Have you ever seen the movie Limitless? Or perhaps you have seen the TV series with the same name. Both shows are based on the use of a nootropic. Also called smart drugs or cognitive enhancers, nootropic is the name given to any substance that can enhance cognitive functions such as memory and concentration within the human brain.
Even if you are unfamiliar with the term nootropic, it is highly likely that you are familiar with the concept that is behind the use of these substances. One of the most-loved beverages of adults is coffee. Coffee contains caffeine which is used to stimulate the brain and make people more alert. This is very similar to what a nootropic does.
Although nootropics have gained in popularity as studying aids to help students to focus and remember the material that they have learned, they are mainly used to treat conditions like ADHD, Alzheimer’s disease, and Parkinson’s disease. They may even be used to motivate and increase mental energy.
Today, the term nootropics is used a bit loosely to refer to any drug that offers cognitive enhancement. So if a drug has the ability to improve memory and concentration, allows you to process and retain information better, or any causes other improvement to your cognitive function, it may be classified as a nootropic. This is why substances such as caffeine are considered nootropics.
What is in Nootropics?
It is quite interesting to note that the term nootropic is not new. It was actually developed in the 1960s by Dr. Giurgea and Dr. Skondia who invented the first nootropic. When they developed the term, they also made a list of criteria required for a substance to be considered a nootropic. As a result, all nootropics should have the following characteristics:
- It must be able to enhance a person’s ability to retain information as well as the aptitude to learn new things.
- Disruptive conditions such as low oxygen (hypoxia) and electroconvulsive shock should not negatively impact the function of the brain.
- It should have very little or no side effects. Additionally, it should not have a tranquillizing effect or cause a feeling of intense euphoria.
- It must protect the brain from being attacked by chemicals.
- The efficiency of neuronal-firing control mechanisms should be enhanced in various regions of the brain.
If you are not a “science person” and you just read those criteria you may be wondering what exactly it all means. But it is quite simple. Nootropics should do a lot of good while having very little to no side effects. This must be some miracle drug, because so many drugs are available today which should perform much simpler tasks but they have the potential of doing a whole lot of damage through their side effects. But it is possible to have drugs with little to no side effects.
You must be wondering which substances can be used to enhance cognitive functions without producing horrible side effects. A nootropic can be produced from natural or synthetic compounds. Natural substances include licorice, fish oil, and grape seed extract among others. The compounds that may be synthesized are just as useful as the natural ones and include oxiracetam, piracetam, and aniracetam among others.
Whether synthetic compounds or natural substances are used in creating a nootropic, the resulting substance is non-toxic and can be used continuously for long periods. This important feature is what differentiates a brain stimulant from a nootropic.