Nootropics are a unique category of drugs, dietary supplements, and plant medicines that are purported to improve cognitive performance. There are many wild claims made about nootropics and they are often sensationalized with anecdotes and hearsay. Unsurprisingly, there is a lot of misinformation surrounding these substances and as such many people are rightly concerned about their safety and effectiveness.
However, there are many nootropics that provide real benefits, and some do have a substantial amount of evidence to back up their claims. Many nootropics have unique mechanisms and pharmacologies that set them apart from typical drugs. One common feature of nootropics is their affinity for modulating the glutaminergic processes in the brain and increases the dopamine content in the brain. Glutamate is an excitatory neurotransmitter that is abundant in mammalian nervous systems and is responsible for about 90% of synapses in the brain. By modulating glutamate, these nootropics can strengthen structures in the brain, which often leads to enhanced memory and recall.
Nootropics also commonly work with the acetylcholine system. Acetylcholine is a neurotransmitter largely involved in executive functions – including memory, learning, and attention. By increasing levels of acetylcholine in the brain, various forms of memory can be enhanced, including verbal recall, spatial working memory, and episodic memory retention.
Interestingly, there is a distinct lack of studies on the use of nootropics in healthy individuals. Most published studies test nootropics on people with pre-existing dysfunctions or impairments such as dementia, major depression, or cerebral trauma. And while there is a large degree of evidence to demonstrate their effectiveness at preventing or ameliorating existing brain damage, on the whole there are not many studies surrounding cognitive enhancement in otherwise young and non-impaired people.
Nootropics are becoming increasingly popular for their potential to enhance mental activity. There are many which have great promise and worth considerable investigation to determine if they are suitable for the average population. It is worth doing some research before you try them, and there are a few reliable places with useful information. Check out The Nootropics Professor for more information on nootropics and brain supplements.