Which brain boosting supplement took home the Editor's Choice Award? We understand how important it is for many individuals to stay alert, focused and on full power all day. Whether you are a busy mom, top IT guru or student, life sometimes needs a boost - smart drugs are the answer, so to help you reach your full potential and shine, we listed our top 5 brain boosting products. To come up with our top products, we evaluated scores of cognitive energy enhancers, from over-the-counter to all natural products. We listed them here in order of superiority and based our research on the following criteria:
“Most people assume that because it’s a supplement, it can’t be bad for you because it’s natural,” says Louis Kraus, M.D., a psychiatrist with Rush University Medical Center in Chicago. In 2016, he chaired a committee that investigated nootropics for the American Medical Association. After reviewing the science, the committee found little to no evidence to support the efficacy or safety of nootropics.
Drugs such as Adderall can cause nervousness, headaches, sleeplessness and decreased appetite, among other side-effects. An FDA warning on Adderall's label notes that "amphetamines have a high potential for abuse" and can lead to dependence. (The label also mentions that adults using Adderall have reported serious cardiac problems, though the role of the drug in those cases is unknown.) Yet college students tend to consider Adderall and Ritalin as benign, in part because they are likely to know peers who have taken the drugs since childhood for ADHD. Indeed, McCabe reports, most students who use stimulants for cognitive enhancement obtain them from an acquaintance with a prescription. Usually the pills are given away, but some students sell them.
Get plenty of sleep.  It can be a real challenge to get seven to nine hours of restful sleep each night with a busy fulltime work schedule, but rest is essential to optimum brain functioning!  A healthy nootropic pill can help to clear up brain fog and sharpen your concentration, but it cannot work miracles.  If you are trying to power through on four to five hours of sleep each night, nothing is going to cut it.
1. Stough, C., Lloyd, J., Clarke, J., Downey, L. A., Hutchison, C. W., Rodgers, T., & Nathan, P. J. (2001). The chronic effects of an extract of Bacopa monniera (Brahmi) on cognitive function in healthy human subjects. Psychopharmacology (Berl), 156(4), 481-484. 2. Ishaque, S., Shamseer, L., Bukutu, C., & Vohra, S. (2012). Rhodiola rosea for physical and mental fatigue: a systematic review. BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine, 12(1), 70. doi:10.1186/1472-6882-12-703. Pase, M. P., Kean, J., Sarris, J., Neale, C., Scholey, A. B., & Stough, C. (2012). The cognitive-enhancing effects of Bacopa monnieri: a systematic review of randomized, controlled human clinical trials. J Altern Complement Med, 18(7), 647-652. doi:10.1089/acm.2011.03674. Raghav, S., Singh, H., Dalal, P. K., Srivastava, J. S., & Asthana, O. P. (2006). Randomized controlled trial of standardized Bacopa monniera extract in age-associated memory impairment. 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High dietary menaquinone intake is associated with reduced coronary calcification. Atherosclerosis, 203(2), 489-493. doi:10.1016/j.atherosclerosis.2008.07.01010. Geleijnse, J. M., Vermeer, C., Grobbee, D. E., Schurgers, L. J., Knapen, M. H., van der Meer, I. M., . . . Witteman, J. C. (2004). Dietary intake of menaquinone is associated with a reduced risk of coronary heart disease: the Rotterdam Study. J Nutr, 134(11), 3100-3105.11. Theuwissen, E., Magdeleyns, E. J., Braam, L. A., Teunissen, K. J., Knapen, M. H., Binnekamp, I. A., . . . Vermeer, C. (2014). Vitamin K status in healthy volunteers. Food Funct, 5(2), 229-234. doi:10.1039/c3fo60464k12. Barros, M. P., Poppe, S. C., & Bondan, E. F. (2014). Neuroprotective properties of the marine carotenoid astaxanthin and omega-3 fatty acids, and perspectives for the natural combination of both in krill oil. Nutrients, 6(3), 1293-1317.13. Pashkow, F. J., Watumull, D. G., & Campbell, C. L. (2008). 