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Cognitive Enhancement: A Look at Nootropics

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One of the first nootropics, piracetam, was discovered in 1964, and was initially designed to treat motion sickness and induce sleep, but was instead found to have properties to enhance memory functions. Since then, many nootropics have been developed to improve all aspects of human cognition.

Nootropics—which comes from the Greek words nous, meaning “mind”, and trepein, meaning “to bend or turn”—have since become a popular means of enhancing cognitive abilities.

What Are Nootropics?

Nootropics are natural or synthetic compounds designed to

  • Improve neuronal function
  • Stimulate the growth of neurons and synapses
  • Repair damage to brains systems
  • Enhance neuroplasticity

Nootropics act by

  • Enhancing communication between neurons
  • Improving neuronal energy transport and usage
  • Promoting brain cell health through neuroprotection
  • Balancing neurotransmitter levels
  • Reducing oxidative stress

Unlike “smart drugs,” nootropics must be

  • Safe
  • Neuroprotective
  • Pose low risk of negative side effects

Using nootropics can potentially result in:

  • Improved concentration
  • Increased motivation
  • Heightened mental energy
  • Improved mood
  • Improved overall brain function

Common Nootropics

Alpha-GPC

Potentially good for:

  • Increasing acetylcholine levels
  • Memory
  • Boosting power output in athletes
  • Supporting cellular membranes

Aniracetam

Potentially good for:

  • Reduced stress and anxiety
  • Mood
  • Memory
  • Focus
  • Clarity of thought

Bacopa Monnieri

Potentially good for:

  • Mood
  • Stress reduction
  • Memory
  • Neuroprotection

Noopept

Potentially good for:

  • Working memory
  • Memory consolidation
  • Learning
  • Reflexes
  • Sensory perception
  • Mood
  • Logical thinking

Panax Ginseng

Potentially good for:

  • Energy
  • Mood
  • Memory
  • Stress reduction
  • Focus and concentration

Phenylpiracetam

Potentially good for:

  • Energy
  • Focus
  • Memory
  • Attention span
  • Tolerance to cold and stress
  • Physical performance

Pramiracetam

Potentially good for:

  • Memory
  • Neuronal energy
  • Concentration
  • Learning capacity

Sulbutiamine

Potentially good for:

  • Brain energy
  • Attention span
  • Concentration and focus
  • General feelings of well-being

Rhodiola Rosea

Potentially good for:

  • Fatigue reduction
  • Mood
  • Normalization of stress hormones
  • Neuroprotection

Centrophenoxine

Potentially good for:

  • Increasing DMAE levels
  • Boosting cognition
  • Reverse lipofuscin/beta-amyloid pigmentation
  • Neuroprotection

Lion’s Mane Mushroom

Potentially good for:

  • Recovering from nerve injury
  • Promoting neurogenesis
  • Boosting cognition
  • Immunomodulation
  • Lowering blood pressure

Certain compounds may offer different results based on the person taking them. Fortunately, there are a wide variety of nootropics available, giving you a number of opportunities to find the compounds that work best for you. Nootropics are about methodical improvement to oneself. They are not a magic cure, but a process to finding what works best for your own body and brain chemistry. 

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