How Do Nootropics Work?
Nootropics are an exciting type of supplement which can improve your cognitive functioning. In other words, they’re vitamins, nutrients, and compounds designed to facilitate mental cognition, improve focus, increase energy, and provide a wide range of other benefits to your brain.
Want to learn more about nootropics? Ready to learn how nootropics work, and whether or not they’re dangerous for your brain? Today, I’m going to answer all of these questions and explain why nootropics may or may not be the right supplement for you!
What Are Nootropics?
“Nootropics” is simply a general term for any “drug, supplement, nutraceutical, or functional food” that improves at least one aspect of mental function.
So asking how nootropics work is kind of like asking how “sports” work. There are all different kinds of nootropics, and they work in a number of different ways.
However, there are certain broad trends among nootropics. Here are a few of the ways in which today’s nootropics affect your brain:
- They Change The Supply Or Reception Of Certain Neurotransmitters
- They Affect Hormonal Levels In Your Body
- They Add Enzymes And Amino Acids That Affect Various Brain Functions
- They “Kick Start” The Brain’s Natural Healing Processes Or Neurotransmitter Production
Many of these functions improve the overall plasticity of your brain, also known as neuroplasticity. Neuroplasticity is, in simplest terms, the ability for your brain to change according to certain stimuli.
When you hear someone’s name for the first time, your brain changes to remember that name. The more easily your brain can make that change, the more easily you’ll remember that name.
What Was the First Nootropic?
The world’s first nootropic was called Piracetam. Developed in the 1960s, Piracetam showed promising early results when used to improve the verbal memory of healthy college students.
The word “nootropic” itself was coined in 1972 by Dr. Corneliu E. Giurgea, a Romanian chemist and psychologist who first synthetized Piracetam a few years earlier. He chose the word “nootropic” from the Greek words “nous” (mind) and “trepein” (turn or bend). In other words, nootropic means “mind turner”.
Since it was first developed in the 1960s, nootropics are a relatively new field of supplements. The brain is an incredibly complex organ: an average brain has 100 billion neurons which create trillions of connections and interactions. Despite studying the brain for hundreds of years, we still know incredibly little about it.
But with all that being said, today’s nootropics manufacturers are pushing the field further every day, and we can’t wait to see where it goes next.
How Does Piracetam Work?
First, let’s talk about Piracetam. I’ll try not to get too science-y on you here, but here’s how Piracetam works:
- Piracetam optimizes the transmission of neurons into the corpus callosum
- The corpus callosum is the area which connects the two hemispheres of your brain (the left and right hemispheres)
- At the same time, Piracetam increases the levels of acetylcholine, which is a specific neurotransmitter that increases cognitive functionality (you’ll hear about acetylcholine a lot in this article)
Today, a broad class of nootropics called “racetams” work in a similar way to Piracetam. Piracetam is widely available today and is sold under a wide variety of brand names. In Europe and North America, Piracetam is sold as Nootropil or Lucetam, while other names include Oikamid, Geratam, and Biotropil.
Neurotransmitters: The Secret Power Behind Nootropics
Neurotransmitters are simply chemicals that transmit signals from one neuron to another. If you do something that makes you happy, like take a big drink of beer after a hard day of work, your brain might fire off a neurotransmitter that tells your body to feel happy.
In order to work, neurotransmitters must bind to something called “receptors”. As the name suggests, receptors simply “receive” neurotransmitters and process their meaning.
The secret behind many nootropics is that they either:
- a) Promote the production of neurotransmitters
- b) Enhance the functionality of the receptors
Together, neurotransmitters and their receptors are known as “systems”. Most nootropics target this system to make it more efficient.
Acetylcholine and the Cholinergic System
One of the most valuable neurotransmitters in your brain is called acetylcholine. Acetylcholine plays a critical role in your cholinergic system.
The weird thing about acetylcholine is that we don’t totally understand how it works. What we do know is that it plays a critical role in cognitive functionality, including memory, learning, focus, and decision-making.
This is why some nootropics are called cholinergics: they increase the levels of acetylcholine neurotransmitters in your system. However, you don’t have to take cholinergic nootropics to increase your body’s choline production: instead, you can simply eat a choline-rich diet. Choline is found in common founds like eggs, fish, whey, and the liver, kidneys, and brains of certain animals. Of course, most of us are deficient in choline: you would have to eat 5 or more eggs every day to get the recommended daily dosage of choline.
