Noopept or N-phenylacetyl-L-prolylglycine ethyl ester is known for its role in modulating cognitive function.
Understanding just how Noopept might be able to improve your cognitive abilities could lead to a range of performance-enhancing benefits including brain optimization, neuroprotection and an increase in creativity.
What Is Noopept?
Noopept is the brand name for the chemical N-phenylacetyl-L-prolylglycine, a synthetic ethyl ester that acts as a nootropic. Noopept is sometimes referred to as a “smart drug” because of its ability to enhance brain function. Noopept is a synthetic version of Piracetam, which is itself a synthetic version of gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA). GABA is a neurotransmitter that plays an important role in the function of the nervous system. Because it is synthetic, it is not naturally created in your body, and so you need to take it as a supplement in order to receive its benefits.
Noopept was designed at the State Zakusov Institute in Moscow and is similar in structure to piracetam. They both contain a pyrrolidine ring with acylated nitrogen, amide moiety and a fragment of glycine (1).
How Does Noopept Affect The Brain?
Noopept can induce a range of changes to brain function and there are a few ways in which it acts on cognitive mechanisms.
One of the ways that Noopept can induce cognitive change is through its modulation of certain receptors.
Noopept has been shown to increase:
- The expression of nerve growth factor (NGF)
- Brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF)
- Messenger RNA (mRNA)
Research tells us that BDNF expression is increased in the cerebral cortex after chronic dosing, and that mRNA expression increased in the hippocampus after acute dosing. Importantly, studies also tell us that chronic (long term dosing) of Noopept didn’t result in the development of a tolerance to the drug, but instead may actually improve the effects of Noopept (2).
NGF is a neuropeptide that was first discovered in 1950 that is mediated through two NGF-receptors known as trkA, a high-affinity receptor, and p75, a low-affinity transmembrane glycoprotein (3). NGF is a growth and survival factor and is also known as a neurotrophin, it plays a key role in the nervous system’s response to pain with its receptor trkA being found in the sensory neurons that respond to painful stimuli (4). NGF is also known to have a protective effect on nerve cells, acting on both the survival of neurons and the regulation of neurotransmitters and neuropeptide synthesis (3).
BDNF is the most common growth factor in the central nervous system (CNS). BDNF is a protein that plays a crucial role in the development and maintenance of brain plasticity. Plasticity is the brain’s ability to change, which of course, is crucial to healthy cognitive function. BDNF largely signals through its strong affinity to the tropomyosin-related kinase B (TrkB) receptor, where it induces dimerization and autophosphorylation of the receptor. This then can then lead to the activation of intracellular signaling cascades and an increase of NDMA receptor currents. BDNF also plays an important role in neuronal cell health and is necessary for the survival and development of GABA, dopaminergic, and serotonin neurons. BDNF belongs to the same family as NGF and may play a crucial role in learning and memory function, and mood regulation and it may be able to play a role in treating diseases like depression and schizophrenia (4).
Messenger ribonucleic acid or mRNA is a molecule key to the expression of genetic information. The mRNA life cycle includes the transcription, export, and translation of genetic information which is key to the healthy functioning of neuronal cells (5).
Noopept also modulates the receptors of AMPA, NMDA, and acetylcholine. This modulation occurs through Noopept increasing cycloprolylglycine (CPG), a dipeptide that can act on AMPA, NMDA, and acetylcholine receptors (6,7,8,9). The modulation of these receptors can allow for the proper levels of glutamate to be maintained (10). An excess of glutamate in neuronal cells can be toxic to cell health and can even cause cell death (11).
Benefits Of Noopept
Involved in many brain functions and neuronal mechanisms, it might therefore not come as a surprise that Noopept has the ability to induce a variety of cognitive benefits. From improving memory to maintaining cognitive health, there are many reasons why Noopept might be the right fit for you.
