The Deficiencies of Typical Stimulants
When learning new material for exams, grasping complex scientific concepts or writing a paper with the deadline approaching, students are exposed to huge amounts of mental pressure to perform adequately in university. It is not a surprise that many students use conventional stimulants such as caffeine to provide the additional “kick” they need to accomplish academic tasks. Although caffeine is certainly a widely popular and accessible stimulant, it can possess unpleasant adverse effects when consumed in considerable quantities (for example, at 3 AM when you still have to write numerous pages to complete the assignment and submit it to your professor in the morning)
Moreover, recently, a bothersome trend is noticed, consisting of an increased consumption of stimulant medication like Ritalin or Adderall, which are typically indicated for individuals affected by AHDH. Some individuals decide to use their mental concentration boosting effects even they are unhealthy. Unfortunately, these drugs are accompanied by a series of unpleasant effects both temporary and prolonged, such as high blood pressure, headaches, a dehydrated body, insomnia, impaired consciousness, and even depression or seizures in severe cases.
Moreover, these medications have a significant potential for abuse, and consumers are at a considerable risk to develop an addiction, but may also become tolerant to their effects, which means that progressively higher doses are necessary to achieve the same level of cognitive stimulation. Recently, a widespread epidemic in the United States has been observed, involving college students who obtain these psychoactive drugs that require a prescription in an illegal manner. They are seeking to improve their college performance through this dangerous method, which has resulted in several death reports that are linked to stimulant drug intake. Besides the short-term adverse effects being dangerous and causing enough harm to one’s health, moderate to high doses of these drugs can results in psychosis, suicide attempts and dangerous or negligent actions performed ignoring any personal safety concerns.
Basic Science Behind Nootropics
After finding out about the dangers and risks associated with typical stimulants, you may hesitate to use any sort of cognitive boosting supplement. Fortunately, there is an alternative solution represented by a distantly related class of supplements called nootropics. They have clearly demonstrated positive effects on cognition and memory without the disadvantages and adverse effects typically associated with traditional stimulants. The definition “nootropics” incorporates a wide selection of naturally and artificially obtained supplements that are administered for memory improvements, easier learning, facilitating alertness and promoting a restful sleep. Certain nootropic supplements are indicated to enhance physical strength and prevent diseases.
More than a hundred varieties of nootropic supplements are available, and their physiologic effects can differ substantially. Some nootropics are designed to adjust the activity of neurotransmitters in brain cells by delivering precursors, increasing the synthesis and regulating receptors. The resulted effects depend on the affected neurotransmitter system, and may consist in mood and memory adjustment, learning enhancement, or facilitation of sleep and food intake, among other influences. Another category of nootropics exert their effects by enhancing the blood flow in the brain, which results in a better delivery of nutrients and oxygen required for an adequate brain function. Other supplements contribute to a quicker removal of metabolic waste, such as lipofuscin, which greatly diminishes the progression of degenerative alterations in the brain and prevents neurological disorders like Alzheimer’s. The wide variety of potential applications enables the utilization of these smart supplements by everybody, from athletes to entrepreneurs. However, due to the popular designation of cognitive boosters, these supplements are usually extremely popular among students.
How Can Nootropics Stimulate My Academic Performance?
If your motivation is low, you don’t feel particularly inspired to work, you feel overwhelmed by the huge amount of academic material, then you need to make sure you get some solid support in the form of supplements to obtain the grades that you deserve. Even students who perform exceptionally well in their class can benefit immensely from the capacity of nootropics to enhance mental “sharpness” and boost creativity. What are the exact aspects of brain function needed for academic success?
Nootropics are notorious for their ability to enhance virtually all facets of memory, meaning that it can be easier for students to memorise formulas, text material or theories presented to them in class. Understanding how nootropics work requires explaining the basic mechanisms of memory creation. Memories are generated in the first stages through a process called encoding, which involves different types of visual, sound or semantic stimuli being transmitted through a series of receptors from the sensory organs to the brain. Once the stimuli have been received and processed by specific brain regions, they are cohesively integrated into one experience. An example would be reading text or listening to the professor explaining academic material, and “feeling” the progression of events and ideas as they unfold. This is the initial phase required for a successful fixation of information into the memory, and, unfortunately, our brains usually do not encode all the data that we wish to remember. Fortunately, supplements such as Bacopamonnieri or vasopressin (also known as ADH – or the anti-diuretic hormone) can help expand the volume of information that the brain can encode successfully. Some nootropics can also facilitate this process indirectly (through a better blow flow in the brain or an improved neurotransmitter production, which results in an improved function and efficiency of neurons).
