Nootropics, a Greek word meaning ‘Towards the Mind’, are compounds that directly or indirectly enhances cognitive potential.
In the brain, there are neurotransmitters called acetylcholine that bind to cholinergic receptors. The cholinergic theory of brain injuries is that optimization of the neurotransmitter acetylcholine is important. There’s certainly some evidence to support this. This is why a lot of smart drugs and nootropic compounds exist.
Nootropics are supplements that are ingested primarily for its effects on the brain and are often grouped under smart drugs, memory enhancers, neuro enhancers, cognitive enhancers, and intelligence enhancers. They are the drugs, supplements, nutraceuticals and foods that are said to improve certain aspects of mental function. Specific effects can include improvements to working memory, motivation and attention. All of these are present in brain injuries. Many doctors prescribe nootropics during the period of a brain injury.
That all being said, Nootropics have limited studies in humans, and the brain itself is still a very unknown organ. Despite the promise of many of these compounds, a certain degree of caution should be exerted when using them.
The racetams are structurally similar compounds, such as piracetam, anriacetam and others are normally available over the counter as cognitive enhancers. Racetams are often referred to as nootropics, but this property of the drug class is not well established. Many people who have suffered concussions often describe that the racetams help them tremendously.
CDP-choline is a common nootropic and is said to help with brain cognition. It is often used as a “stack” of nootropics. About 1,000mg of CDP-Choline confers 185mg of choline. CDP-Choline is able to increase neural concentrations to a greater degree than choline itself, and supplementation of CDP-Choline also confers a second supplement with cognitive benefits. DMAE (Dimethylethanolamine) is a choline molecule found in fish that boosts mental performance.
Alpha-GPC is 40% choline by weight (1,000mg of Alpha-GPC confers 400mg choline) and is a prodrug for choline. Alpha-GPC has a high choline percentage that is readily absorbed and delivered to the brain.
Both Alpha-GPC and CDP-Choline are forms of choline that are prodrugs for two molecules, choline and something else that helps with membrane production. Although more expensive, both are suitable forms for nootropic purposes.
Amphetamines and Wakefulness Promoting Agents
Following mild traumatic brain injury, there is an increased risk of patients developing standard psychiatric disorders, specific alterations in personality function, and cognitive difficulties, particularly regarding attention. For this reason, medications such as Adderall are sometimes prescribed. Amphetamines such as Adderall and methylphenidate are said to help improve performance on memory, control and task completion.
Problems with staying awake often occur after traumatic brain injuries. Modafinil was made popular by the movie “Limitless.” Some health practitioners will prescribe medications such as Modafinil or Nuvigil to increase alertness, particularly in patients with brain injury and sleep deprivation. Definitely speak to a medical doctor about the risk and benefits of taking Adderall around the time of a concussion.
Caffeine and Nicotine
Substances like caffeine, alcohol and nicotine can affect a person with a brain injury much more than it did before the injury. So remember that the dose makes the poison.
Caffeine has been shown to increase alertness, performance, and, in some studies, memory. Children and adults who consume low doses of caffeine display increased alertness.
I know a lot of people with brain injury rely on coffee to assist throughout the day. I have done the same thing but I have a tip that may be able to help. When you are dealing with a brain injury, don’t drink coffee straight away in the morning. Coffee works great, but only when you need it. Do your best to “carry on” with your morning as long as possible. If you begin to feel the fatigue, then go for the coffee. The caffeine in this instance will work much more efficiently and in smaller doses.
One brand of coffee that is interesting from a nootropic point of view is called Kimera coffee. It actually contains caffeine along with other nootropics (Alpha-GPC, Taurine, L-theanine, and DMAE). And it is from a single estate farm, which is a good thing. And note many UFC and Mixed Martial Arts fighters and other athletes use Kimera coffee, and probably for good reason (athlete and fighters concussions).
Nicotine – Please don’t think that I am advocating smoking here, but it is a fact that nicotine has many positive effects on fine motor abilities, alertness, and memory.
Tianchi creator, Roger Drummer had brain injury in mind when he formulated this product. Many of the herbs found in Tianchi are nootropics. Many patients report a benefit after using Tianchi, just look on their website and Facebook page. And they are known for using very high grade ingredients in their products.
So there you have it a short primer on brain nootropics, but in saying all of this, realize there are no quick fixes for a brain injury. Work with your health care practitioner and make the decision together if you are going to add nootropics to your regimen.