Posts Tagged ‘cognitive enhancement’


Minimal Effective Stack, v2.0

by adminadam in articles

The Stack

  1. Creatine — 5g powder, AM
  2. Noopept — 10mg capsule, AM/noon/PM
  3. CDP-choline — 400mg capsule, AM/PM
  4. Modafinil — 100-200mg tablet, AM
  5. Ashwagandha — 570mg capsule, AM/PM
  6. Rhodiola — 500mg capsule, AM
  7. Probiotics — one capsule, AM
  8. Cod Liver Oil — three 650mg soft-gels, AM/PM
  9. Nicotine Gum — 1mg gum, PM
  10. Melatonin — 1mg tablet, Night

Changes Since Version 1

I have switched out piracetam for noopept. My main reasoning is to reduce the quantity of both powders and capsules that I consume. So I can cut my total piracetam powder levels from what they were previously — about six grams per day — to just three 10mg capsules per day of noopept.

I have added CPD-choline back in. While I have never experience an acetylcholine-depletion headache from taking racetams, I have heard that CDP-choline helps maintain cognitive abilities under sleep deprivation and also can help with dry eyes, both of which I experience at times.

I have removed Bacopa and added Ashwagandha. This was a hard choice which I took a long time to arrive at. Bacopa is lauded as the only effective, cheap, and safe way to truly improve your memory from a young-healthy subject baseline. But it made me excessively sleepy and caused me extreme stomach upset whenever I consumed it without food. These simple hindrances were what led me to cut it from my stack. While I enjoyed its anxiolytic (anxiety-reducing) effects, I had experienced stronger effects of that nature from Ashwagandha, an all-around resiliency-enhancing herbal supplement also from the Ayurvedic tradition. Ashwagandha improves immunity, reduces stress, and reduces insomnia in many subjects. I have experienced reduced stress and anxiety. Other effects are questionably related to many of the supplements I take, like Modafinil and Creatine for enhanced energy and motivation. Ashwagandha may also be contributing to these positive outcomes.

I have changed from Fish Oil to Cod Liver Oil. Cod Liver Oil is said to contain more Vitamin A and D. I take these soft-gels in ample quantities, sometimes up to nine a day, if I feel like I need the Vitamin D for enhanced immunity or serotonin production in the winter months.

I dropped Lion’s Mane Mushroom after listening to a podcast on the medicinal mushroom industry. It seems that the quality of many of these supplements is suspect, with the greater-guarantees-of-quality brands costing an arm and a leg. I’d prefer to save the money.

I have added Melatonin to the list. In fact, I have always used Melatonin to get to sleep faster, fight insomnia, and serve as an anti-oxidant. Now that I’m using lower doses of 1-2mg per night, I feel more refreshed waking up than I used to when I took between 3mg and 6mg. Research shows that 0.5mg to 1mg is the most effective dose. Melatonin is especially helpful if you are in front of bright screens with blue light in the evening, or if you drink lots of caffeinated beverages, or if you take modafinil mid-day or — heaven forbid — late in the day.

What I’ve Kept the Same

Creatine is a godsend for athletes. I am running regularly now, in addition to lifting weights, and I find I have the energy to give an extra push at the end of nearly all of my workouts because of Creatine. It is also said to boost cognition in individuals with low natural levels of Creatine in their diets.

Modafinil keeps me productive and emotionally-intelligent after late nights spent hanging out with my brother or my girlfriend, or after working to the wee hours of the morning on Linux projects. Speaking of which, check out my new blog: You might say Modafinil is the Mascot for Kernel Mastery.

Rhodiola I would never abandon. It enhances immunity, fights stress, and helps you fight fatigue. It is a tried-and-true resiliency supplement.

Probiotics for the gut; a healthy gut for a healthy mind.

Nicotine Gum eases my stress, wakes me up on my long drives home from work, and reboots the cognitive engines after a long work day. With Nicotine Gum, I can avoid drinking large quantities of caffeine in the afternoon. Most gums come in two- or four-milligram sizes. Because one milligram is plenty for me, I simply buy the two milligram version and cut the pieces in half. Easy and cheap!


Nootropics, i.e. “Safe” Smart Drugs

by adminadam in articles

Nootropics (say “New-Trow-Pics”) are drugs that provide some form of cognitive enhancement and yet are shown to be, if not neuroprotective, at least non-toxic and safe to use. These drugs work by A) making certain neurochemicals more available in the brain, B) by increasing the brain’s oxygen supply, or C) by stimulating nerve growth.