After the encoding process, memories have to be recorded and stored, and it involves the capacity to preserve the data for long-term usage. Memories are recorded as a collection of connections at the synaptic level between groups of neurons. The data originates in the sensory compartment of memory before being sent for processing to brain regions that host short-term memories for a period ranging between a few seconds to approximately one minute. These processes are not beneficial if a student is learning for an academic test, which requires the information to be consolidated in a long-term memory form through consistent repetition. A valid example would be repeating a text or some other piece of academic material multiple times to facilitate the strengthening of neuron connections and memory fixation.
On a neurological level, the data consolidation that allows the conversion of short-term memories into long-term is achieved through a phenomenon called long-term potentation (LTP). It involves the process of synapse strengthening between two neighbouring neurons that are electrically activated at the same time. The process can be made more efficient through the intake of the CILTEP stack, which is a nootropic supplement formula that is presented later in the article. The storage of information in the sensory, working or permanent memory compartments must be accomplished efficiently to avoid undesirable losses. Research revealed that the brain of a healthy individual has virtually limitless capacities to record information over a prolonged period of time. Missing information or forgetting are largely caused by encoding deficiencies or problems associated with retrieving information.
Recall is the end process of memory utilization, and it involves looking for specific data and retrieving it. Sometimes, individuals forget some piece of information, but are able to remember at some later moment in time, suggesting that memory is properly recorded and stored, but there are deficiencies in data retrieval. Luckily, nootropics are useful in this process too. A study conducted in 2006 investigates individuals with memory problems related to aging, who would frequently forget simple information such as the location of their belongings or phone numbers. After Bacopa Monnieri intake, researchers discovered a considerable improvement of memory recall. Another example is Oxiracetam, also a nootropic remedy, which seems to possess similar effects consisting in better information retrieval from the memory records, but also enhancing mental alertness and semantics. Nootropic supplements not only assist you in remembering where you put your keys, but they also can offer you the extra edge that you need to obtain an excellent grade rather than a good one when you learn essential information for an exam.
Being blessed with great intelligence certainly makes a huge difference in academic performance, but different kinds of intelligence need to be evaluated on their capacity to generate a successful academic outcome. Crystallised intelligence is one type, and it consists of total accumulated knowledge and expertise gained during your entire life, and it mostly depends on long term memory. This sort of intelligence is also known as ‘book smarts’, and it usually develops along with personal growth and maturation, but it is diminished considerably in the elderly due to the negative influence aging has on memory quality. Fluid intelligence is the second variety, and it consists mostly in your capacity to reason logically, engage in efficient problem solving and identify patterns.
The fluid variety of intelligence is considered highly dependent on working memory, and some make the confusion with short term memory. A collection of processes and brain structures that can store and manage information temporarily are known as the working memory. It involves continuous processes in the neurons, such as the formation and strengthening or destruction and weakening of synapses between them, and the capacity of your brain to perform these processes rapidly is called synaptic plasticity. A brain exhibiting better synaptic plasticity allows the manipulation of more pieces of data, which increases the ability to successfully find solutions to problems, make mathematical calculations or perform a variety of tasks that activate this sort of intelligence.
A better synaptic plasticity can be achieved through the intake of several varieties of nootropic supplements, such as the racetam group (including Sunifiram, Oxiracetam, Aniracetam, Nefiracetam, Phenlypiracetam and Pramiracetam), but also with Huperzine A, and supplements like Bacopa Monnieri, DMAE and Centrophenoxine, among others. Although the precise mechanism of positive influence of these supplements is not completely understood, several hypothetical routes have been discovered. Scientists have proposed the theory that nootropics are able to enhance the activity of particular neurotransmitter systems in the brain. These biologically active substances function as biochemical messenger that transmit electrical impulses (action potentials) from one neuron to the other through synaptic gaps that connect them. Sometimes, larger quantities of chemical messengers in brain cells can increase the sensitivity of the neighbouring neurons, which facilitates an easier and quicker transmission of impulses.
As an example of such neuron impulse facilitation, certain nootropics seem to enhance the amounts of acetylcholine and glutamate reserves within the brain cortex and in the hippocampus region. These areas are responsible for memory recording and stimulate the learning of new data, which specifically involves the working memory. Other varieties of nootropics are known to balance norepinephrine or acetylcholine amounts, which improves the preservation of information processed by the working memory.