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Annweiler, C., Allali, G., Allain, P., Bridenbaugh, S., Schott, A. M., Kressig, R. W., & Beauchet, O. (2009). Vitamin D and cognitive performance in adults: a systematic review. European Journal of Neurology, 16(10), 1083-1089. doi:10.1111/j.1468-1331.2009.02755.x19. Annweiler, C., Montero-Odasso, M., Llewellyn, D. J., Richard-Devantoy, S., Duque, G., & Beauchet, O. (2013). Meta-analysis of memory and executive dysfunctions in relation to vitamin D. J Alzheimers Dis, 37(1), 147-171. doi:10.3233/jad-13045220. Balion, C., Griffith, L. E., Strifler, L., Henderson, M., Patterson, C., Heckman, G., . . . Raina, P. (2012). Vitamin D, cognition, and dementia A systematic review and meta-analysis. Neurology, 79(13), 1397-1405.21. Dean, A. J., Bellgrove, M. A., Hall, T., Phan, W. M. J., Eyles, D. W., Kvaskoff, D., & McGrath, J. J. (2011). Effects of Vitamin D Supplementation on Cognitive and Emotional Functioning in Young Adults – A Randomised Controlled Trial. PLoS One, 6(11), e25966. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.002596622. Etgen, T., Sander, D., Bickel, H., Sander, K., & Forstl, H. (2012). Vitamin D deficiency, cognitive impairment and dementia: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Dement Geriatr Cogn Disord, 33(5), 297-305. doi:10.1159/00033970223. Fontani, G., Corradeschi, F., Felici, A., Alfatti, F., Migliorini, S., & Lodi, L. (2005). Cognitive and physiological effects of Omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acid supplementation in healthy subjects. Eur J Clin Invest, 35(11), 691-699. doi:10.1111/j.1365-2362.2005.01570.x24. Huhn, S., Masouleh, S. K., Stumvoll, M., Villringer, A., & Witte, A. V. (2015). Components of a Mediterranean diet and their impact on cognitive functions in aging. Frontiers in aging neuroscience, 7.25. Bradbury, J. (2011). Docosahexaenoic Acid (DHA): An Ancient Nutrient for the Modern Human Brain. Nutrients, 3(5), 529-554. doi:10.3390/nu305052926. Einother, S. J., & Giesbrecht, T. (2013). Caffeine as an attention enhancer: reviewing existing assumptions. Psychopharmacology (Berl), 225(2), 251-274. doi:10.1007/s00213-012-2917-427. Johnson, L. C., Spinweber, C. L., & Gomez, S. A. (1990). Benzodiazepines and caffeine: effect on daytime sleepiness, performance, and mood. Psychopharmacology (Berl), 101(2), 160-167. 28. Smith, A., Kendrick, A., Maben, A., & Salmon, J. (1994). Effects of breakfast and caffeine on cognitive performance, mood and cardiovascular functioning. Appetite, 22(1), 39-55. doi:10.1006/appe.1994.100429. Smith, A. P., Kendrick, A. M., & Maben, A. L. (1992). Effects of breakfast and caffeine on performance and mood in the late morning and after lunch. Neuropsychobiology, 26(4), 198-204. doi:11892030. Smith, B. D., Davidson, R. A., & Green, R. L. (1993). Effects of caffeine and gender on physiology and performance: further tests of a biobehavioral model. Physiol Behav, 54(3), 415-422. 31. Warburton, D. M. (1995). Effects of caffeine on cognition and mood without caffeine abstinence. Psychopharmacology (Berl), 119(1), 66-70. 