There have been many claims made about nootropic supplements, with their ability to improve cognitive function being of particular focus.
But can nootropics actually improve your success in life?
Nootropics And Life Success
Nootropics are any oral therapy that can have a positive effect on cognitive function. Also sometimes referred to as smart-drugs, there is a range of cognitive improvements that can be gained through proper usage of nootropics.
Just some of the benefits possible from nootropic supplements include improvements to memory, mood, creativity, motivation, and energy. It is therefore easy to see just how nootropics might be able to improve your life, and possibly your success.
But it is important to keep in mind that nootropics aren’t a cure-all, they can’t magically give successful qualities to someone, but they can provide a boost that might help your brain function at an optimal level.
Nootropics May Increase Your Motivation
One of the ways that nootropics might be able to improve your success in life is by increasing your motivation. With increased motivation comes the potential for an increase in work output, which is certainly one way to increase your odds of success in whatever you do. Sometimes you might find it hard to build up the motivation to start a project, and research tells us that there is a range of nootropics that might be able to help give you the motivational boost you need to be successful.
One of the key components of motivation is dopamine. Dopamine is involved in reward responses that are key to initiating feelings of positive motivation. When dopamine is released in our brain, it can initiate positive feelings that promote reward-seeking and therefore increase motivation. In their tonic, or baseline state, dopamine neurons fire at a steady level while maintaining normal function. However, when their phasic mode is activated dopamine neurons can fire at a much higher rate, causing increases in dopamine concentration. This phasic response can be triggered by many reward cues where dopamine plays an important role in reinforcing learning through motivation (1).
With dopamine playing such a crucial role in initiating feelings of motivation, it may therefore not come as a surprise that some of the nootropics involved in increasing motivation involved the modulation of dopamine.
L-tyrosine is one nootropic associated with an increase in dopamine. Tyrosine (or L-Tyrosine) acts as a precursor of dopamine, with tetrahydrobiopterin converting tyrosine into DOPA which can then be converted into dopamine (2).
One study showed that when honeybees were fed tyrosine, the levels of dopamine in their brains were significantly higher than the bees who were fed a control substance. This study suggests that oral tyrosine supplementation may increase brain levels of dopamine (3).
Modafinil is another nootropic that may be able to increase motivation in patients. Modafinil, otherwise known by the brand name Provigil is a stimulant-like drug that is typically used for the treatment of sleep disorders such as narcolepsy, as well as shift work sleep disorder, but is also thought to have a significant effect on cognitive function.
Modafinil is thought to have an effect on task-related motivation through such mechanisms as glutamate, noradrenaline, and dopamine action. Modafinil is thought to have low addictive properties and the research suggests that it is able to increase motivation (4). One study looked into the effect of modafinil on rat models and the results showed that rats given modafinil showed increased motivation in tasks. The researchers concluded that modafinil seems to increase motivation, and that this might also contribute to the enhanced cognitive function seen with modafinil use (5).
Memory is key to optimal cognitive functioning and can also play a crucial role in life.
Improved memory can lead to improved success in life, with study, work, and hobbies all potentially benefiting from an improved memory.
There are many nootropics that seem to be able to improve memory function.
Ginkgo biloba is one such nootropic. An extract from the leaf of the gingko biloba tree, it comes in a supplement form. Research tells us that ginkgo biloba may be able to significantly improve memory, improving your cognitive abilities, and possibly add to your success in life.
One study demonstrated that 240mg of Ginkgo biloba extract a day for 6 months was able to significantly improve the free recall ability of patients. The participants in this study were given demanding tests that required them to self-initiate the retrieval of information that they had previously learned (6).
Another study looking into the effect of ginkgo biloba extract on cognitive impairment in healthy elderly patients found that the extract was able to prove a protective effect against the decline of memory function. Participants took ginkgo biloba extract over 42 months, but initial results actually showed the extract had no effect of memory function. However, after removing participants from the study who didn’t take the correct dose of ginkgo biloba, the results determined that the extract did have a significant effect on memory (7).
