Despite the benefits of mobile gadgets and social media, these technologies have obviously created a lifestyle that makes it hard for us to concentrate on one thing. Still, being successful in academics and in the professional world requires you to be as mentally sharp and focused as ever.
This is why more and more people are looking into focus supplements known as nootropics to enhance their mental agility.
What are Nootropics?
Nootropics go by many interchangeable names such as cognitive enhancers, smart drugs, focus drugs etc but basically they are natural or synthetic chemical substances that enhance the brain’s cognitive abilities such as focus, memory and motivation.
Most people think of them only as mental focus supplements but they have many other uses. The term means ‘affecting the brain’ and was coined in 1972 by the chemist who discovered Piracetam, the first synethetic focus drug. These synthesized smart drugs are a pretty recent development but practitioners of ancient eastern medicine such as Ayurveda have been harnessing the natural brain enhancing properties of herbs for thousands of years to increase cognitive abilities.
Many people first heard of these drugs from the movie ‘Limitless’ and therefore believe that nootropics can transform you into a genius of some sort. Some hopeful students seem to think of them as some magical study aid supplements that eliminate the need for going to class and studying. Unfortunately that isn’t how they work.
They don’t actually make you “smarter” per se, they just increase your mental sharpness which produces effects that we equate with being smarter such as better memory, verbal proficiency, and intensity of focus.
Think of the brain as a muscle. Taking these supplements doesn’t build more muscle, it just allows you to generate more power from the muscles you already have.
Do They Really Work?
Deciding which nootropics you take will depend on what your goals are and what cognitive function you want to improve. Here are some of the main uses:
Focus – There is a huge demand for any medication to help focus. People are distracted and they want the ability to concentrate intensely on a project at work or to study for a big test. Luckily there are many vitamins for concentration made with natural ingredients which are excellent for enhancing concentration. Certain ones have stimulatory properties which keep you alert and awake. Many people using them as a brain fog treatment report a feeling of mental clarity which is key to improving productivity.
Memory – Increasing memory is another huge benefit. Many of these focus medicines were originally developed for the treatment of degenerative cognitive conditions such as Alzheimer’s, Dementia and Parkinsons which affect the memory.
Mood – Many of these compounds have properties that reduce anxiety which leads to an improvement in mood. Low anxiety and a good mood combined with other cognitive benefits such as longer attention span will lead to better performance in almost any task.
Motivation – Many people assume there is no such thing as motivation pills but some of these compounds are known to affect neurotransmitters such as dopamine and serotonin which can help with things like productivity, drive and motivation.
How Do They Work?
These supplements work by enhancing the function of certain neurotransmitters in your brain which are responsible for different cognitive functions.
The human brain is made of millions of connected networks of neurons which communicate information via chemicals called neurotransmitters. When you take nootropics you are increasing the amount of these chemicals in the brain. Depending on which neurotransmitters you alter, you will experience better moods, longer attention span, intensity of focus, increased memory capacity and other benefits.
Some of these supplements also have the added benefit of expanding blood vessels which allows for more blood to flow to the brain providing oxygen, nutrients and glucose (a primary energy source).
Many of them also have neuroprotective characterstics meaning they help regrow brain cells faster and they slow down the rate at which brain cells deteriorate and die.
Types of Nootropics
Racetams – Racetams are the most popular and widely used nootropic on the market. They work by stimulating the parts of the brain responsible for producing the neurotransmitter Acetylcholine. Acetylcholine is one of the most important neurotransmitters and is responsible for the transmission of information in brain cells. Increasing the production of acetycholine leads to better memory retention, mental clarity and and longer attention span.
Cholinergics – Choline is an essential nutrient which is many normal food sources. It is essential in the production of Acetylcholine, which is why cholinergics typically go hand in hand with Racetams. Using Racetams may deplete stores of Choline in the brain, so it’s important to supplement with cholinergics in order to produce the most amount of acetylcholine. Increasing the amount of this important nutrient can lead to increased focus, improved memory recall, wakefulness and clarity.
Anxiolytics– These alter the neurotransmitter known as serotonin, which plays a large part in controlling ones mood and ability to handle stress among other things. The supplements enhance the effects of Serotonin and promote feelings of well-being. Others known as dopaminergics increase levels of dopamine in the brain which leads to increased concentration, reduced stress and anxiety, as well as anti-depressive properties.
Natural Metabolic Enhancers – Metabolic enhancers increase the energy and metabolism of our brain cells. A large group of these can be categorized as vasodilators which increase the flow of blood, oxygen and nutrients to the brain. Others support nerve growth and improve functionality of cell membranes and other tissue. Many vitamins, nutrients and natural supplements fall into this category.
Ampakines – Ampakines work by increasing amount of Glutamate in the blood. Glutamate is an important neurotransmitter which plays an important role in cognitive functioning. Ampakines are known for their positive effects on memory and learning but also for creating a stimulatory effect without typical stimulant side effects. This makes ampakines an excellent choice to improve attention span and mental focus.
How Do I Choose?
First it is important to figure out what your goal is. Are you specifically looking to improve focus and concentration? Maybe you need to improve your memory or perhaps you are just looking for a supplement that will increase your overall mental performance.
You should definitely research the most common options and try to understand what benefits they provide and how they work. This can be a bit daunting because of so much information but after reading this you should find it easier to find the nootropic you are looking for.
Forums are full of recipes or stacks created by users and you can typically read about their results and any side effects before deciding which to buy.
There are also many smart pills available that are basically pre-made stacks.
Find more here: Best Nootropic Stack
These contain a specific combination of nootropics that are responsible for overall mental performance which includes focus, memory and mood benefits. Surely you’ve heard of Focus factor and other focus supplements. It’s important to research the ingredients in these because many times it’s much better to buy the individual ingredients themselves.