32. Wilhelmus, M. M., Hay, J. L., Zuiker, R. G., Okkerse, P., Perdrieu, C., Sauser, J., . . . Silber, B. Y. (2017). Effects of a single, oral 60 mg caffeine dose on attention in healthy adult subjects. J Psychopharmacol, 31(2), 222-232. doi:10.1177/026988111666859333. Fredholm, B. B., Battig, K., Holmen, J., Nehlig, A., & Zvartau, E. E. (1999). Actions of caffeine in the brain with special reference to factors that contribute to its widespread use. Pharmacol Rev, 51(1), 83-133. 34. Borzelleca, J. F., Peters, D., & Hall, W. (2006). A 13-week dietary toxicity and toxicokinetic study with l-theanine in rats. Food Chem Toxicol, 44(7), 1158-1166. doi:10.1016/j.fct.2006.03.01435. Kimura, K., Ozeki, M., Juneja, L. R., & Ohira, H. (2007). L-Theanine reduces psychological and physiological stress responses. Biol Psychol, 74(1), 39-45. doi:10.1016/j.biopsycho.2006.06.00636. Tian, X., Sun, L., Gou, L., Ling, X., Feng, Y., Wang, L., . . . Liu, Y. (2013). Protective effect of l-theanine on chronic restraint stress-induced cognitive impairments in mice. Brain Res, 1503, 24-32. doi:10.1016/j.brainres.2013.01.04837. Unno, K., Fujitani, K., Takamori, N., Takabayashi, F., Maeda, K., Miyazaki, H., . . . Hoshino, M. (2011). Theanine intake improves the shortened lifespan, cognitive dysfunction and behavioural depression that are induced by chronic psychosocial stress in mice. Free Radic Res, 45(8), 966-974. doi:10.3109/10715762.2011.56686938. Unno, K., Tanida, N., Ishii, N., Yamamoto, H., Iguchi, K., Hoshino, M., . . . Yamada, H. (2013). Anti-stress effect of theanine on students during pharmacy practice: positive correlation among salivary alpha-amylase activity, trait anxiety and subjective stress. Pharmacol Biochem Behav, 111, 128-135. doi:10.1016/j.pbb.2013.09.00439. Dodd, F. L., Kennedy, D. O., Riby, L. M., & Haskell-Ramsay, C. F. (2015a). A double-blind, placebo-controlled study evaluating the effects of caffeine and L-theanine both alone and in combination on cerebral blood flow, cognition and mood. Psychopharmacology (Berl), 232(14), 2563-2576. doi:10.1007/s00213-015-3895-040. Rogers, P. J., Smith, J. E., Heatherley, S. V., & Pleydell-Pearce, C. W. (2008). Time for tea: mood, blood pressure and cognitive performance effects of caffeine and theanine administered alone and together. Psychopharmacology (Berl), 195(4), 569-577. doi:10.1007/s00213-007-0938-141. Foxe, J. J., Morie, K. P., Laud, P. J., Rowson, M. J., de Bruin, E. A., & Kelly, S. P. (2012). Assessing the effects of caffeine and theanine on the maintenance of vigilance during a sustained attention task. Neuropharmacology, 62(7), 2320-2327. doi:10.1016/j.neuropharm.2012.01.02042. Giesbrecht, T., Rycroft, J. A., Rowson, M. J., & De Bruin, E. A. (2010). The combination of L-theanine and caffeine improves cognitive performance and increases subjective alertness. Nutr Neurosci, 13(6), 283-290. doi:10.1179/147683010x1261146076484043. Haskell, C. F., Kennedy, D. O., Milne, A. L., Wesnes, K. A., & Scholey, A. B. (2008). The effects of L-theanine, caffeine and their combination on cognition and mood. Biol Psychol, 77(2), 113-122. doi:10.1016/j.biopsycho.2007.09.00844. Kahathuduwa, C. N., Dassanayake, T. L., Amarakoon, A. M., & Weerasinghe, V. S. (2016). Acute effects of theanine, caffeine and theanine-caffeine combination on attention. Nutr Neurosci. doi:10.1080/1028415x.2016.114484545. Owen, G. N., Parnell, H., De Bruin, E. A., & Rycroft, J. A. (2008). The combined effects of L-theanine and caffeine on cognitive performance and mood. Nutr Neurosci, 11(4), 193-198. doi:10.1179/147683008x30151346. Einother, S. J., Martens, V. E., Rycroft, J. A., & De Bruin, E. A. (2010). L-theanine and caffeine improve task switching but not intersensory attention or subjective alertness. Appetite, 54(2), 406-409. doi:10.1016/j.appet.2010.01.00347. Deijen, J. B., van der Beek, E. J., Orlebeke, J. F., & van den Berg, H. (1992). Vitamin B-6 supplementation in elderly men: effects on mood, memory, performance and mental effort. Psychopharmacology (Berl), 109(4), 489-496.48. Lewerin, C., Matousek, M., Steen, G., Johansson, B., Steen, B., & Nilsson-Ehle, H. (2005). Significant correlations of plasma homocysteine and serum methylmalonic acid with movement and cognitive performance in elderly subjects but no improvement from short-term vitamin therapy: a placebo-controlled randomized study. Am J Clin Nutr, 81(5), 1155-1162. 