An enhanced capacity of the working memory, but also an improved functionality of fluid intelligence are specifically useful in academic fields such as mathematics, engineering or science, which challenge the students through problem solving, rapid data manipulation and collateral reasoning.
The capacity to focus on a task for a long time is certainly useful for any student when reading difficult academic material or studying in their own time. Mental focus is defined as the ability to preserve alertness and attention to one specific stimulus and at the same time ignoring the other distracting stimuli present in the environment. The process is defined as the brain’s executive function, and it is associated with the prefrontal cortical region of the brain. The capacity to achieve mental focus is sometimes viewed as an abstract idea; however, it is a relatively precise process that is triggered through the effects of several essential neurotransmitters. Therefore, by modifying the amounts and the intensity of neurotransmitter release into the synapses, we can facilitate a positive impact on our ability to sustain mental focus longer.
Several neurotransmitter systems are implicated in mental focus. Dopamine is involved in managing the brain’s reward processes, and facilitates the ability of the individual to preserve alertness and mental concentration when performing a particular task. Insufficient amounts of dopamine have been associated with diminished mental focus, so it is obvious that nootropic supplements that enhance the activity of the dopamine system have the capacity to improve concentration. The adrenal hormone system is also involved in preserving mental focus. Epinephrine (adrenaline) and norepinephrine are hormones synthesised within the adrenal glands and released when the human body is confronted with stressful stimuli, which contributes to the initiation of the fight-or-flight reaction in the body, and increased mental focus is a part of this response.
Nootropics can exert their positive influence on mental concentration in several ways. One mechanism is the previously mentioned influence of nootropics to stimulate the activity of the dopamine-mediated pathways that regulate reward systems, which allows you to maintain attention to detail in a specific task. In a similar manner, other nootropics modulate the cholinergic neurotransmitter system, which translates into an enhanced acetylcholine flow in your brain, facilitating the efficiency of the executive memory. Other nootropic supplements work by improving your mood, which allows you to achieve a better mental focus and a higher degree of mental alertness by reducing negative thoughts that could diminish your productivity by causing unwanted distractions.
Diminishing Stress and Anxiety
Being confronted with approaching deadlines and exams that have a considerable impact on one’s career choices, it is impossible to neglect the amount of mental pressure and stress experienced by students. Often, students may perform worse than they are capable of due to the pre-exam nervousness, or failing altogether to get out of the anxiety-provoking circumstances. It is therefore essential to reduce and manage stress and anticipatory anxiety, which is vital not only for an improved academic performance, but also for the mental health and physical well-being of the student. Some degree of anxiety is a normal mental response that can help to mobilize mental resources and motivate us to take the necessary steps to eliminate the conditions that provoke these emotions. The problems start when anxiety and excessive stress block our productivity, which is a response that frequently happens in highly stressful, inappropriate circumstances.
The precise causes of abnormal levels of anxiety are not fully investigated; some researchers suggest it is based on psychological traits, but others believe that anxiety is provoked by particular neuroanatomy structure patterns. In both approaches, anxiety is considered a nervous response to stressful external “threats” that induce a high degree of brain stimulation and stress-induced reactions that mobilize the body.
This excessive nervous stimulation generates most of the symptoms exhibited by an anxious person, which may consist in agitation, an irritable state of mind, abnormal levels of fear, difficulties with sleep, an impaired appetite, obsessive habits and substantial muscle tension (which can me manifested through foot tapping or other compulsive movements).
Luckily, a variety of nootropics are notorious for their anxiolytic and stress diminishing effects. Example may include Phenibut or Picamilon, which contains substances that are chemically related to GABA, and they convert into GABA once they ingested and transformed in your body. GABA is an important biochemical messenger that acts as the brain’s most prominent neurotransmitter that causes inhibition, which can prevent nerve impulses from being transmitted further. This process helps reduce the nervous tension within the excessively stimulated brain, induce a state of calm and remove negative thoughts that cycle in your brain and cause sustained anxiety.