One of the claims about Noopept is its ability to improve memory function. There are many reasons why an improved memory might be able to significantly improve your life. Tasks involved in work and hobbies can involve memory recall, which is damaged or lessened could significantly impact the quality and efficiency of someone’s work. Personal relationships also rely heavily on competent memory skills and might be greatly improved through peak memory function. There are also degenerative diseases related to energy that result in a reduction of memory, like Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. These diseases can be particularly debilitating to both patients and families and a drug like Noopept that has been shown to increase cognitive memory function may be able to offer a therapeutic treatment option.
As previously discussed, Noopept was able in one study to increase BDNF levels in the hippocampus of rats. The hippocampus is an area of the brain that is associated with memory (2). We know that BDNF plays a crucial role in brain plasticity and possibly learning and memory functions and so it’s upregulation in an area of the brain associated with memory leads to the possibility that Noopept may be able to provide improvements to cognitive function by improving memory (5).
One study investigated Noopept and how it might affect behavioral changes. Rats were used for the study and were given a bilateral olfactory bulbectomy.
An olfactory bulbectomy involves the removal of the olfactory bulb, an area at the front of the brain that is usually associated with smell. Research tells us that the removal of the olfactory bulb in rats can lead to a range of deficits, including memory decreases, changes to food motivation, an increase in depression levels, and changes to behavior when using the Morris maze. The removal of the olfactory bulb is also thought to result in changes to a range of neurotransmitter systems (12).
After the olfactory bulbectomy, the rat participants demonstrated impaired memory, neuronal damage, and Alzheimer’s disease symptoms. Noopept was then administered to the rats at a dose of 0.01/mg per kilo for 21 days and the results showed that it was able to improve spatial memory and increase the levels of some serum antibodies. It is also thought this increased immune response of Noopept, specifically on the Abeta35-35 peptide, may be responsible for the improvement in spatial memory seen in the rats (13).
Improved Brain Health
Noopept may also be able to improve the health of neuronal cells that are key to proper functioning. Healthy and functioning brain cells are important for almost every aspect of cognitive functioning. If neuronal cells don’t work properly, or are at risk of cell death then things like memory, thought processes, mood, and even normal bodily functions are at risk of dysfunction. Just like any other part of your body, you want to keep brain cells healthy!
One study out of Russia looked into the neuroprotective properties of Noopept by causing toxicity in PC12 cells, a cell line derived from the brain cells of rats. Noopept was first added to the PC12 cells and then 72 hours later the dysfunctional cell environment was created. The cells were then evaluated to see how effective Noopept was in protecting cell functions such as viability, mitochondrial function, oxygen levels determined by ROS, calcium homeostasis, and neurite outgrowth from the induced damage. The results showed that Noopept was able to protect the neural cells and improve cell viability, enhance mitochondrial membrane potential, and reduce the number of apoptotic cells that induce cell death. This study showed that Noopept holds a lot of potential as an improver of cognitive function and in maintaining the viability of neural cells (14).
We could all probably do with more relaxation in our lives, the everyday stresses and pressures we come across can have a serious negative impact on mental health and cognitive performance. While it can affect people differently, stress can result in mood disorders, sleep disorders, headaches, and pain. In fact, 33% of adults have been found to feel symptoms of stress (15). But stress is not just in your head, hormones like cortisol play a key role in stress symptoms.
One study looked into how Noopept affects brain waves and the researchers found that Noopept, given at a 0.2mg per kg dose, managed to increase the activity of alpha waves, with a wait time of 30 and 40 minutes in all brain areas between Noopept administration and when the activity began (16). These results are significant in terms of Noopept’s ability to induce relaxation because an increase in the frequency of alpha frequency band waves is thought to provide a feeling of relaxation that occurs without drowsiness (17). Alpha frequency band waves have also been linked to feelings of joy and an improved ability to learn (18).
Improved cognitive performance can have a range of benefits, encouraging better orientation, counting, observation, and memory skills to name a few. Noopept offers potential as an enhancer of cognitive performance.