49. Bryan, J., Calvaresi, E., & Hughes, D. (2002). Short-term folate, vitamin B-12 or vitamin B-6 supplementation slightly affects memory performance but not mood in women of various ages. J Nutr, 132(6), 1345-1356. 50. Schneider, Z., & Stroinski, A. (1987). Comprehensive B12: chemistry, biochemistry, nutrition, ecology, medicine: Walter de Gruyter.51. Polich, J., & Gloria, R. (2001). Cognitive effects of a Ginkgo biloba/vinpocetine compound in normal adults: systematic assessment of perception, attention and memory. Hum Psychopharmacol, 16(5), 409-416. doi:10.1002/hup.30852. Subhan, Z., & Hindmarch, I. (1985). Psychopharmacological effects of vinpocetine in normal healthy volunteers. Eur J Clin Pharmacol, 28(5), 567-571. 53. Dollins, A. B., Krock, L. P., Storm, W. F., Wurtman, R. J., & Lieberman, H. R. (1995). L-tyrosine ameliorates some effects of lower body negative pressure stress. Physiol Behav, 57(2), 223-230. 54. Shurtleff, D., Thomas, J. R., Schrot, J., Kowalski, K., & Harford, R. (1994). Tyrosine reverses a cold-induced working memory deficit in humans. Pharmacol Biochem Behav, 47(4), 935-941. 55. Brzezinski, A., Vangel, M. G., Wurtman, R. J., Norrie, G., Zhdanova, I., Ben-Shushan, A., & Ford, I. (2005). Effects of exogenous melatonin on sleep: a meta-analysis. Sleep Med Rev, 9(1), 41-50. 56. Ferracioli-Oda, E., Qawasmi, A., & Bloch, M. H. (2013). Meta-Analysis: Melatonin for the Treatment of Primary Sleep Disorders. PLoS One, 8(5), e63773. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.006377357. Inagawa, K., Hiraoka, T., Kohda, T., Yamadera, W., & Takahashi, M. (2006). Subjective effects of glycine ingestion before bedtime on sleep quality. Sleep and Biological Rhythms, 4(1), 75-77. doi:10.1111/j.1479-8425.2006.00193.x58. Bannai, M., Kawai, N., Ono, K., Nakahara, K., & Murakami, N. (2012). The Effects of Glycine on Subjective Daytime Performance in Partially Sleep-Restricted Healthy Volunteers. Front Neurol, 3, 61. doi:10.3389/fneur.2012.0006159. Yamadera, W., Inagawa, K., Chiba, S., Bannai, M., Takahashi, M., & Nakayama, K. (2007). Glycine ingestion improves subjective sleep quality in human volunteers, correlating with polysomnographic changes. Sleep and Biological Rhythms, 5(2), 126-131. doi:10.1111/j.1479-8425.2007.00262.x60. Tuli, H. S., Kashyap, D., Sharma, A. K., & Sandhu, S. S. (2015). 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The Lynches said that Provigil was a classic example of a related phenomenon: mission creep. In 1998, Cephalon, the pharmaceutical company that manufactures it, received US government approval to market the drug but only for "excessive daytime sleepiness" due to narcolepsy; by 2004, Cephalon had obtained permission to expand the labelling so that it included sleep apnoea and "shift-work sleep disorder". Net sales of Provigil climbed from $196m in 2002 to $988m in 2008.
Eat a healthy diet.  While the best nootropic supplements can help fuel your brain, they cannot fill every gap in your diet.  If you want your brain to function at its best, a healthy, nutritious, varied diet is essential.  Make sure that you are eating fatty fish and foods fortified with DHA omega-3 fatty acids.  Get plenty of vitamin E and antioxidants like lutein.