Social Communication Skills
The life of a student is not all about studying. The capacity to engage in socialisation and establish friendships and meaningful relationships with your peers can make student life more emotionally rich and colourful. Social acuity is also considered a helpful tool that contributes to the accomplishment of your goals. An individual who is able to communicate easily with people possesses a substantial advantage when searching for a job, and it is quite obvious why an employer would be willing to offer a job to a confident individual with good social skills rather than to a nervous applicant with difficulties in social communication and low self-confidence. Moreover, certain academic events involve making presentations and speaking for a large audience, which may create considerable performance anxiety and stage fright in numerous students. Unfortunately, not everyone is blessed with natural social acuity and excellent communication skills, and other individuals are confronted with additional challenges such as social phobia.
Some supplements mentioned before can help students diminish anxiety associated with stressful social situations. An example is Picamilon, which can diminish the intensity of anxiety-provoking thoughts, while at the same time decreasing the inhibitions that create obstacles in creating social interactions due to embarrassment or low-self-confidence. Other nootropic supplements are able to improve the activation of brain areas associated with verbal communication skills; even though this effect does not directly reduce anxiety, it facilitates an improved confidence because you are able to communicate easier and more efficiently with your peers.
Furthermore, the ability to reason logically and clearly is certainly essential for a better comprehension during interactions with other people. An improved capacity to analyse and comprehend verbal or emotional messages from other individuals contributes to the ability to act appropriately in various situations. Nootropics also possess memory-enhancing properties, which prevent you from making unwanted social errors, such as forgetting a person’s name or face.
Nootropic Stacks Designed for Students
Although it is possible to use nootropics individually, consumers usually find nootropic combinations, also known as stacks, more useful since they offer a greater range and intensity of benefits. Moreover, utilizing stacks can eliminate some unwanted effects that may occur when using a single type of nootropic remedy. For example, most racetams exert their effects through the enhancement of the acetylcholine neurotransmitter system in your brain, which creates an increased necessity for choline – a substance used to produce acetylcholine in your brain. Most individuals experience a deficiency of choline obtained from the food, which creates the need to supplement the dietary intake with supplements such as Alpha GPC or CDP choline to prevent choline depletion and the potential adverse effects associated with choline insufficiency like headaches.
There are a multitude of companies that offer diverse combinations of nootropic supplements elaborated into one product, but many of them are associated with certain disadvantages. It is generally relatively convenient to ingest only one pill or a dose of powder instead of dosing and taking different supplements; pre-combined stacks do not provide the same dosage adjustment opportunities as individual supplements do. For example, it is virtually impossible to specifically increase the required amount of a particular supplement in the stack when consuming the pre-combined products.
Moreover, due to considerable differences in brain biochemistry and individual physiology among different consumers, the suitable amount of each component in the stack may require adjustments for an optimal brain-enhancement result. Finally, price issues also come into play, especially for students who are on a tight budget. Processing expenses and branding create most of the cost associated with a pre-combined stack product. It is economically wiser to use generic, individual supplements and create stacks that you can adjust according to your own needs. Here is a list of stack examples that may be particularly helpful for students.
L-Theanine and Caffeine
This stack is perfect for beginners and students who already have experience with consuming caffeine-containing products to boost their cognitive performance. The stack contains natural nootropics, and is regarded as very safe, affordable and easy to purchase; it is associated the immediately visible effects. The caffeine component of the stack acts as an antagonist of the adenosine receptors in the brain. Adenosine is known to cause considerable inhibition in the central nervous system. Blocking the adenosine receptors through caffeine intake, it is possible to prevent nervous signals associated with inhibition from transmitting impulses further. These processes facilitate the main caffeine effects, such as higher degree of mental alertness and boosted mental concentration. Adding L-Theanine to the stack amplifies the beneficial caffeine effects, but also contributes to the elimination of potential adverse effects like feeling jittery, insomnia, elevated blood pressure or anxiety.
Citicoline and Pramiracetam
Pramiracetam is often viewed as the most refined and balanced supplement from the racetam class when it comes to the mental boosting benefits associated with its consumption. Still, similarly to other racetam supplements, its mechanism of influencing the mental functions is not precisely understood; researchers believe that it functions by enhancing the process known as high-affinity choline uptake or HACU, which continues with the synthesis of acetylcholine in your brain. This mechanism facilitates a better academic productivity by sharpening the mental focus and improving memory capacities in students who need sustained attention directed to a particular task.
These unique properties make it the most suitable nootropic supplement when work completion with limited time is required. Adding Citicoline reduces the probability of choline deficit that may occur due to a considerably boosted activity of the cholinergic neurotransmitter system in the brain. Some consumers have experienced positive benefits when adding L-Theanine to this stack, which is attributed to its mood improvement properties, allowing the consumer to experience a state of calm and feel energetic when deadlines or exams are approaching.
