Most of us take nutritional supplements in one form or another for better health, hair, skin, joints and so on, but did you know that you can also take supplements to improve your memory?
My first exposure to the field of “Cognitive Enhancement” was while watching the Tonight Show in the late 70’s. Two researches were being interviewed during which time one commented that the following 3 drugs/supplements were known to improve memory. He listed the following,
Both hydergine and diapid are prescription medications however Choline is a natural supplement that is readily available.
This piqued my interest and was the beginning of a now 30+ year experimentation with a variety of Nootropics, otherwise known as Brain Supplements. In a moment I will list several of the more common and effective nootropic supplements but first I would like to give just a bit of history.
I am a naturally bright and creative guy (if I must say so myself),,, but I am also dyslexic. Probably as a result of my dyslexia I have learned to commit things to memory that other people would simply take for granted because it is quick and easy for them to read it again. I’m also not very patient,, at least with myself and so I want to learn and remember something quickly. And finally,, knowledge is power and I also happen to think that it’s kind of sexy. So I place a high value on intelligence.
That being said, I began my neuro supplementation testing with a supplement called Phosphatidylcholine. Phosphatidylcholine is found naturally in egg yolks, soybeans and a variety of other sources. From here I branched into phosphatidylserine and eventually supplements in the racetam family which I will describe below.
Phosphatidylcholine is the precursor molecule for a neurotransmitter called acetyichline which is involved in many functions including muscle control and memory. Choline must be supplied through the diet and is abundant in egg yolks and soybeans.
Multiple placebo controlled studies have shown that Phosphatidylcholene has a positive effect on “explicit memory” (things which we intentionally try to remember).
“With 25 g of PCh, which supplies 3.75 g of choline, significant improvement in explicit memory, as measured by a serial learning task, was observed at 90 min postingestion and slight improvement was observed at 60 min postigestion. Further analyses indicated that this improvement may have been due to the responses of slow learners. This is the first study to test the relationship between a single dose of PCh and explicit memory on normal human subjects.” Source: PubMed
Personal Note: My first experimentation was with Choline, Phosphatidylcholine and Lecithin, 3 very similar substance usually occurring together with slight differences. I was impressed with the effect and was sure to supplement with choline prior to any exam or other mentally challenging events.
Phosphatidylserine is a chemical which can be produced in the body or obtained from foods. Research has shown that phosphatidylserine has a positive effect on age related memory decline and also for improving memory skills in young people. In supplement form, phosphatidylserine has also been shown to be beneficial to mood and quality of sleep.
Personal Note: I have experimented with phosphatidylserine on several occasions but found the personal benefit to be slight and (for me) not worth the expense. I have however read multiple reviews of others who have found this supplement beneficial for both memory and mood.
Huperzine A is a supplement extracted from a plant called Chinese club moss. Huperzine A is sometimes referred to as a drug because it is provide in a highly purified from. Huperzine A is thought to be beneficial to memory because it leads to an increase in levels of acetylcholine (a neurotransmitter)
Personal note: I currently use Huperzine A as an aid in dream recall. We all dream but often are not able to recall the dream. I am a lucid dreamer and specifically use Huperzine A to recall my lucid dreams.
DMAE is an amino acid which is a precursor to choline and may help to elevate levels of the neurotransmitter acetylcholine. As such it may help to improve memory, mood and has even been used for treating ADHD.
Personal note: I was not overly impressed with DMAE during my own trials however we all react differently to supplements. Considering that DMAE is very safe (side effects are rare) you may find it to be of benefit to you. Salmon, sardines and anchovies are excellent natural sources of DMAE
Racetams are a class of nootropic drugs which are available without a prescription and are perhaps the most effective and popular cognitive enhancers available today. I have personally used each of the racetams described below. Currently I am stacking piracetam with choline bitartrate. This is a fairly potent nootropic stack for achieving mental focus and clarity. I find that this helps me at work to stay on track with less mental wandering and distraction.
Any of the racetams can be purchased in tablet form or as a bulk powder. If using in powder form you should be aware that the flavor is a bit tart and may be difficult for some to handle. Personally I’m used to it but mixing with orange juice can make it much more palatable.
Piracetam is water soluble, fairly quick acting and was the first of the racetams to be discovered. Piracetam has been marketed under the trade name "Nootropil" where it is a popular nootropic. As stated above, this is part of my current nootropic stack.
Aniracetam is a fat soluble racetam which is sold in Europe as a prescription drug but available in most other countries without. Aniracetam has been tested extensively in Alzheimer patients and has been shown to improve memory. In spite of being fat soluble, Aniracetam has a short half-life and thus the benefits may be short lived.
Oxiracetam is another water soluble racetam which is capable of crossing the blood/brain barrier. I had read in the past that this specific racetam may improve communication between both hemispheres of the brain and as such was of interest to people with dyslexia. I was only mildly impressed with the results during my test of this racetam however this was before I had learned of the synergistic effect of combining racetams with choline sources
The following quote in reference to oxiracetam is from Wikipedia:
"Research shows oxiracetam improves hippocampally-mediated learning performance by increasing membrane-bound PKC. When compared to control mice, oxiracetam-treated DBA mice demonstrated a significant increase in spatial learning performance as determined by the Morris task"
Side effects from any of the racetams are few however higher doses may lead to excitability. Generally side effects are said to be mild and short lived.
The cognitive enhances described above are only a few of the many currently available and being experimented with. Research is often lacking because many of these supplements/drugs are beyond the patent expiration period and as such drug companies have little financial benefit. Therefore personal experimentation and anecdotal evidence as shared here and in many sites across the net are often the best sources of information.
Even so,,, it can honestly be said that beyond nootropics, perhaps the best memory enhancer is a good diet and fitness program coupled with a good night’s rest. In his excellent book Ultra Mind, Dr. Mark Hyman describes the proven correlation between fitness and intelligence. Therefore if you are serious about improving your mental performance, get physical. But if you feel that you need a bit more mental focus then perhaps nootropics are for you.
Final note: My current personal nootropic stack is piracetam mixed with choline bitartrate for improved mental performance during the day. At night time its Huperzine A also stacked with choline bitartrate. The night stack is only for dream recall on weekends. Next on the horizon I will be testing Pramiracetam stacked with CDP-choline. This is considered to be a potent nootropic stack however I will reserve comments until I have personal experience.
I also have some galantamine on order to assist with lucid dreaming and I'm anxious to give it a shot however that is another story.
Thanks for reading,