People use nootropic supplements for a number of reasons. Students may feel they need a little extra help to cram for their exams, and shift workers sometimes use them to try and maintain their focus at work.
Business men and women may use them during brainstorming sessions. The situations where nootropics may be deemed useful are too many to list.
However, trying to think smarter is not the only reason people turn to nootropics, some users hope the use of such cognitive-enhancing supplements will provide protection against dementia, Alzheimer's disease, and other conditions that can often afflict an ageing brain.
The Ageing Brain
As we grow older changes occur in the body. It's a sad fact of life, but it's true. The hair starts to grey, the metabolism may slow down, and bones may start to become brittle.
However, for many people the idea of dementia and other mental problems is a far more worrying prospect.
Our brains are ageing every second of the day. Lipofuscin and other damaging toxins can build up in the brain cells and, as time passes, neurons become less responsive and start to lose their fluidity.
Alcohol, drugs (including some prescription medications), and oxidative stress can further increase the likelihood of premature cell death.
It's not a pleasant thought and one of the worst things about it is the signs of an ageing brain are not as easy to detect as greying hair or age spots.
It's hard to take steps to rectify a problem if you don't know that it’s there, but many people believe nootropics can be a useful preventative medicine and a valuable restorative.
Changes That Are All in Your Head
Declining grey matter is one of the most worrying problems people face as they grow older.
Grey matter is an important part of the central nervous system and its decline can lead to problems with muscle control and coordination, memory loss, and problems with the sight, speech, and emotions.
Healthy grey matter is also believed to be necessary for performing mathematical tasks and for problem solving and reasoning abilities.
A reduction in grey matter can also lead to a number of other problems including:
- Reduced permeability of the cell membranes
- Retarded electricall conductivity (slows the thought process)
- Lower serotonin and glutamate levels (effecting appetite, mood, sleep, memory, and learning abilities)
- Less efficient neurotransmitters (further slows the thought process and effects the memory)
In fact the decline of one neurotransmitter in particular (acetylcholine) is believed to be a major contributing factor in Alzheimer's disease.
It all sounds pretty grim, but there may be a light at the end of the tunnel because many experts believe racetam nootropics, such as Piracetam or Aniracetam, can boost learning capacity and memory function and help protect against the effects of an ageing brain.
Battling the Toxins with Nootropics
Brain function-impairing toxins and impurities, such as free radicals, may come from the food we eat or from the environment around us.
The body does its best to purge itself, but the toxins can still accumulate over a period of time.
In fact those ugly “liver spots”, some people get on their skin as they age, are caused by a toxin called lipofuscin and it also causes age spots in the brain.
When lipofuscin builds up in the brain tissue it can retard the cell repair process, leading to premature neuron death, but some studies show the nootropic Centrophenoxine can banish lipofuscin and have a restorative effect on damaged neurons.
A Matter of Plasticity
Plasticity is the ability that allows the brain to adapt in response to learning, changes in environment, and stress.
It also permits the brain to “rewire” and reroute important neural connections and discard the ones that are no longer necessary.
It has been speculated that our memories may be represented by these neural connections, but the ageing brain becomes less capable of forming fresh connections and this is believed to be why learning ability and memory function can diminish with age.
The chemical messengers (neurites) also become less capable of performing their role and this is yet another contributing factor in mental decline.
However, although old-school researchers used to believe it was not possible to create new neurons after a certain age, more recent studies suggest this may not be so and reveal the right combination of diet, exercise, and supplementation can work wonders for an ageing brain.
A number of racetams (Aniracetam, Oxiracetam, Piracetam, Pramiracetam) have shown promise in this regard and the nootropic Noopept appears to be capable of encouraging fresh neuron and neurite growth.