Nootropics are supplements and drugs that can help to give you a cognitive ‘edge’ over the competition. These work in a manner of different ways but are reportedly being used by more and more of the world’s biggest movers and shakers in order to make them more productive, more focussed and more intelligent.
The question is: should you join them?
How Nootropics Work
Different nootropics work in different ways but the ones that will provide a real ‘boost’ in cognition are generally those that act upon the neurotransmitters. They do this by stimulating the brain to produce more chemicals like dopamine (which increases focus, memory and motivation) and norepinephrine. Popular examples include modafinil, Piracetam, armodafinil, l-tyrosine, 5-HTP etc.
This can cause a sudden increase in your wakefulness, your alertness and your concentration. However, what is important to recognize is that these most power nootropics are also the ones that are most likely to have unwanted side effects.
One problem that can be caused when you mess with your brain’s neurotransmitters, is that it can actually have a detrimental effect on some aspects of your brain function. For example, seeing as we are most creative when we are relaxed and allowing our minds to wander, this means that any nootropic that increases attention and focus is also likely to dampen our creativity! Likewise, this can also have other effects throughout the body. Modafinil impacts on orexin for instance and this means that it can also cause changes to your bowel movements. Many people find themselves going to the toilet a LOT when they use modafinil and it can also suppress appetite and prevent you from wanting to eat.
Other Types of Nootropics
But not every nootropic works like this. The more desirable type of nootropic in the long term is always going to be the one that encourages general brain health and supports the natural function of the brain. Very often, these are the natural ingredients that you can find in your diet anyway.
For example, if you consume more omega 3 fatty acid, then this can improve something called ‘cell membrane permeability’. This effectively makes it much easier for nutrients, neurotransmitters and electrical impulses to pass through the wall of the brain cell, thereby speeding up communication across the brain!
Another type of nootropic to look out for is the type that can help to prevent conditions associated with brain aging. For example, any antioxidant can protect the brain from damage from free radicals and thereby prevent the formation of tumors.
Other types of nootropics will even be able to encourage increased brain plasticity. These work by stimulating production of something called BDNF (Brain Derived Neurotrophic Factor). This in turn means that new connections are more likely to form in the brain. While it won’t change the way you feel, it can change the way that your brain learns and adapts and this can have amazing positive effects on your cognition and brain power!