Take at 10 AM; seem a bit more active but that could just be the pressure of the holiday season combined with my nice clean desk. I do the chores without too much issue and make progress on other things, but nothing major; I survive going to The Sitter without too much tiredness, so ultimately I decide to give the palm to it being active, but only with 60% confidence. I check the next day, and it was placebo. Oops.

In her new book, Brain Food: The Surprising Science of Eating for Cognitive Power (Avery/ Penguin Random House), Dr. Lisa Mosconi, PhD, INHC, Associate Director of the Alzheimer’s Prevention Clinic at Weill Cornell Medical College, highlights the connection between diet and brain function and shares approachable, actionable tips to put that research into practice.


More than once I have seen results indicating that high-IQ types benefit the least from random nootropics; nutritional deficits are the premier example, because high-IQ types almost by definition suffer from no major deficiencies like iodine. But a stimulant modafinil may be another such nootropic (see Cognitive effects of modafinil in student volunteers may depend on IQ, Randall et al 2005), which mentions:
Taking the tryptophan is fairly difficult. The powder as supplied by Bulk Nutrition is extraordinarily dry and fine; it seems to be positively hydrophobic. The first time I tried to swallow a teaspoon, I nearly coughed it out - the power had seemed to explode in my mouth and go down my lungs. Thenceforth I made sure to have a mouth of water first. After a while, I took a different tack: I mixed in as much Hericium as would fit in the container. The mushroom powder is wetter and chunkier than the tryptophan, and seems to reduce the problem. Combining the mix with chunks of melatonin inside a pill works even better.

Though coffee gives instant alertness and many cups of the beverage are downed throughout the day, the effect lasts only for a short while. People who drink coffee every day may develop caffeine tolerance; this is the reason why it is still important to control your daily intake. It is advisable that an individual should not consume more than 300mg of coffee a day. Caffeine, the world’s favourite nootropic has very less side effects but if consumed abnormally high can result in nausea, restlessness, nervousness and hyperactivity. This is the reason why people who need increased sharpness would rather induce L-theanine, or some other Nootropic, along with caffeine. Today, you can find various smart drugs that contain caffeine in them. OptiMind , one of the best and most sought-after nootropic in the U.S, containing caffeine, is considered more effective and efficient when compared to other focus drugs present in the market today.
Dr Hart talked through food intolerance tests that are available through a number of well known companies, including York Test for whom she is Scientific Director. A possible strategy could be to use such testing to identify intolerances, follow an elimination protocol, temporarily removing on foods triggering an IgG response; and then work to improve your gut health to support longer term well-being. Foods that are rich in collagen and its amino acids, like glycine and proline, are great for healing connective tissue, which is what the intestines are made up of. A traditional food, rich in these amino acids, that has made its way into our kitchens again after rediscovering its therapeutic properties is bone broth. Another example of a group of traditional foods that can be used therapeutically in building digestive health, are fermented foods such as kefir, sauerkraut and kimchi. These are abundant in probiotics, which are the ‘good’ bacteria our digestive system needs to help keep a good balance and protect the intestinal barrier from pathogens, toxins and parasites. Once these foods have been introduced on an everyday basis along with eating a healthy nutrient-dense diet and the possible use of supplements to help restore balance, you may be able to reintroduce foods that were previously triggering an IgG response carefully, one at a time, whilst monitoring symptoms.
When comparing supplements, consider products with a score above 90% to get the greatest benefit from smart pills to improve memory. Additionally, we consider the reviews that users send to us when scoring supplements, so you can determine how well products work for others and use this information to make an informed decision. Every month, our editor puts her name on that month’s best smart bill, in terms of results and value offered to users.
The difference in standard deviations is not, from a theoretical perspective, all that strange a phenomenon: at the very beginning of this page, I covered some basic principles of nootropics and mentioned how many stimulants or supplements follow a inverted U-curve where too much or too little lead to poorer performance (ironically, one of the examples in Kruschke 2012 was a smart drug which did not affect means but increased standard deviations).
