What are Nootropics?

24/03/2014 Tags: all, beginners, guides, science

Please note: Because Nootropics are not supplements or approved drugs they cannot be sold as for human consumption. We do not endorse the consumption of any product for sale on our website as they are strictly intended for use in non-clinical scientific research. Not for consumption. As such, all articles and content on this website are strictly for entertainment purposes only.

Nootropics are cognitive enhancers that are neuroprotective or extremely non-toxic.

Nootropic Criteria:

1. Enhances learning and memory.

2. Enhance learned behaviours under conditions which are known to disrupt them. Example: hypoxia (oxygen deficiency).

3. Protect the brain from physical or chemical injury.

4. Enhance the tonic cortical/subcortical control mechanisms

5. Exhibit few side effects and extremely low toxicity, while lacking the pharmacology of typical psychotropic drugs (motor stimulation, sedation etc.).
Nootropics are general herbal supplements and compounds which have the ability to improve general brain cognition, memory, intelligence, motivation and focus. It comes as no surprise that these supplements sometimes referred to as "smart drugs” are becoming a daily regimen for high achieving professionals around the world. Nootropics can come in the form of herbal extracts or specifically designed nutritional compounds. Some of the more popular nootropics were first identified as they were found to aid in the recovery of people with neurodegenerative disorders such as Alzheimer's disease and brain damage.

It may seem a bit too good to be true, but this is a perfectly natural reaction people adopt when presented with the unbelievable facts. The common question is "Why isn’t everyone taking it?!”, the simple truth is that people are beginning to come around recently, and there is a rapidly growing subculture of regular nootropic users who are almost reluctant to let on, as they see it as a form of cheating. We understand that being skeptical about anything you ingest is a healthy reaction, but we make no false claims here and unlike other nutritional supplement vendors, we promote and advise people to go away and do their own research. As an added benefit for those who wish to do some further reading, we have actually cited as much of our information as possible, so you can find links to the genuine research for a particular finding.

Basic principles of brain function are an essential part of fully understanding how and why nootropics are so successful at improving the brains general function.The brain consists of a network of neurons, all interconnected and electrically charged. In a healthy human there maybe be anywhere from 20 billion to a trillion individual neurons. These neurons are the cables used to transfer information to the rest of the body. Almost all processes within the body begin with information being sent down a neuron to trigger a response. Each neuron is the size of a cell, with each one connecting to another to form an intricate web of connected neurons. The neurons are not physically attached to one another, instead they are connected via a small gap junction between the head of one and the tail of another. The small gap between neurons are called synapses, information travels across these synapses to continue the signal to the target area

Synapses are where chemicals are diffused across from one neuron to the other, the sending neuron releases chemicals which then bind to receptors on the receiving neuron. In the image to the left you can see sending neuron at the top and the receiving neuron at the bottom. The receiving neuron has receptor embedded within its membrane, and the sending neuron will release chemicals know as neurotransmitters. Neurotransmitters diffuse across the gap and bind to specific receptors on the receiving neuron. Once the neurotrasmitter has bound it will trigger a response in the receiving neuron. This response can is different for each neuron, neurotransmitter and receptor. The receiving receptor will then either either continue to message by releasing more neurotransmitters to the next neuron, stop the signal all together, or actually cause a response in an effectpr cell if it is the terminal neuron on the pathway.

In summary, synapses connect neurons, chemicals known as neurons pass across and bind to receptors. This can cause a response in the receiving neuron which is usually an electrical potential firing down the neuron, causing more neurotransmitters to be released, thus continuing the signal. Sometimes the signal may be stopped, sometimes the signal may be at the end of the pathway and cause a response. Each response is dependent on the neurotransmitter released, the action it has upon the receptor, the duration, concentration and binding type within the synapse.

Modern drug design, is based on this mechanism, as it is the fundamental pathway for almost all physiological responses in the body. There are many different chemicals which mediate the transmission of all kinds of signals being passed down a neuronal network. Receptor based medicine has been the focus of new drug design as the ability to control the body often comes down to directly effecting the receptors or the body’s own neurotransmitters.

An example pathway, your body releases norepinephrine (adrenalin) in response to certain environmental cues such as fear, this neurotransmitter then binds to its receptor like a lock in a key, causing an excitatory signal to be fired down to the end of the neuron where this process happens again. As this excitatory signal passes down millions of neurons, eventually the signal reaches one or several targets causing the desired physiological response. The response can be huge, and with adrenaline the body undergoes a fear response with, dilated pupils, loss of appetite, increased heart rate, heightened awareness and reaction times. This is just one example, as the body can change all bodily functions based on environmental stimulus like fear OR clever drug design like with nootropics.

As a brief example of the opposing reaction; when the brain is subjected to ethanol, it enters the cortex and begins to increase levels of the neurotransmitter known as GABA, while also lowering concentrations of Glutamine. The change in concentration of these neurotransmitters causes inhibitory signals to propagate, leading to general fatigue state, reducing the ability to reason, concentrate and stay awake.

Memory, focus, appetite, mood and attention to name a few are all subject to change based on the mechanism outlined above, meaning that in recent years we have opened the possibility to change these states as we please. However, previous drug design was based on naive principles, leading to the excessive use of and exhaustion of neurotransmitters and receptors. This gives rise to withdrawal, dependence and negative side effects. Many people are simply stuck in this mind set, believing that all drugs with positive mental effects have this unavoidable downside. However, in recent years we have gained a much fuller understanding of these negative side effects, allowing a more refined approach modulating and changing the brains functions to suite our needs, without massive adverse effects

Nootropics, may work as modulators of the memory, growth and stimulatory systems often by indirectly activating them using the body's own neurotransmitters. Alternatively, some may work against the inhibitory systems to prevent fatigue. Some even work specifically on the memory systems to enhance its function and ability to retain information.