An introduction to the art of cognitive enhancement
Cognitive Enhancers are smart drugs that increase some aspects of cognitive function with the goal of improving overall intelligence.
A lot of Cognitive Enhancers are available in the market prescription free, but it has become increasingly difficult to understand which of them are worth trying, because of the proliferation of so many different substances.
A lot of Nootropics (another name for Cognitive Enhancers used primarily for substances that give no side effects) are similar and can be sorted in one of the following categories.
See also: How to build the perfect nootropic stack to learn how to stack these cognitive enhancers into a powerful combination.
There are three ways of boosting Acetylcholine in the brain:
Precursors that cross the blood brain barrier, they make a molecule of Choline reach the brain like a trojan horse.
They are CDP-Choline, Alpha-GPC and Centrophenoxine.
Increasing the availability of the precursor is useful it that’s the limiting factor, but it’s not the only way to boost ACh.
Two enzymes are responsible for the levels of Acetylcholine, one raises it, one lowers it.
Choline Acetyltransferase: CHAT catalyzes the reaction between Acetyl-CoA and Choline: it transfers the acetyl group to Choline to produce Acetylcholine. ALCAR increases the activity of CHAT by higher availability of Acetyl-CoA formed by the reaction between CoA and ALCAR.
Acetylcholinesterase: AChE is an enzyme that metabolizes Acetylcholine, reducing its levels, Acetylcholinesterase inhibitors block the activity of the enzyme so that Acetylcholine gets degraded at a lower pace, increasing its level.
Huperzine A is the mayor nootropic in this category. Other drugs with a similar effect are Donepezil (An Alzheimer treatment) and Galantamine.
2. Ampakines (Racetams)
See full article on Aniracetam
AMPAR (AMPA Receptor) is a receptor for the neurotransmitter Glutamate. AMPAR is related to neuroplasticity in the particular form of “Long Term Potentiation”.
LTP is the enhancement in signal transmission between two neurons that are stimulated in the same moment.
Chemical synapses are able to change their strengths and these changes in synaptic strength caused by LTP are thought to be fundamental in the mechanisms of learning and memory.
Ampakines are modulators of AMPA receptors, they amplify the effect of the agonist (the glutamate neurotransmitter) on the receptor (the AMPAR).
All this racetams are sold freely as nutritional supplements. Piracetam is the longest known nootropic in this class and the most studied thus far. It’s also one of the weakest, the effective dose is 5 grams per day, which is a lot compared to Aniracetam, Oxyracetam (600-1500 mg/day), Pramiracetam (100-500 mg/day) and Phenylpiracetam (100-250 mg/day).
There’s also a new kind of Ampakine available: Sunifiram. It is one of the most powerful nootropics(see here and here) and is effective at dosages as little as 10 mg, but it’s really new and we may not know yet all of its side effects, not a lot of studies have been done on it yet.
Neurotrophins are growth factors that stimulate the development of neurons.
They are proteins that signal brain cells to grow.
They prevent neurons from apoptosis (programmed cell death).
Neurotrophins are fundamental to neurogenesis, the creation of new neurons.
We know 4 kinds of Neurotrophin:
-Nerve Growth Factor (NGF)
-Brain Derived Neurotrophic Factor (BDNF)
Peptide nootropics like Noopept are proven to increase NGF and BDNF(see here).
We know three peptide nootropics: Noopept, Semax and Cerebrolysin.
Noopept is the best choice because it’s the only one that’s easily absorbed in the GI tract.
Semax is available only in nasal spray and Cerebrolysin works only if injected ( brrr!).
See full article on B vitamins
B vitamins are the most important vitamin group regarding brain function(see here and here), a lot of nootropics rely on them to work properly, you may not notice nootropic effects, or even have headaches, if you lack some of them and don’t take any supplement. The most important B vitamins, and ingredients of popular B-complex tabs are seven:
Pantothenic Acid (B5)
Folic Acid (B9)
Pyritinol, once inside the blood-brain barrier, splits into two molecules of vitamin B6.
Picamilon is a special one: it’s composed by one molecule of GABA and one of Niacin (B3), after crossing the barrier they divide, giving a boost to your mood as well as your cognition.
Sulbutiamine is an enhanced version of Thiamine, vitamin B1, that totally crosses the blood-brain barrier.
Sulbutiamine improves memory and is also a stimulant.
Although it’s a lot less spoken about thank classic nootropics like racetams and choline, it’s one of the substances with the higher appreciation rate among nootropic users that tried it. The only downside is the fact that it causes tolerance very quickly, the effects are great just for the first few days, then you need to pause it an can restart only when your tolerance returns normal.
5. StimulantsSee full article on Modafinil
See full article on Armodafinil
See full article on Caffeine
Stimulants are the least subtle kind of cognitive enhancers, they increase alertness and focus and they act quickly. Caffeine is the most widespread but more powerful stimulants are available with a prescription: Modafinil, Adderall and Ritalin. Adderall and Ritalin are related to Amphetamine and they have a lot of side effects, they should be used only for diagnosed diseases like ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder) with a prescription.
Modafinil is lighter and has a different mechanism of action. It also has less side effects. It’s prescribed as a cure for narcolepsy, excessive daytime sleepiness and for night shift workers.
Modafinil is very powerful in terms of increased focus, studying 15 hours straight with no pauses is not an exception with it.
Modafinil raises Histamine ( an excitatory neurotransmitter) levels in the hypothalamus and also increases dopamine activity.
Modafinil activates orexin neurons. Orexins are excitatory neuropeptide hormones that promote wakefulness. Lack of orexins is the cause of narcolepsy.
Armodafinil is a chiral, more powerful and safer version of Modafinil.
You can Buy Modafinil and Armodafinil Online.
6. Other Cognitive Enhancers
There are other kinds of cognitive enhancers that cannot go into my classification of 5.
Theanine is one of the active compounds of tea (along with caffeine) and could be more effective with high dosages that you can’t absorb just drinking it. it’s easily found in bulk powder.