Anti Aging Today

Nootropics - Smart Drugs

Nootropics, or so-called "smart drugs," are substances used to increase the faculties of the mind. The word derives from "noos" or mind and "tropos" to bend. Proponents claim that these substances enhance mental performance in a variety of ways, bolstering cognition, lucidity, memory, mood, oxygen and glucose utilization, blood circulation in the brain, or a combination of the these or other factors.

Some classic examples of pharmaceutical nootropics are:

Piracetam (Nootropil)
The world's best-selling nootropic drug, Piracetam, is purported to prevent and correct memory loss due to old age, sharpening memory and improving clarity and attention to detail. It is used to treat senile dementia and Down's syndrome. A derivative of the amino acid GABA, Piracetam helps to restore levels of the neurotransmitter Acetylcholine. It also increases the sensitivity of muscuarinic receptors, which decreases with age. It brings about important metabolic modifications in nerve cells, which results in greater receptiveness and increased use of chemical energy by these cells.

Aniracetam acts on the central nervous system (CNS), stimulating the learning process and the memory. Pharmacological studies have shown that Aniracetam stimulates the functions of certain neuronal receptors by means of glutamic acid, bringing about memorization processes (AMPA receptors) and protection of nerve cells (metabotrophic receptors). Clinical studies have shown specific therapeutic activity in elderly patients affected by alterations of the cognitive functions. Both long and short term memory improvement have seen in addition to learning, attention span, alertness, concentration, reasoning and absent mindedness.

Chemically, oxiracetam is similar to piracetam, though stronger in effect. It is one of the more commonly used smart drugs, and known by a number of names, including CT-848, hydroxypiracetam, ISF-2522, Neuractiv, and Neuromet. Oxiracetam has had the most widespread use in Italy, where it was developed in 1988 by ICF, an Italian drug company. In the U.S., use has not been approved by the FDA. Smith Kline Beckman Corporation is trying to get the drug approved for treating Alzheimer's disease. Some research indicates that the effects of oxiracetam may be greater than those of piracetam in improving elderly subjects ability to remember things. Oxiracetam has been shown to be nontoxic, like other nootropics, as well as safe in dosages that far exceed what the average person takes.

Pramiracetam is similar in nature to piracetam though more potent and less-well researched. It is said to enhance memory and cognitive function.

Pyritinol (Enerbol)
Recent evidence suggests that a European medication called Pyritinol may be an effective treatment for Alzheimer's disease. When compared Hydergine and placebo, Pyritinol produced continuous improvement in cognitive function, which was more pronounced than in the Hydergine group. Pyritinol is used in Europe for the treatment of a wide variety of neurologic disorders.

Ergoloid Mesylates (Hydergine)
An important anti-aging and nootropic drug, hydergine may help protect the brain from free radical damage and oxygen starvation. Hydergine maintains the brain's optimal metabolism of oxygen. Oxygen is a free radical scavenger and generator. Free radicals cause age-associated damage, and at optimal levels, oxygen will neutralize more free radicals than it generates. Hydergine may also stimulate the growth of dendrite nerve fibers, which may have a possible link to intelligence. Also, recent studies suggest that hydergine may reduce Senescent Cell Antigen (SCA), a destructive auto-antibody appearing more frequently in elderly cells. SCA damages cells and finally destroys them.

Oral medication used to treat patients with Alzheimer's disease. Galantamine is in a class of drugs called cholinesterase inhibitors that also includes tacrine (Cognex), donezepil (Aricept), and rivastigmine (Exelon). Cholinesterase inhibitors inhibit (block) the action of acetylcholinesterase, the enzyme responsible for the destruction of acetylcholine. Acetylcholine is one of several neurotransmitters in the brain, chemicals that nerve cells use to communicate with one another. Reduced levels of acetylcholine in the brain are believed to be responsible for some of the symptoms of Alzheimer's disease. By blocking the enzyme that destroys acetylcholine, galantamine increases the concentration of acetylcholine in the brain, and this increase is believed to be responsible for the improvement in thinking seen with galantamine. Galantamine was approved by the FDA in 2001.

Drug used as an adjunct in the therapy of Parkinson's disease. Due to its anti-neurodegenerative properties it is biochemically defined as a selective monoamine oxidase type B (MAO-B) inhibitor. Selegiline was originally developed as an antidepressant. To date Selegiline has been medically approved by regulatory agencies for use only in treatment of Parkinson's disease. However recent testing indicates that Selegiline may have some effect on increasing sexual response in aging animals, an observed retardation of normal age dependent deterioration of renal function and of cognitive abilities, including spatial learning ability.

