline nootropic supplements ensure additional acetylcholine in the brain, whereas the Racetams activate acetylcholine receptors. Both these actions result in a higher presence of the neurotransmitter, which will invariably result in improving cognitive capabilities.
There are many nootropic supplements that fall under the Choline category, but not all supplements are of equal strength. Some are more effective than others.
Supplements such as Centrophenoxine, Citicholine, and Alpha GPC are powerful acetylcholine intermediates that can be taken alone. These nootropic supplements are safe and don’t cause any side effects. Bear in mind that cheaper alternatives such as Choline Bitartrate are less effective and can cause side effects.
Synthetically certain types of smart drugs have been derived from vitamins, in particular, Vitamin B. The most well-known supplement that falls under this category is Sulbutiamine.
Derived from Vitamin B1 or Thiamine, Sulbutiamine is used to improve alertness, increase energy levels, and treat fatigue. Research shows the supplement helps users retain what they’ve learned, by increasing the movement of glutamate, dopamine, and choline.
Sulbutiamine has been extensively tried on lab mice and the results have been very positive. A steady dose of this nootropic supplement has enhanced the cognitive function of patients suffering from schizophrenia and Alzheimer’s disease.
The market is flooded with peptide supplements, but the one that’s most sought is Noopept. Noopept is by far the most powerful peptide supplement currently available. It’s mainly used to increase energy, motivation, alertness, learning, and memory.
Developed in Russia, Noopept is sometimes grouped under Racetam, even though technically it’s not a Racetam. Interestingly, it’s a derivative of Racetam. A scientific journal claimed Noopept to be 1000 times more powerful than Piracetam.
Noopept increases the level of acetylcholine by stimulating acetylcholine receptors and induces the release of glutamate by activating NDMA and AMPA receptors. Moreover, Noopept can easily overcome the blood-brain barrier and it’s known for its high bioavailability. Noopept Nootropics perform the function of both Ampakines and Racetams.
Wait, There’s more. Noopept Nootropics help in the growth and maintenance of nerve cells by inducing the release of a protein called Nerve Growth Factor.
Substances derived from plants that exhibit nootropic properties are called Natural Nootropics. They enhance cognitive capabilities and improve brain health without causing any side effects. Substances such as Huperzine-A, Ginkgo Biloba, Vinpocetine, and Bacopa Monnieri are included under this category.
Natural Nootropics aren’t as potent as synthetically made smart drugs. So to augment its power and improve the results two or more natural Nootropics can be stacked together.
Although the word nootropics is used interchangeably with smart drugs, it must be noted that all smart drugs are not Nootropics. Certain amphetamine-related substances such as Adderall are actually stimulants. They are not to be associated with nootropics.
There are certain eugeroic drugs that act both as stimulants and Nootropics. For example, Modafinil can stimulate neurotransmitter hypocretin and help increase motivation, energy, and alertness. The stimulant is also prescribed to treat fatigue and sleepiness.
Smart drugs aren’t worth the risk. Hence, we would suggest you avoid stimulants and use only safe nootropic supplements.