Brain Health & Studies, Cognitive Performance, Nootropics

Nootropics: What are they and do they actually work?

Updated 26, October 2018

Do you experience mid-afternoon, post-lunch haziness? Do you find it hard to concentrate at work or in class?

If you answered yes, then Nootropics may be for you!

What are Nootropics?

I know you have probably seen Limitless. If not, *Spoiler Alert*, the main character, played by Bradley Cooper, is introduced to a nootropic drug called NZT-48, which gives him the ability to fully utilize his brain, (whereas it is presumed that we only utilize half), drastically changing his life.


Since the movie (and now TV show) released, there have been numerous “Smart-Drugs” to hit the market claiming to boost cognitive performance and enhance memory and the ability to learn.

Sounds pretty great right? When you’re in that mid-afternoon haze at work or have been studying hard for a test and just can’t seem to concentrate, it sounds appealing to take a harmless smart pill that could boost your cognitive performance..

With properly conducted research, Nootropics can be something that boosts your own mental performance and focus.

How do they work?

There are many different Nootropics on the market, some more commonly used than other like widely known Alpha Brain, all containing different ingredient makeups. (I will go into a more in-depth post about the specifics of each one at a later time. 🙂

Nootropics are not to get confused with psychostimulants which include drugs of abuse, such as cocaine and methamphetamine, as well as therapeutic drugs mixed amphetamine salts such as Benzedrine, Adderall, and Ritalin, to name a few.

Another common confusion with nootropics is of Analeptics.

The common characteristic properties of psychostimulants, analeptics, and nootropics are excitatory and disinhibitory effects on the central nervous system. The differences lie in the type of excitatory effect.
Psychostimulants produce a general, yet nonphysiologic, activation with subsequent sedation. They generally act in a destabilising manner, disturbing the homoeostatic functions of centrally regulated reactions.

Nootropics produce a physiological activation of disturbed or reduced adaptation functions. They have a stabilising effect, increasing the homeostatic functions of the centrally regulated reactions that have become susceptible to disturbances.
Analeptics differ from psychostimulants and nootropics with their effects being on neuronal excitation or disinhibition and are mainly restricted to the respiratory and circulatory systems. In high dosages they produce convulsions and corresponding motor reactions.

Yet there is sufficient proof that nootropics, unlike psychostimulants and analeptics, can produce therapeutic results in at least some patients, even if it is not yet clear under what conditions they can be meaningfully applied.
There is a fundamental difference between the three groups with regard to the potential for abuse. While tolerance and extreme physiological dependence can occur rapidly under treatment with psychostimulants, such risks are not a typical feature of nootropics or analeptics. Full article.

Basically, some nootropics work by increasing blood flow to the brain, while others focus on strengthening your brains’ synapses – the connecting points between your 100 billion brain cells. You have trillions of synapses in your brain, and your brain cells communicate with one another across them.


When Nootropics are used properly, they can be useful in a wide range of situations by various different people, from the workaholic trying to focus on the daily tasks, to the college student trying to ace the mid-term test.

The important thing if you are interested in trying a Nootropic is research, research, and more research. Make sure you are not allergic to any ingredient, or have caffeine sensitivity, as quite a few contain adequate amounts.

As noted above, I plain to continue this discussion with specifics and ones I have tried myself.

Thanks for reading!

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