The Future of Memory Enhancement

Q I keep hearing about nootropics and memory drugs. What’s new on this frontier?

JACK, Laramie, WY

A Nootropics have been around since the 1960s, when the term was coined by Romanian researcher Dr. Corneliu E. Giurgea while working for UCB, a Belgian pharmaceutical company specializing in central nervous system disorders. The drug that brought considerable attention to UCB—and is still available, along with various related drugs from other companies—was piracetam. Given the brand name Nootropil®, piracetam was developed to treat memory and balance problems. Its successors, members of the racetam family, are believed to work by activating glutamate receptors that are colocalized with acetylcholine receptors, thus increasing the firing of the latter.

Interestingly, the racetams—including piracetam, oxiracetam, aniracetam, pramiracetam, phenylpiracetam, etiracetam, levetiracetam, nefiracetam, rolziracetam, nebracetam, fasoracetam, coluracetam, brivaracetam, seletracetam, and rolipram—increase memory capacity by nearly the same method as that of the acetylcholinesterase inhibitors. Yet there are few studies showing clear benefits regarding the mother of all cognitive disorders, Alzheimer’s disease, not to mention other dementias or mild cognitive impairment.

Smart nutrients, while often encompassed by the term nootropics, are different primarily because most are essential brain nutrients, i.e., they are the building blocks of important neurotransmitters, without which we would not be able to be who we are or can be. Neurotransmitters are instrumental in every thought, feeling, hope, desire, and so on. Life Enhancement Products promotes the use of smart nutrients for enhanced cognitive function.

Memory drugs are another story entirely. Several pharmaceutical companies have been created to develop drugs that target neurodegenerative disease and that would ultimately be of value to those wishing to enhance general characteristics of memory. However, the FDA is opposed to any drugs aimed at those who do not have specific diseases, so in all likelihood the advent of these drugs is far in the future, if at all. For further information, see: www.cortexpharm.com, www.memorypharma.com, and www.helicontherapeutics.com.

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