Nootropics: A Controversial Topic
What if you could swallow a medication that immediately increased your intelligence? One that will help you improve your cognitive abilities, such as attention, memory, focus, motivation, and other higher executive functions?
If you’ve ever watched the film Limitless, you’ll have a good sense of how this might play out—albeit in an overdone Hollywood way. Although the film is a work of fiction, the truth may not be far behind.
What Are Nootropics, and How Do They Work?
Neuroenhancement, or the use of drugs to increase cognitive performance in healthy people, is not a new idea.
C.C. Giurgea, a psychologist and chemist, invented Piracetam, one of the earliest cognitive improvement medicines, almost fifty years ago.
Giurgea thought the medicine increased brain capacity, despite not knowing the specific mechanism, and so started his research into “smart pills,” or nootropics, a name he created from the Greek nos, which means “thinking,” and trepein, which means “to bend.”
A quick review of some of the more often used nootropics is provided here, including wakefulness-promoting medicines like modafinil and other medications in the racetam family that are grouped together due to their similar chemical composition. Please keep in mind that these are not exhaustive descriptions. These can be found in the mentioned sources.
Nootropics can be taken on their own or in conjunction with other nootropics. Stacking is the term for this. These chemicals, which might be natural or synthetic, are studied more thoroughly than those that are used alone.
Prescription psychostimulants like Adderall and Ritalin are not included in this list. Non-medical, illegal use of these substances for cognitive improvement in healthy people comes at a significant price, including addiction and other side effects.
Although these medications are given to aid with concentration, attention, and other cognitive skills in people with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), they have been proven to impair these same capabilities when taken for non-medical purposes. Worse, they have the potential to cause psychosis when used in excessive amounts.
Piracetam, sometimes known as the “original smart pill,” has been demonstrated in tests to increase cognitive and working memory at all levels.
It is one of the most investigated nootropics in the racetam class of supplements, having been developed in 1964. In the United States, piracetam is not authorised for use as a medicinal medication or dietary supplement.
Aniracetam, a synthetic derivative of Piracetam, is said to be the second most popular nootropic in the Racetam family, popular for its stimulatory effects and rapid absorption into the bloodstream. Many anecdotal accounts suggest that it enhances creativity, despite the fact that it was originally intended for memory and learning. Anecdotal evidence suggests that the therapy is helpful for children with Down syndrome. Clinical trials, on the other hand, demonstrate that Piracetam treatment does not improve cognitive performance in children with Down syndrome.
Another racetam, oxiracetam, is popular among computer programmers and has been proven to be beneficial in the recovery from neurological damage and the enhancement of long-term memory. It’s said to help with attention span, memory, learning capacity, focus, sensory awareness, and logical reasoning. It also has stimulant properties, boosting mental vigour, alertness, and motivation.
Modafinil, often known as Provigil, is a stimulant that has been nicknamed the “genius pill” by some. Originally created to treat narcolepsy and other sleep problems, doctors are now recommending it to cellists, judges, airline pilots, and scientists to improve their attention, memory, and learning.
“Scientific studies over the last century [to improve intellect] have shown a few intriguing compounds,” according to Scientific American, “but only modafinil has passed rigorous testing of cognitive augmentation.” It is a stimulant that is a restricted drug in the United States with limited availability.
Ginsenoside Rg1, a chemical discovered in the panax (ginseng) plant genus, is being studied as a nootropic effect. It has cognitive advantages such as improving learning capacity and memory, as well as speeding up brain growth. It primarily targets the NMDA receptors and nitric oxide synthase, both of which are crucial for personal and emotional intelligence.
Nootropics Research’s Limitations
The hunt for more effective medicines that boost mental ability and intellect without causing toxicity or significant adverse effects is still going on. However, there are certain restrictions. Although the components may have cognition-enhancing benefits on their own, there are few randomised controlled trials evaluating the combined effects of cognitive improvement chemicals.
It’s also worth noting that those with a history of mental or drug use issues may be more susceptible to the negative effects of nootropics. This is all the more reason to seek medical advice before taking.
Neuroplasticity, or the brain’s capacity to adapt and rearrange itself in response to internal and external stimuli, suggests that pharmacological or other treatments might significantly improve brain function. It has been proven that psychotherapy causes structural alterations in the brain. Meditation, mindfulness, and compassion are examples of other therapies that have a favourable impact on neuroplasticity.
Neuroplasticity is also influenced by exercise and diet. Many vitamins and substances present in food items have been demonstrated to improve cognitive function. Vitamins B6 and B12, caffeine, phenethylamine (found in chocolate), and l-theanine (found in green tea), all of which have been studied in combination with caffeine.