Examples of Brain Drugs
"Smart drugs" of various types are often referred
to as nootropics, and include cognitive and memory enhancers.
They come in the form of pharmaceutical drugs, nutritional supplements,
and what are sometimes called "functional foods." They
can work in a variety of ways, including altering the supply
of neurotransmitters, enzymes, and hormones in the brain, increasing
oxygen in the brain, or stimulating nerve growth over time.
Given the difficulty of defining and quantifying cognition
abilities and intelligence, the research done on these brain
drugs is often found to be lacking. This does not mean that these
substances don't work. Many of them probably do have real effects
on the brain, but the evidence is still being compiled. I have
used Piracetam, for example, and found that I was able to focus
and write more than I had ever written in a day. You can read
bout that here: Piracetam - My Experience.
Here are a few other brain drugs that have some evidence for
Phosphotidyl Serine (PS)
This substance has been shown in clinical studies to increase
lucidity and rate of learning, as well as improve memory.
How does it do this? By activating cell-to-cell communication,
helping regulate cell growth, improving the functioning of the
special receptors found on cells, and preparing cells for activity.
It is also thought to reverse memory decline, and guess what?
Phosphatidylserine has no known adverse side effects.
This is an extract derived from an alkaloid found in the Periwinkle
Plant, and is used as a cerebral vasodilator. In other words,
it increases blood flow to the brain, which improves its oxygenation
and thereby increases mental alertness and acuity. Research suggests
that it may be the most powerful memory enhancer available to
Vinpocetine acts on both the circulatory system and the
brain's metabolism to enhance cognitive function. The increased
blood flow that it causes allows for more oxygen and glucose
uptake by brain and nerve cells, and this nourishes brain
cells, preventing cell death from lack of oxygen.
As an extra benefit, Vinpocetine has also been shown to improve
micro-circulation in the eyes, which may help maintain healthy
vision and assist with healing eye related disorders.
If you want to try these supplements, you can probably find
them at your local health-food store. Otherwise you can probably
get them online from one of the advertisers on this page.
Most new "brain drugs" being developed are targeting
one area of brain function: memory. Pop a pill and have better
memory. Sounds nice, doesn't it? Apparently so, because that's
where the research dollars of the pharmaceutical companies are
going. The research concentrates on creating compounds that either
preserve function, which are useful in treating or preventing
aging-related memory decline, or compounds that actually enhance
Aplyasia Californicus, or the common California Sea Snail,
is playing a key role in the development of these brain drugs.
It has large neurons, and very few of them, making it possible
to identify individual nerve cells that are responsible for specific
behaviors. The snail, and humans, both use a neural messenger
called cyclic AMP, which modulates a protein called CREB, which,
in turn forms memories by reshaping synapses. So AMP levels affect
the brains ability to remodel it's synapses.
Without getting into more details, the bottom line of the
snail research, and the follow-up testing on rats, is several
new drugs in the works. Memory Pharmaceuticals' MEM1414, for
example, seems to enhance the brain's long-term memory functions,
and may make it to market soon. There are similar drugs being
developed by this and other companies, like Sention and Cortex
Pharmaceuticals. Questions still to be answered for all of these
products include prices and whether the side effects will be
a problem. While you are waiting, you may want to try Ginkgo
Biloba, a cheap natural alternative that has a fair amount of
research showing memory and other brain function benefits.
Brain drugs to help increase intelligence or general brain
power are less common, but there is one that is available at
the nearest coffee shop. Caffeine has been shown repeatedly to
improve brain function temporarily. Students score higher on
tests after a cup of coffee, and I can tell you without a doubt,
that my chess game improves after any caffeine-containing drink.
I can also verify that the long-term effects of over-use can
be very bad (at least for me).
Ginkgo, as mentioned above, may help overall brain function,
since it has been shown to increase blood flow to the brain.
(2011 Note: Recent studies contradict earlier research showing
increased blood flow to the brain.)
Students in South America are known to eat several Brazil-Nuts
before exams, believing that the amino acids in them are beneficial
(I'm not aware of any research on this, however). One advantage
of the natural intelligence-boosters is that they are probably
safer than the pharmaceutical brain drugs will turn out to be.