- 1 Nootropics – the Ultimate Solution for Improving Memory and Learning
Nootropics – the Ultimate Solution for Improving Memory and Learning
There are many different benefits to nootropics, but improving learning and memory is one of the most common and well-studied uses of them. In fact, these qualities are almost a prerequisite for a substance to be considered a true nootropic, in the strictest sense of the term. In other words, many of the best nootropics for memory are in fact the best nootropics period.
While there are certain ways of improving memory and learning through things like improved sleep, diet, and behavioral/training methodologies, at the end of the day nootropics and nootropic-like substances are the most promising. Many nootropics now are under investigation to alleviate memory impairments associated with Alzheimer’s, brain injury, and other neurodegenerative conditions, and the current research is very promising.
However, I don’t intend promote nootropics as a cure for people with severe memory impairments caused by neurodegenerative diseases. There is very strong evidence that they can enhance memory and learning in healthy people with equal efficacy, and that will be the focus of this post.
List of the Best Nootropics For Memory
Uridine is a nucleoside (a component of the nucleic acids DNA and RNA) that is found ubiquitously in nature. Uridine is produced in our own bodies and serves many critical roles in the brain. It is commonly supplemented for its unique benefits to brain function, which include constructing new neuronal structures and long-term upregulation of dopamine.
Uridine is not considered an essential nutrient since it is produced in our own bodies, however when supplemented it is able to easily cross the blood-brain barrier and confer additional benefits1https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/1138930. Therefore, it is of considerable interest in the nootropics and medical community alike.
Uridine has been demonstrated to cause improvements in learning and memory2https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S10747427030002483https://www.fasebj.org/doi/abs/10.1096/fj.08-112425, which includes increased spatial short term memory, recognition, recall, attention, and executive functions4https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22432687.
Citicoline (cytidine diphosphate-choline, also called CDP-Choline), is a drug that is supplemented to raise levels of acetylcholine in the brain. Cticoline is one of the most effective and well-researched nootropics available, and is a capable nootropic drug on its own right.
Citicoline has been shown to enhance acetylcholine synthesis5www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/01616412.1995.11740327 as well as dopamine and norepinephrine6www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17171187.
Citicoline is a neuroprotective agent that has been shown to improve learning and memory performance6www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17171187. It has also been shown to potentiate neuroplastic mechanisms6www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17171187, which means it strengthens the brains ability to form synapses. This ability of citicoline to strengthen neuroplasticity is actually quite significant this can lead to beneficial changes in the functioning of the brain over the long-term.
Alpha-GPC (L-Alpha glycerylphosphorylcholine) is a naturally occurring nutrient that is a powerhouse among cholinergic compounds. When supplemented, it’s been shown to elevate levels of acetylcholine in the brain7www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/37097928www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/0091305791900409.
When compared to citicoline, another strong cholinergic, Alpha-GPC has an even higher rate of bioavailability. Alpha-GPC has been shown to rapidly deliver a large amount of choline across the blood brain barrier, with a much smaller dose. This indicates an even greater potential for acetylcholine synthesis than citicoline9europepmc.org/abstract/med/1428296, which is impressive.
Alpha-GPC has been shown to improve learning and memory in amnesiac rats31https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/009130579190040944https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/1574535. In humans, Alpha-GPC supplementation demonstrated “significant enhancements in a wide variety of memory and executive control functions, including working memory (e.g., n-back task), verbal memory and learning (e.g., recall a list of words), and maze pathway learning.”45https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4536529/
Acetylcarnitine is the acetylated form of l-carnitine, and in this form it provides more stimulatory and nootropic effects than l-carnitine by itself. This is due to the addition of an acetyl group, which allows it to more easily to cross the blood brain barrier.
ALCAR is an incredible nootropic. In many ways it is the epitome of a true nootropic: it has incredibly powerful neuroprotective qualities by preventing damage from oxidative stress, alcohol, and the cognitive decline associated with aging9http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/2070868110http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/1219915511https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/1564111012https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21782933. It also enhances cognition13https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/2009822614http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17658628, improves attention15https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12213433, and is well-tolerated.
While not typically thought of as cholinergic, it is able to promote acetylcholine synthesis in the brain through a indirect mechanisms
There have been numerous studies which have confirmed ALCARs ability to rapidly raise levels of ACh in the brain16https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/030439408990826417https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/BF0097374918https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/0028390885900942.
Huperzine-A is a naturally occurring alkaloid that is used to raise acetylcholine (ACh) levels in the brain. However, unlike other cholinergic compounds, Huperzine-A has a very different mechanism of action.