Centrophenoxine (Lucidril)
Centrophenoxine removes lipofuscin, potassium age pigment from the brain, heart and skin. Appearances of lipofuscin in the skin are referred to as liver, or age spots. Lipofuscin occurs in much higher levels in Alzheimer's patients than in their counterparts, and some theories relate brain and memory function to the ability of potassium to enter and exit brain cells. As we age, this ability is reduced and potassium levels rise. Centrophenoxine can also increase production of brain RNA and aid in a patient's oxygen consumption and carbon dioxide production.

Desmopressin (DDAVP)
Desmopressin is the synthetic version of vasopressin, a peptide hormone found naturally in the brain and is believed to be partly responsible for the formation of memories. Desmopressin's effects rapidly improve short-term memory and enhance memory imprinting. Desmopressin is usually "approved" for the treatment of diabetes insipidus, (a condition of frequent urination and extreme thirst). This is because desmopressin is also involved in this body function. However in some countries, its uses have been for amnesia, and for patients suffering from mental difficulties caused by the abuse of narcotics.

Nicergoline is an ergot derivative currently in use in over fifty countries for more than three decades, for the treatment of cognitive, affective, and behavioral disorders of older people. It was initially considered as a vasoactive drug and mainly prescribed for cerebrovascular disorders. Recent findings suggest other actions which has provided a rationale for the use of nicergoline for the treatment of various forms of dementia, including Alzheimer's Disease.

Vinpocetine improves brain energy and blood supply and has been used as a preventative and as a treatment for stroke and other brain injury. It acts as a cerebral metabolic activator, which may improve cerebral circulation and enhance oxygen and glucose utilization in the brain. Vinpocetine may diminish, or reduce, disturbances due to hypoxia, or to deficient cerebral metabolism. It has been noted to improve oxygen and glucose utilization by brain cells and increase their resistance to damage by hypoxia.

Sometimes also spelled Pikamilon or Pikamilone, this is a Russian developed nootropic. It is in essence Niacin (vitamin B3) bonded to GABA. Studies have shown that it rapidly crosses the blood-brain barrier, however its effects are much greater and broader than just taking a GABA and Niacin supplement.

One of the most potent nootropic drugs, vasopressin, is a hormone secreted by the posterior portion of the pituitary gland. While it may help prevent frequent urination, vasopressin's main use is to treat memory deficits due to old age, senile dementia, drug toxicity and amnesia. Whenever a memory is deposited in the brain, vasopressin regulates the process. It helps select bits of information from the stream of consciousness and forms this information into an image, or concept, which is eventually transformed from an electrochemical impulse into a chemically encoded long-term memory. Vasopressin's benefits may include enhanced clarity, increased attention to detail, improved short-term memory and improved memory imprinting (when taken before an event, one can recall the event later in much greater detail). Vasopressin is so powerful that it has been banned in some California colleges for giving students an "unfair" advantage.

Milacemide is probably the most well studied nootropic substance that shows improvement in both the young and elderly healthy humans. Studies has demonstrated improvements in human selective attention, numeric memory, vigalance, and long term memory. However, one study indicated no improvements in Alzheimer's patients after one month of treatment. Interestingly, the memory improvements appear to be selective based on memory type. Episodic memories (memories of places and sources of information) were better retained than semantic memories (facts themselves).

Similar claims have been made for a variety of stimulants such as:

  • Caffeine
  • Nicotine
  • Amphetamine (Adderall, Dexedrine)
  • Adrafinil (Olmifon)
  • Modafinil (Provigil)
  • DMAE - possible applications for ADD/ADHD sufferers, skepticism exists over whether this substance offers nootropic effects
  • Phenibut

Acetylcholinesterase inhibitors and acetylcholine precursors - two class of drugs/supplements which have demonstrated nootropic effects at certain dosages:

  • Alpha-GPC (L-alpha glycerylphosphorylcholine, Choline alfoscerate) - most effective choline precursor, readily crosses the blood-brain barrier
  • Huperzine A - potent acetylcholinesterase inhibitor derived from Chinese club-moss
  • CDP-Choline (Cytidine Diphosphate Choline) - choline precursor, a more economical alternative to Alpha GPC
  • Lecithin - a natural precursor to acetylcholine

CAUTION: Excess acetylcholine can be potentially harmful.

Vitamins and nutrients which exhibit nootropic effects:

  • Acetyl-L-carnitine (ALCAR)
  • Choline with Vitamin B5
  • Vitamin C
  • Coenzyme q-10

Herbs that exhibit nootropic effects:

  • Ginkgo biloba - increases blood flow to the extremities including the brain
  • Withania Somnifera (Ashwagandha) - tonic that normalizes body processes
  • Bacopa monnieri - nervine and tonic that supports electro-chemical brain transmission
  • Melissa Officinalis (Lemon Balm)
  • Eleutherococcus senticosus (Siberian ginseng) - tonic and adaptogen that normalizes stress
  • Celastrus Panicaltus
  • Gotu Kola
  • Sutherlandia Frutescens


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