Now that you have a basic understanding of how drugs affect the brain, I will introduce some supplements and nootropic drugs that are commonly taken by high performance individuals for the purpose of enhancing their mental performance. Each of the substances mentioned display very few, if any negative side effects and very little potential for addiction or abuse. However, you should always be cautious when ingesting new substances.
First I will discuss nutritional supplements. These are substances that are common in everyday diets but are known to have a cognitive enhancing effect on their own. These include citicholine, sulbutiamine and L-theanine.
Citicholine. Also known as CDP-choline, this supplement is essentially a form of choline that is easily able to enter the brain. Choline is a nutrient that is also commonly found in eggs. Choline is a precursor to acetylcholine, therefore taking citicholine enables an increase in the production of acetylcholine. By increasing acetylcholine, taking citicholine can assist in memory and attention. It has also been found to increase energy in neural cells and enhance the dopaminergic system.
Sulbutiamine. This is essentially just a B-vitamin. It is a modified form of vitamin B1 that is more capable of entering the brain. B-vitamins assist with energy production in cells. Therefore, sulbutiamine acts to provide more energy to brain cells. This gives you more mental endurance.
L-theanine. This chemical is one of the primary ingredients in tea that give its psychoactive effect. It is known to provide a calming and relaxing effect, although it is not a depressant. It improves concentration and is thought to assist in neuroplasticity. It is commonly combined with caffeine as it is thought to boost the stimulating effects of caffeine while reducing the unpleasant side effects. It is also thought to make the stimulatory effect of caffeine smoother.
Now I will discuss various drugs that can alter cognitive function in a beneficial way. These include the racetam family of drugs, Modafinil, CILTeP, and Huperzine A.
Racetams. This class of drugs were the first to be described as nootropics, although various nootropic drugs have been around long before their discovery. The first racetam produced was piracetam, which is often described as the grandfather of nootropics. The main effect of the racetams is both enhancement of memory storage and increased ease of memory retrieval, meaning that storing memories and recalling them takes less effort. All racetams share this common effect but when separated into the various different subtypes, each one has effects that seem to be unique to it. For example, aniracetam is also known to help relieve anxiety, oxiracetam is known to increase concentration, and phenylpiracetam shows a stimulatory effect.
Currently, the actual effect of racetams in the brain is unknown but several theories have been proposed. One is that racetams are ampakine drugs, therefore increasing the functioning of AMPA receptors and the ability to form memories. Another theory is that it increases the communication between the two hemispheres of the brain, leading to enhanced brain functioning and improvements in creativity. Additionally it is thought to allow the brain to better utilise the neurotransmitter acetylcholine, which could give it the potential to enhance memory. For this reason, people commonly supplement citicholine with racetams to replenish depleted stores of acetylcholine. If this isn’t done, some people report getting headaches, stiff necks, and brain fog. Although it isn’t well established, the reported effects of the drugs tend to be quite beneficial and many people strongly support their use as cognitive enhancers.
Modafinil. Of all the nootropics available, none compare with Modafinil. It is by far the strongest nootropic available. It operates primarily to enhance wakefulness and increase concentration. While taking it, people have often reported being able to work several days in a row without needing to sleep while maintaining enhanced concentration and work performance the entire time. Unlike other stimulants, it does not produce the same negative side effects such as jitters and is not thought to be addictive like the stimulants Ritalin or Adderall.
Like the racetams, the actual effect of Modafinil is unknown. It is speculated that it affects the histaminergic neurotransmitter system, as histamine is known to produce wakefulness. Also, because histamine also affects other catecholamine neurotransmitters, it could enhance the dopamine and noradrenaline systems as well.
CILTeP. This stands for chemically induced long term potentiation. As mentioned before with the neurotransmitter glutamate, long term potentiation is hugely important for memory storage. In fact, it is the main neurological mechanism thought to cause the formation of memories in the brain. Therefore, CILTeP enhances you’re ability to form LTP in the brain and form memories.
CILTeP is actually a stack of drugs used synergistically to enhance LTP. The primary aim of CILTeP is to increase levels of cyclic AMP. Cyclic AMP An important chemical required for LTP to occur. The drugs used in the stack are artichoke extract, forskolin, acetyl L-carnitine, and L-tyrosine. Artichoke extract is used to prevent the breakdown of cyclic AMP by being an antagonist of the PDE-4 enzyme. Forskolin is used to stimulate the production of cyclic AMP by being an agonist for the adenylate cyclise enzyme. These two drugs are used together to produce an overall increase in cyclic AMP. An increase in cyclic AMP means an increase in LTP. However, the use of these drugs has been found to cause a crash and problems with working memory. This has been attributed to depletion of dopamine and acetylcholine. For this reason, L-tyrosine, a dopamine precursor, is used to replenish dopamine, while acetyl L-carnitine is used to replenish acetylcholine. When these two drugs are taken, the side effects don’t occur.
Huperzine A. This drug simply increases acetylcholine in the brain. This is primarily used as a way to enhance memory. However, another cool effect of this drug is to induce lucid dreaming when taken before sleeping.
The effect of this drug is to inhibit the enzyme that breaks down acetylcholine. This is what causes the increase of the neurotransmitter. In fact, the main drugs used to treat memory problems in Alzheimer’s disease have exactly the same effect. The difference is that Huperzine A is considered a herbal supplement and doesn’t require a prescription to own.
When first starting out with nootropics it can be confusing what to actually buy and use to begin with. I am going to explain a couple of the most commonly used nootropics and provide stacks, or combinations, of nootropics that work synergistically together and provide a simple framework for beginner nootropic use.
Caffeine and theanine
This is the simplest nootropic stack to begin with. Simply combine an L-theanine supplement with your morning coffee to get an enhanced stimulatory boost without getting caffeine jitters or other negative side effects. It has also been reported to provide enhanced focus and cognitive ability. The dosage is usually twice that of caffeine, so if the standard cup of coffee contains roughly 100 mg of caffeine, then you would take 200 mg of L-theanine. But because everyone is different and will experience different effects, feel free to adjust the dose as you see fit.
Aniracetam, citicholine, and sulbutiamine
This combination involves the combination of a racetam drug, citicholine to restore acetylcholine used by the racetam, and sulbutiamine for additional mental energy. For the purpose of this example, I will use aniracetam as it has a stronger effect than piracetam and is generally one of the most popular of the racetams. The combination of aniracetam and citicholine work synergistically together to better utilise the cholinergic neurotransmitter system in the brain to enhance memory performance. Then adding sulbutiamine gives your brain more energy to perform mentally strenuous tasks for longer periods of time.
These two nootropic stacks should be perfectly suited to someone who is just starting out and developing an interest in cognitive enhancement. Once you feel comfortable with the use of these, you should branch out and begin experimenting with others until you find a stack that suits you the best.
This is just a brief background into some of the more popular nootropic substances out there. These are the more common nootropics taken by beginners as they are the most researched and provide more stable effects. Once you have mastered the use of these substances, you will be able to use your newfound knowledge of neuropharmacology and nootropics to perform your own research into what is out there and find your own preferences that suit your needs.
I hope that through these articles you have developed a background into how nootropics work and the sorts of nootropics available to you. With this understanding, you will be able to join some of the greatest thinkers and creative minds in fine tuning your brain’s performance and enhancing its ability to perform at a higher level.