Nootropics And Neuroplasticity: Can You Accelerate Learning?
Humans have always sought to improve themselves, dating back hundreds of years. Believe it or not, cosmetic surgery began over 2000 years ago in 600 B.C in India. Roman males underwent “breast reduction surgery” and removal of unsightly scars. Those who had received grievous wounds in battle received nose “transplants”. While the means were barbaric, the goal was not dissimilar to elective surgery today: to improve one’s appearance and quality of life.
In the present day, we have, thankfully, far less gruesome means of improvement. Lasik surgery, liposuction, hair transplants, the list is a long one. However, a new type of improvement has become vogue in the past few years: nootropics. For those who don’t know, nootropics are essentially smart drugs and activities aimed at improving cognitive function, memory, motivation, even creativity.
Our brains are already capable of astounding feats, but what we if could unlock another level of brain functions? It’s unlikely that we’ll be going full ‘Bradley Cooper’ in “Limitless.” But what if you could sharpen your memory, think faster, be more motivated to workout, learn, and improve yourself? These are the goals of nootropics, to improve upon our most valuable asset, our brain, the organ that has taken mankind to the top of the food chain. Interested? Read on.
Human’s ability to tinker with brain function has been well established both anecdotally and scientifically. Adderall, for example, is incredibly effective at sharpening one’s thoughts and maximizing motivation. A majority of millennials will tell you its effects are borderline scary. However, Adderall is a prescription drug with wide-ranging side-effects and only produces intense concentration for a given period of time.
What nootropics offer that prescription pills don’t are cognitive benefits long after the substances have left your body. That is because nootropics aim to improve the amount of neurological activity within your brain, creating more connections, which can be maintained through healthy living. Nootropics don’t necessarily provide immediate superpowers, although many have seen immediate results, but rather a slow build up of improving cognitive functions. Additionally, nootropics cost a pittance in comparison, so taking smaller amounts over a long period of time can greatly improve your brain's capacity to learn, remember and even increase your motivations.
Additionally, nootropics are meant to improve upon your brain’s neuroplasticity, which is the difference between being given a fish or learning how to catch your own. That’s because Neuroplasticity is the brain’s ability to create new neural connections during a lifespan. Previously, brains were thought to have an early rapid development period before remaining generally unchanged until death.
That theory has been proven wrong, which spawned the term neuroplasticity. Dr. Michael Merzenich, professor emeritus at University of California, defined it as such, “The brain’s ability to change its anatomical, neurochemical, and functional performance status across the lifespan.” The more neurons and links, or synapses that occur the faster your brain works, the better your memory, the better off you and your brain will be.
By improving the brain’s neuroplasticity, nootropics increase the number of synapses between neurites, offshoots of your neurons. We make billions of these connections every day, forming memories, remembering them, reasoning, and a variety of other functions constantly. Increasing the number of connections is like supercharging your brain, unlocking faster processing speeds and enabling improved comprehension, drive. Another major benefit of nootropics is the cumulative effect. With daily use, certain nootropics can rewire your entire brain through improved neuroplasticity. Continual use can exponentially increase your brain’s ability to operate, rebuilding less effective neurons from the ground up. Your brain works much like other muscles; nootropics give it the fuel to grow and improve. Think of them like super vitamins, which are best taken daily. Not all nootropics are made for daily use or stacking, but this and this are two of the best.
Such changes in the brain have been found to happen naturally as well. A study by Fredirick Ullén at the Stockholm Brain Institute found professional pianists had significantly more developed white matter regions as compared to other musicians. A study on London cab drivers by the Institute of Neurology at the University College London found drivers had a remarkably increased gray matter within their hippocampi. Nootropics mimics the effects these two groups have seen through their professions through a variety of means. It should be noted that nootropics aren’t only magic brain pills but a holistic approach to improving brain cognition through diet, exercise, meditation and, of course, smart drugs. Still skeptical? Here is some research specific to nootropics themselves.
In 2015 the Department of Psychology at the University of Groningen, Netherlands reviewed 15 different comprehensive studies on the effects of tyrosine. Researchers found, “Tyrosine loading acutely counteracts decrements in working memory and information processing that are induced by demanding situational conditions.” And ”There is evidence that tyrosine may benefit healthy individuals exposed to demanding situational conditions.”
Another nootropic scientifically proven to improve cognitive function is L-theanine combined with caffeine. This combination is known as a nootropic starter-kit and has been scientifically proven, with findings published in Biology Psychology as well as Nutrition Review . The research showed L-theanine increased focus, decreased the occurrence of sickness, and promoted neuronal health. It’s also been found to be safe with little to no side effects.
Nootropics, as an industry, is still in its infancy, however, that shouldn’t minimize the possible benefits. People once, and occasionally still, looked at vaccines as potentially dangerous. Thanks to science, we now know how invaluable they are. Eventually, nootropics will be like vitamins, in every store across America. Until then take advantage of their amazing effects on your brain.