One thing to notice is that the default case matters a lot. This asymmetry is because you switch decisions in different possible worlds - when you would take Adderall but stop you’re in the world where Adderall doesn’t work, and when you wouldn’t take Adderall but do you’re in the world where Adderall does work (in the perfect information case, at least). One of the ways you can visualize this is that you don’t penalize tests for giving you true negative information, and you reward them for giving you true positive information. (This might be worth a post by itself, and is very Litany of Gendlin.)
Armodafinil is sort of a purified modafinil which Cephalon sells under the brand-name Nuvigil (and Sun under Waklert21). Armodafinil acts much the same way (see the ADS Drug Profile) but the modafinil variant filtered out are the faster-acting molecules22. Hence, it is supposed to last longer. as studies like Pharmacodynamic effects on alertness of single doses of armodafinil in healthy subjects during a nocturnal period of acute sleep loss seem to bear out; anecdotally, it’s also more powerful, with Cephalon offering pills with doses as low as 50mg. (To be technical, modafinil is racemic: it comes in two forms which are rotations, mirror-images of each other. The rotation usually doesn’t matter, but sometimes it matters tremendously - for example, one form of thalidomide stops morning sickness, and the other rotation causes hideous birth defects.)
(As I was doing this, I reflected how modafinil is such a pure example of the money-time tradeoff. It’s not that you pay someone else to do something for you, which necessarily they will do in a way different from you; nor is it that you have exchanged money to free yourself of a burden of some future time-investment; nor have you paid money for a speculative return of time later in life like with many medical expenses or supplements. Rather, you have paid for 8 hours today of your own time.)
Autism BDNF Brain brain fuel brain health Brain Injury Cholesterol choline DAI DHA Diabetes digestion Exercise Fat Functional Medicine gastric Gluten gut-brain Gut Brain Axis gut health Health intestinal permeability keto Ketogenic leaky Gut Learning Medicine Metabolism Music Therapy neurology Neuroplasticity neurorehabilitation Nutrition omega Paleo Physical Therapy Recovery Science second brain superfood synaptogenesis TBI Therapy tube feed uridine
All of the coefficients are positive, as one would hope, and one specific factor (MR7) squeaks in at d=0.34 (p=0.05). The graph is much less impressive than the graph for just MP, suggesting that the correlation may be spread out over a lot of factors, the current dataset isn’t doing a good job of capturing the effect compared to the MP self-rating, or it really was a placebo effect:
He recommends a 10mg dose, but sublingually. He mentions COLURACETAM’s taste is more akin to that of PRAMIRACETAM than OXIRACETAM, in that it tastes absolutely vile (not a surprise), so it is impossible to double-blind a sublingual administration - even if I knew of an inactive equally-vile-tasting substitute, I’m not sure I would subject myself to it. To compensate for ingesting the coluracetam, it would make sense to double the dose to 20mg (turning the 2g into <100 doses). Whether the effects persist over multiple days is not clear; I’ll assume it does not until someone says it does, since this makes things much easier.
I take my piracetam in the form of capped pills consisting (in descending order) of piracetam, choline bitartrate, anhydrous caffeine, and l-tyrosine. On 8 December 2012, I happened to run out of them and couldn’t fetch more from my stock until 27 December. This forms a sort of (non-randomized, non-blind) short natural experiment: did my daily 1-5 mood/productivity ratings fall during 8-27 December compared to November 2012 & January 2013? The graphed data29 suggests to me a decline:

As far as anxiety goes, psychiatrist Emily Deans has an overview of why the Kiecolt-Glaser et al 2011 study is nice; she also discusses why fish oil seems like a good idea from an evolutionary perspective. There was also a weaker earlier 2005 study also using healthy young people, which showed reduced anger/anxiety/depression plus slightly faster reactions. The anti-stress/anxiolytic may be related to the possible cardiovascular benefits (Carter et al 2013).
Before taking any supplement or chemical, people want to know if there will be long term effects or consequences, When Dr. Corneliu Giurgea first authored the term “nootropics” in 1972, he also outlined the characteristics that define nootropics. Besides the ability to benefit memory and support the cognitive processes, Dr. Giurgea believed that nootropics should be safe and non-toxic.
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