A 2009 study investigated the effect of Noopept on cognitive function and performance in participants with mild cognitive disorders caused by organic brain diseases. Participants in the study were given Noopept daily over the 56-day trial. Patients were given Mini-Mental Status Examinations (MMSE) and Cognitive Capacity Screen Examinations (CCSE) before and after the Noopept trial. The CCSE tests for memory, counting and orientation ability, and skills involved in determining and grouping certain objects. The MMSE measures cognitive impairment and tests for recall, language, calculation, and command-following abilities. The results showed that Noopept was able to improve cognitive function in the MMSE test and also demonstrated improved CCSE scores (19).
Noopept’s Speed of Action
In addition to the range of benefits that may be possible through Noopept use, the research also tells us that these Noopept benefits can be felt much faster than is often seen in nootropics. Some nootropics need to be taken for a long period of time before results are seen. Nootropics like bacopa monnieri, for example, may not demonstrate it’s cognitive benefits until weeks of use. Nootropics that show immediate results are beneficial because patients are able to quickly realize if the nootropic is ideal for them and then possibly adhere to its routine better as they know that they are able to see results.
We know that Noopept is able to cross the blood-brain barrier, which is the barrier to neural cells, so by being able to cross this barrier, Noopept has an advantage over other nootropics that cannot, which may possibly increase its activation time (20). Studies have also demonstrated Noopept’s ability to induce a result within minutes, rather than the weeks that you might have to wait for some nootropic effects. In one study involving Noopept and glutamate receptors in rats, Noopept was able to induce an effect within 30 minutes of delivery (16).
When it comes to any form of medication, understand the proper dosage to take is extremely important to ensure you are using it safely and with Noopepts faster delivery time, it makes correct dosing even more important.
An appropriate dose of Noopept seems to lie around 10 to 30 mg per day, which can be spread out over the day. Noopept can be purchased either as a powder or as a solid pill or capsule. Taking Noopept on an empty stomach may be able to improve its absorption rate, and taking Noopept sublingually by letting it dissolve under the tongue is another effective method of delivery. Sublingual delivery allows nootropics like Noopept to avoid the lengthier delivery route of the digestive system and instead move directly into the bloodstream and be able to act faster.
Most medications or supplements can induce side effects which can range from the very mild to the very severe. It’s important to understand what the side effects of a product are before consuming it so that you know what to be aware of, and what is a normal reaction.
Noopept is thought to be relatively safe, with most studies involving Noopept reporting minimal or mild side effects. While side effects do seem to be rare with Noopept use, there may be a rise of some mild effects such as headaches, sore stomachs, and fatigue, which may occur when doses that are too high. One solution to the headaches could be choline supplements since a lack of choline has been linked to an increase in headaches (21).
While Noopept is safe and most of the studies reported minimal side effects, one study has indicated that Noopept may be able to negatively impact sleep patterns and blood pressure levels. The study, published in the Journal of Neuroscience and Behavioral Physiology, investigated Noopept as a treatment for patients with mild cognitive disorders. Unfortunately, 3 of the 46 patients had to drop out of the study because they experienced side effects of abrupt blood pressure changes and disturbances to regular sleep routines. While this was only one study, it is something to keep in mind when taking the side effects of Noopept into account (22).
Noopept is a synthetic nootropic that can induce a range of effects on the brain that positively affect cognitive function. By increasing the expression of NGF, BDNF, mRNA, AMPA, NMDA, and acetylcholine, Noopept has demonstrated an ability to improve conditions for optimal neural cell functioning. With this knowledge in mind, it is perhaps unsurprising that studies involving Noopept show such a range of cognitive improvements. Improvements to memory, cognitive health, stress levels, and cognitive performance have all been demonstrated results in scientific studies involving Noopept.
While Noopept sounds like a “super-drug” it is important to remember that nootropics like Noopept are not a simple-cure all and while they may provide a boost to cognitive functions, they cannot change personality traits.
There have been some side effects reported from Noopept use, from minimal effects including headaches and fatigue to the more serious blood pressure increases as evidenced in one study. Most studies investigating the effects of Noopept determined it to be safe and effective, but if you have any concerns about using it, or how it may interact with other medications or supplement then consult your doctor.
As a booster to cognitive function Noopept seems to have proven itself and more research into the full range of effects you can expect from Noopept is very welcome.