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Like Bradley Cooper in Limitless with his mysterious pill that enables the user to access 100% of his brain’s abilities, we can only dream that one day we can take something similar (legal of course). But is there a supplement or compound we could be taking now to boost our brainpower? Let’s find out!

Nootropic also known as ‘cognitive enhancers, smart drugs, brain boosters, memory boosters, neuroenhancers, drive drugs, study drugs’ are drugs that have been studied since the 1970s which some people use in an attempt to improve memory, increase mental alertness and concentration as well as boost energy levels and wakefulness.

There are many different nootropics. Many require a prescription and are designed to treat conditions such as narcolepsy and attention disorders, such as ADHD. However, some healthy people use these drugs in an attempt to improve their cognitive performance. The most common though which you can pick up easily is caffeine, which acts as a stimulant which can keep us mentally focused and awake.

While nootropics may help temporarily mask fatigue, procrastination, or boredom, they do not make people more intelligent and their effects only last as long as the drug remains in the body. So, no Limitless effects just yet.

How do they work?

Researchers are still not 100% certain on how nootropics work to stimulate the mind, but early research shows they may act on a variety of different systems within the body all at once. One explanation is that they may increase blood flow to the brain, which allows the brain to use more oxygen.

Some nootropics may raise the body’s adrenalin levels and produce effects similar to drinking large amounts of caffeine, which means people can stay awake for extended periods of time. While some drugs increase the amount of certain chemicals (neurotransmitters) such as dopamine, which are released in the part of the brain associated with dependence. All come with their list of side effects.

Types of Nootropics

The drugs often used to enhance cognition can generally be divided into 3 groups: Eugaroics, ADHD medications and Nootropic Supplements.

  • Eugeroics – Eugeroics are a class of drugs that promote wakefulness and alertness. The most commonly used Eugeroic drug that is used to improve cognition is Modafinil.
  • ADHD medications – Stimulants are believed to work by increasing dopamine levels in the brain. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter associated with motivation, pleasure, attention, and movement. For many people with ADHD, stimulant medications boost concentration and focus while reducing hyperactive and impulsive behaviors.
  • Nootropic supplements – Certain B vitamins, fish oil and herbal supplements (such as Gingko Biloba and extracts of Waterhyssop) may offer a safer option to pharmaceutical drugs to enhance cognitive performance. The benefits may not be as immediate but the effects are reportedly much longer lasting.

Over the counter options

  • Caffeine – no more than 400mg per day
  • L-theanine – an amino acid that occurs in black and green teas. People can also take l-theanine supplements.
  • Omega-3 fatty acids – among the most well-known and well-studied mental enhancers.
  • Creatine – Creatine is an amino acid, which is a building block of protein may have some effects on mental ability

As with any supplement, there is a risk of side effects and interactions with medications. You should speak with your GP about the safety of any supplement before taking it.

Many doctors agree that the best way to boost brain function is to get adequate sleep, exercise regularly, eat a healthy diet, and manage stress.

Though for people who want to boost their cognitive function, nootropic supplements may help, in some cases.

This blog is designed to be informative and educational. It is not intended to provide specific medical advice or replace advice from your medical practitioner.