Eating more choline leads to more acetylcholine synthesis. By itself, eating choline won’t necessarily “supercharge” your brain. However, many nootropic experts recommend “stacking” choline supplements with a racetam to provide powerful cognitive enhancing benefits.
What Do Racetams Do?
Racetams are surprisingly similar to cholinergics. Both racetams and cholinergics affect the acetylcholine system. While cholinergics increase the levels of acetylcholine, racetams increase the sensitivity of acetylcholine receptors.
This means you can receive acetylcholine neurotransmitters more easily and more efficiently. When stacking racetams and choline and acetylcholine supplements together, you can enjoy some powerful effects because acetylcholine system is more efficient overall.
Some also say that stacking acetylcholine with racetams is an easy way to avoid headaches – something that a lot of people get when taking racetams on their own.
Glutamate Nootropics and Their Effect On Memory And Learning
Glutamate is another popular neurotransmitter targeted by nootropics. In fact, glutamate is the most abundant neurotransmitter within our nervous system.
Glutamate has been linked to increased memory and learning. Our brains require a perfect balance of glutamate levels in the brain to facilitate memory and learning. Certain nootropics reduce your brain’s sensitivity to glutamate, which has been shown to increase cognitive functionality.
If you ever see nootropic product marketing talk about targeting the “glutamatergic system”, it simply means they alter glutamate sensitivity within the brain. Popular supplements like Aniracetam target the glutamatergic system.
Some Nootropics Target Hormones Like Dopamine And Serotonin
Dopamine and serotonin are two chemicals within our body that have a powerful effect on our brain. Dopamine controls our reward, pleasure, and motor function, while serotonin controls our mood, memory, sleep, and cognition.
Understandably, targeting either of these two chemicals is a powerful way to improve cognitive functionality. Not all nootropics utilize the dopamine and serotonin systems, but those that do can significantly improve your mood.
In particular, stimulating dopamine production creates higher levels of brain energy, improving cognition and helping you feel more emotionally energetic. Just like with glutamate and acetylcholine, these systems can be optimized by either increasing the production of the hormone or by optimizing the receptors.
Improving Blood and Oxygen Flow in the Brain to Create Powerful Cognitive Benefits
Neurotransmitters are one secret to stronger brain activity. The other secret is improving the flow of blood and oxygen to the brain. Our brain – like all organs – requires a lot of blood and oxygen in order to survive. Both blood and oxygen carry valuable vitamins and nutrients to your brain.
Many nootropic supplements improve the flow of blood and oxygen to the brain. At the same time, they also increase glucose metabolism, which means our blood is more efficient at carrying vitamins and nutrients throughout the body.
Ultimately, that means you’ll feel more energetic and enjoy a better overall mood. Most people also report feeling improved overall alertness and focus. Over the course of a day, the natural energy in our brain gets depleted. Better blood and oxygen flow to the brain can replenish that energy and have profound effects on your overall cognitive ability.
Altering Brain Plasticity to Improve Learning and Memory
I briefly talked about brain plasticity above. Basically, brain plasticity is the ability for your brain to change itself to adjust to external stimuli. Those stimuli could include learning a new subject at school or being introduced to someone for the first time.
We don’t totally understand how brain plasticity works. If we did understand brain plasticity, we’d probably have a cure for Alzheimer’s by now. We don’t.
With that being said, we do understand some aspects of brain plasticity. We know that many nootropics have a profound effect on brain plasticity and alter the synapses in our brain. Synapses are signals our brain uses to create new memories. They allow our neurons to communicate with one another.
When our brain’s plasticity is improved, it’s easier for synapses to communicate with one another. That means your brain can more easily communicate between its two hemispheres. Your brain can also communicate better within each hemisphere, and with the rest of your body.
So if you ever read about nootropics affecting brain plasticity, then it’s not just some random buzzword. Instead, plasticity is a critical component of our brain that allows us to efficiently form new memories and think coherently.
Buy Nootropics Stacks Online
The nootropics industry has exploded with growth over the past year. Today, it’s easier than ever to buy nootropics – and nootropic stacks – online. And just like buying anything on the internet, you can often enjoy free shipping and a convenient ordering process.
We strongly recommend starting with a one month supply of nootropics. This gives your body enough time to adjust to the nootropics and lets you see how different nootropics affect your body. Then, once you know how each nootropic works, you can begin ordering nootropic stacks online.