Bacopa monnieri is another nootropic that has demonstrated potential as a memory booster. Bacopa monnieri is an Ayurvedic herb that can be found as an extract. Research seems to confirm the anecdotal evidence of bacopa monnieri’s memory-enhancing abilities. One study found that bacopa monnieri was able to improve memory recall in 9 out of 17 memory tests given to patients (8). One possible mechanism for this memory improvement is bacosides. Bacosides are active chemicals found in the bacopa monnieri plant, and they have been shown to improve the recollection of new memories (9).
There are also synthetic nootropics that may be able to improve memory. Noopept is one of these. An anti-inflammatory and antioxidant, Noopept has been shown to immediately act on memory and memory recall.
One study investigated the effect of Noopept on BDNF (a neurotrophic factor) in the hippocampus of rat models. The hippocampus is an area of the brain associated with memory and BDNF, or brain-derived neurotrophic factor, which is an important component of cell growth. The study found that chronic use of Noopept caused an increase in BDNF expression in the hippocampus of rats. This means that Noopept may be able to improve memory consolidation and retrieval. Further confirming Noopept’s potential as a memory booster is the fact that memory degenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s have been linked to a lack of the neurotrophic factors upregulated through Noopept (10).
Your mood can play a crucial role in the events and outcomes of your life. High-stress levels and mood disorders can have devastating effects on your everyday functioning. A reduction in stress levels, or in the symptoms of mood disorders like depression or anxiety, would potentially have a positive effect on success and quality of life.
Stress can negatively affect a broad range of functions, and a reduction in stress levels can result in improved performance and therefore possibly an increase in success. Rhodiola rosea is one nootropic that has been shown to have stress-reducing properties. Rhodiola rosea is a flowering plant that comes from cool mountainous areas and can be taken in the form of an extract taken from the root of the plant.
One trial looked into the effects of rhodiola rosea on stress symptoms, giving a daily 200mg dose of the extract to participants over 4 weeks. After being questioned as to their stress levels, the results of the study showed that rhodiola rosea was able to improve all the stress symptoms tested. Impressively, these reductions in stress were shown to occur as early as 3 days into treatment with the extract (11).
Curcumin is another herbal nootropic that has been shown to improve mood and possibly create a healthier cognitive environment that may allow you to have greater success in life.
Curcumin is found in turmeric and can be taken in the form of an extract. One study used this curcumin extract to investigate its effects on overall cognitive function and mood disorders. The study was a randomized, double-blind placebo-control trial that measured cognitive function and mood in participants aged 60 to 85 years old. The results of the study showed that mood disorder symptoms like general fatigue and stress levels were significantly improved after 4 weeks of treatment (12).
St John’s Wort
Serious mood disorders like depression can have a dramatic impact on the everyday functions of an individual, possibly lowering productivity levels or affecting relationships with others. Some people do find that they have less success in life while in a depressive state.
One nootropic that has shown potential in improving some of the symptoms of depression is St John’s wort, a flowering plant that can be taken as an extract. One clinical study looked into the effect of St John’s wort on adult patients with acute major depression, giving them 500mg of St John’s wort three times per day for six weeks in total. After the six weeks of treatment, the results showed that all participants taking St John’s wort saw a reduction in depression scores by 56.6%. This is all the more impressive when seeing the results of the other group in the study who were instead given the antidepressant paroxetine. The paroxetine group also saw a reduction in depression scores, but only by 44.8% (13).
The potential mood-boosting effects of St John’s wort might be thanks to its bioactive components, which are thought to upregulate serotonin receptors in the frontal cortex, an area of the brain involved in depression, possibly leading to an increase in the mood-boosting neurotransmitter serotonin (14).
Often success comes from a new idea or creative approach and thinking about problems differently can be one of the best ways to better the outcome. Increasing creativity is another cognitive improvement that may be able to better your success in life.
Improving creativity means improving your cognitive ability to think of new ideas, and there is a range of nootropics out there that may be able to do just that.