I first became interested in smart drugs (and subsequently nootropics) when a friend in college told me she took Adderall occasionally to boost her productivity (a non-ADHD-related use). She told me she could easily stay awake for 24+ hours and feel alert, clean her dorm room from top to bottom, write a paper or two, and so on. It should be noted, however, that in speaking of nootropics, we should not include Adderall, because it has numerous potential side-effects that may stem from non-prescription use: addiction, heart problems, depression, nausea, etc. (source: webmd)

A powerful and commonly-used smart drug these days is Modafinil. It is a “wakefulness promoting agent”, meaning it keeps you awake and alert, and is prescribed generally for narcolepsy and other sleeping disorders, in addition to ADD. It is has been used by soldiers on long missions and even by Canadian astronauts serving on the International Space Station. As noted by Andrew McMillan, a Journalist for Rolling Stones (Australia) who experimented with the drug, while it may not be addictive, after three consecutive days on the drug — staying up for 79 out 90 hours:

I felt as though I’m not making sense, and that those around me are acutely aware of this. I feel in control, but my mind is racing faster than my mouth can keep up. … Around 2am, I note that I’ve got an impending feeling of doom going on. Like I’m riding this too far, and it’s about to start doing some serious damage.

After sleeping a full-night’s sleep and erasing some of his sleep debt, he remarks further:

I reflect on how my views toward modafinil have veered between utter devotion to, now, in the cold light of day, a realisation that it’s probably not a good idea to be taking that shit on consecutive days.

Despite the illegality of off-label use in most places, one study in the journal Nature estimated that up to 25% of students at some campuses had taken neuroenhancing drugs like Modafinil in the past year. Many students have reported that it helps them to stay alert and perform — both mentally and physically — and that when final exams approach, the temptation to ‘take something’ can be overwhelming.

It seems that, as it may not be a safe long-term solution to the desire to enhance cognitive function, perhaps it is best to look at other (and more legal) options for those that would like to improve their memory, accelerate their learning, or simply be able to work longer each day. These nootropics should all be milder, safer, and more effective over the long-term, according to my research:

      1. PIRACETAM + CDP-CHOLINE — Piracetam is a safe and effective cognitive enhancer that is thought to restore membrane fluidity of compromised neuronal cells (helping with neuro- transmission, protection, and plasticity). It was first used in the 1960’s to combat motion sickness. Its companion (I’ve listed them together intentionally) is CDP-Choline, which is a choline supplement, so it increases the amount of choline available to the brain. (Choline, or Acetylcholine, more properly, is one of the primary neurotransmitters in your brain; without sufficient choline, your brain can’t function well.) [Read more about both of these substances, including how they work together, at]
      2. ANIRACETAM + CDP-CHOLINE — Similar to Piracetam, being in the “racetam” family, but this is a fat-soluble version, so it won’t dissolve in water. Aniracetam is purported to have an anxiolytic (read: anxiety-reducing) effect as well as the memory and word recall-boosting effects like that of piracetam. [See more here:]
      3. PYRITINOL — Pyritinol is a modified form of vitamin-B6. It is two B6 molecules combined together so that — when broken down by your body — they can easily cross the blood/brain barrier to help with neurotransmitter synthesis. It has been shown to improve reaction time in individuals in time-based tests and is used to help treat dementia in some places in Europe. It has been in use as a nootropic since the 1990’s. (Interesting to note that it is also known as an effective “hangover cure”.)
      4. MAGNESIUM L-THREONATE — While magnesium is apparently one of the most deficient minerals in the American diet, eating foods high in the mineral and taking supplements is unlikely to positively impact your brain for the reason that these forms of magnesium cannot easily pass through the blood/brain barrier. With this challenge and the knowledge that in-brain magnesium is vital to synapse density, recognition memory, and spatial working memory, MIT sought to find a form that can easily get where it needs to go, hence: Magnesium L-Threonate, or MgT. In lab animals given it it led to 18% improvements in short-term memory and 100% improvements in long-term memory. It is currently being tested in human trials.

There we have it — four nootropics for the uninitiated to look into! Please let me know in the comments if you have insights into (or experience related to) these or other cognitive enhancers.