Aniracetam, Huperzine A, Citicoline and Vinpocetine
Another great all-purpose stack of nootropics consists in a selection of mostly natural supplements possessing almost no toxicity and various cognitive influence mechanisms. Aniracetam offers the most powerful cognitive strengthening benefits associated with this stack, which consist in the capacity to boost memory processes, allow for an easier learning of material and accelerate most information processing events in your brain. This nootropic is also associated with solid stress-relief and anxiety diminishing effects, which provide great value in relieving pre-exam nervousness that may disrupt cognitive abilities.
The Huperzine A component of this stack acts as an inhibitor for the acetylcholinesterase enzyme, which prevents the neutralization of acetylcholine, which is the essential cholinergic neurotransmitter. Increased quantities of acetylcholine are known to enhance memory processing, especially the capacity to effectively record and retrieve information, which is helpful both in the process of learning new academic material but also recalling what was learned during a test.
Citicoline provides additional choline, which a biochemical substance that converts into acetylcholine in certain neurons, and it works in combination with the mechanism provided by Huperzine A, allowing for an overall enhancement of the cholinergic neuron pathways and also preventing choline deficiency that may occur during Aniracetam consumption due to the stimulated cholinergic activity.
The last component of this nootropic stack is Vinpocetine, which is notorious for its protective effects on the central nervous system that help avoid excitotoxicity (which consists in the abusive stimulation of nerve pathways) and brain inflammation.
It offers a solid contribution in preserving the health and functional integrity of neurons, and results in better memory acquisition since losing information through damaged synapses is less likely to happen. The neuroprotective properties of Vinpocetine are obviously valuable to most students, who often consume alcohol during parties as a recreation method, which may damage neurons. It also has the capacity to dilate the blood vessels in the brain, which allows for an improved delivery of nutrient material such as oxygen or glucose that neurons use to preserve an efficient functionality.
In recent years, this stack has become hugely popular. Its name is short for chemically induced long term potentiation (LTP), and it is elaborated to accelerate and improve the process of LTP mentioned previously in this article. The positive benefits offered by this nootropic stack consist in helping students consolidate and remember academic material easier and contributes to the comprehension of complex concepts.
The stack consists mainly of two ingredients – a cyclic AMP enhancer and a PDE4 enzyme inhibitor. The cyclic AMP enhancer, which is usually the supplement Forskolin extracted from the plant known as Plectrathusbarbatus has the role to increase the amount of produced cyclic adenosine monophosphate. At the same time, the inhibitor of the PDE4 enzyme like artichoke extract function by blocking the enzymes that neutralize cyclic AMP. The combined result is a considerable elevation of cyclic AMP levels, which is known to induce LTP processes.
Another advantage of the supplement stack consists in its versatility since CILTEP stacks exert their effects through relatively distinct mechanisms, which makes it possible to utilize them with other nootropics. As an example, some consumers incorporate other racetams in the stack, while some users experienced a notable potentiation of the effects of stimulants by the CILTEP supplements, which make it possible to use a lower dose to obtain better effects.
There is also the option to add a precursor in dopamine production like phenylalanine in the CILTEP stack since some users have noticed some fatigue during supplement consumption, which may occur as a result of depleted dopamine reserves.
Only a few examples of the diverse variety of stacks used by students have been presented, and many more combinations that would allow a dramatically improved cognitive functioning are possible. You have been provided with excellent example of stacks that you can use as a start of your cognitive enhancement journey, but the most suitable supplement combination is obviously the one designed and tried specifically for your necessities. This is why we recommend you to invest some time in researching and trying different nootropic combinations to identify the stack and associated dosages that are perfect for you. Take into consideration your goal in terms of cognitive enhancement (it can be a nootropic combination for memory, sharpened mental focus or better learning), and don’t hesitate to benefit from qualified medical advice offered by a physician prior to consuming any sort of nootropic supplement.
Today’s demands formulated by academic organizations are very high for students. When feeling overwhelmed or exhibiting poor academic performance, numerous students have the necessity to improve their cognitive skills and brain function through supplements. The discussion whether it is considered cheating or just gaining an edge is of secondary importance; it is a fact that many students will do whatever it takes to ensure academic success and there is no doubt that using brain-protective supplements such as nootropics is considerably better and safer than the utilization of illegal, addictive and harmful drugs such as Ritalin or Aderrall.