L-theanine is one such nootropic that offers a lot of potential as a creativity-booster. L-theanine can be taken as an extract supplement and it can be found in green and black tea.
Research tells us that L-theanine may be able to increase the activity of alpha frequency band waves and modulate brain function. One study looked into the effect of L-theanine on cognitive function and found that 50mg of the nootropic supplement significantly increased alpha activity in healthy, young participants. This increase in alpha frequency activity indicates that L-theanine may be able to induce a cognitive effect that is highly conducive to creative thinking, namely relaxing the mind without inducing a feeling of drowsiness (15).
L-tyrosine is a prime example of a nootropic that may have multiple beneficial properties to help you succeed in life. As well as possibly creating a motivating effect, L-tyrosine may also be able to boost creativity. Motivation and creativity are two cognitive functions that work well together, which may make L-tyrosine especially effective as a cognitive-boosting nootropic (16).
Mental blocks are a common and frustrating occurrence and some people turn to food to try and overcome a lack of inspiration. L-tyrosine can be found naturally in cheeses and high-protein foods. Because of this and the fact that dopamine, formed from L-tyrosine, is thought to be a driver of creative thinking, researchers in one study investigated the effects of L-tyrosine on creative cognition. They found the L-tyrosine supplements were able to promote a type of creative thinking called convergent thinking in participants (16).
Improves Energy And Focus
Productivity is extremely important to success. Improved focus and increased energy levels can play an important role in helping you to achieve your goals.
There are many nootropics which have shown an ability to both boost energy and help you to focus.
You might not think of caffeine as a nootropic, but with its cognitive boosting abilities it certainly is. Caffeine may be the most regularly consumed nootropic, with over 80% of adults in the US drinking it and the research tells us they might be right to do so.
One study found that low and moderate doses of caffeine resulted in improvements to alertness and attention and caffeine also managed to reduce the time it takes to feel exhausted during physical performance. The study concluded that caffeine may be an effective way to increase energy levels and remain focused (17).
One way that caffeine may be able to affect alertness and energy levels is through adenosine receptors. Adenosine is a chemical that is thought to play a crucial role in inducing feelings of tiredness. Research tells us that caffeine may be able to block the receptors of adenosine, possibly reducing tiredness and helping to create a focused and energized cognitive state (18).
Adderall is a prescription medication nootropic that can have a significant effect on cognitive function. Adderall is typically used to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and narcolepsy. Adderall will typically induce feelings of alertness and increase energy levels in anyone who takes it.
Research tells us that Adderall might induce these cognitive effects by activating certain receptors. Adderall has been shown to increase catecholamine levels in the prefrontal cortex of the brain, which then activates dopamine and norepinephrine receptors. Activation of these receptors can induce symptoms associated with increased energy levels and they are also found in the prefrontal cortex, which is an area of the brain associated with focus and attention (19). Adderall is an addictive substance, so do not use it unless it is prescribed to you by a medical professional.
Mucuna pruriens is a bean native to Africa and Asia that also has been shown to have significant effects on energy levels and alertness. Mucuna pruriens can be taken as a supplement and is a well-known nootropic.
Research tells us that Mucuna pruriens is also a source of L-dopa. L-dopa is an amino acid capable of crossing the blood-brain barrier resulting in an increase of dopamine concentrations. As well as having an effect on motivation, dopamine has also been shown to increase energy levels. Research tells us that dopamine promotes energy expenditure. It is thought that dopamine might signal that energy is available for use and thus increase energy levels. (20, 21)
Success in life can be hard to measure, but there are certain positive cognitive functions that might be able to increase your productivity and improve your interactions with others, which can surely be a positive step on the road to success.
Nootropics come in a variety of forms, but they all have some effect on cognitive function and many of them offer cognitive benefits that may be able to improve aspects of your life and lead to more successful outcomes. While they might not be a cure-all and immediately create success in your life, they might just be able to provide you with the cognitive boost that you need to succeed.
Improvements to memory, mood, creativity, motivation, energy, and focus are all key aspects of successful cognitive functioning and there are a variety of nootropics that have been shown to induce these results.