Unlike others neurotransmitters such as dopamine and serotonin, acetylcholine is not reuptaken into the synapses but is instead broken down by the enzyme acetylcholinesterase (AChE). Huperzine-A works by significantly inhibiting AChE19www.nature.com/articles/nsb0197-57 for long periods of time, which indirectly leads to higher levels of circulating ACh in the brain. Additionally, it promotes neurogenesis20www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/2345443321https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0091305706000840, which is the formation of new neurons. It’s ability to cause neurogenesis is reflected by a significant increase in levels of NGF, BDNF, and TGF-β127https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0091305706000840.
Huperzine-A has sufficient research to demonstrate that it can notably improve memory and learning23https://journals.lww.com/neuroreport/Abstract/1996/12200/Huperzine_A,_a_novel_promising.20.aspx24https://europepmc.org/abstract/med/1067812125https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S009130570300111426http://jpet.aspetjournals.org/content/288/2/814.short27https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S009130570600084028https://europepmc.org/abstract/med/1126325029http://psycnet.apa.org/record/1996-30020-001, which is due to a combination of its neurotrophic and ACh-elevating effects.
Bacopa Monnieri is a nootropic herb with a history of medicinal use in India (Ayurvedic medicine) with strong adaptogenic and nootropic properties.
Bacopa has demonstrated immense potential for preventing cognitive disorders, and causes cognitive enhancement in both healthy people30www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3746283/ and the elderly37www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18611150. In terms of cognitive enhancement, it appears to most strongly enhance memory32www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/2059048033www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/1209360134www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/1868385235www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/2070334336www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/1149872737www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18611150.
Piracetam is one of the oldest nootropics substances out there and serves as the basis for the definition of a nootropic drug.
Like many other racetams, Piracetam effects the acetylcholine system38 www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/0024320581906858, which is implicated in regulating memory, learning, and attention. For this reason, it is recommended to take a choline precursor supplement so that your ACh levels do not get depleted when using Piracetam39patents.google.com/patent/US20090176740A1/en.
Piracetam has been shown to improve short and long-term memory retrieval40https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/3522510, improve short-term memory and attention41https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12806565, improve spatial working memory42https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9533177, and significantly enhance memory retention when combined with citicoline43https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/2392950.
Piracetam increases neuronal excitation via increased glutaminergic signaling, specifically at the AMPA receptor45pubs.acs.org/doi/abs/10.1021/jm901905j46link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10578-007-0084-347www.researchgate.net/publication/7315745_Piracetam–an_old_drug_with_novel_properties. It is also a neuroprotective agent47www.researchgate.net/publication/7315745_Piracetam–an_old_drug_with_novel_properties49link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10517-016-3241-5, and prevents against glutamate-induced neurotoxicity49link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10517-016-3241-550link.springer.com/article/10.1007/BF03033327, which is among its most promising features.
Pramiracetam is one of the most interesting racetam drugs out there, as it has very little effect on overall mood. Strictly speaking, it is one of the closest drugs that resembles the definition of a true nootropic; its primary effects are improving memory and learning, as well as providing neuroprotection.
Pramiracetam seems to exclusively works on the acetylcholine system22www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/2987637, with seemingly no effect on other neurotransmitters in the brain21https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1002/ddr.430030503.
In regards to it’s cholinergic properties, it appears to primarily enhance hippocampal cholinergic neuronal activity in the brain22www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/298763721https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1002/ddr.430030503, and this effect looks even stronger in the hippocampus when compared to piracetam51https://link.springer.com/article/10.2165/11319230-000000000-00000. It also seems to have a stronger demand for high-affinity choline uptake (HACU), which ultimately results in an acceleration of acetylcholine turnover22www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/298763721https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1002/ddr.430030503.
Pramiracetam has been shown to significantly improve objective memory52www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/1865300153www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/2765166, as well as improved measures of delayed recall, spatial learning, and long-term memory54www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/308866655europepmc.org/abstract/med/147387956https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/3088666. It has also been shown to significantly improve delayed recall in young males with brain injuries57https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/1786500, and reduce scopolamine-induced memory deficits58https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15374306.
Where to Purchase Nootropics
All the nootropics mentioned in this post may be purchased at Nootropics Depot.
I recommend Nootropics Depot because they have been around for a long time and have maintained a solid reputation. They have excellent quality control metrics: they do in-house testing as well as independent 3rd-party testing, and they have certificates of analysis available for all of their products.