Nootropics/Smart Drug info?

Jason L. Eriksen jerikse at
Sat May 20 01:59:49 EST 1995

Adrian Cox (adrian at wrote:
: Recently, I have been taking an interest in Nootropics in the hopes of 
: aiding memory formation, recall, and increase of attention span. I have 
: just started taking a product called Mental Edge which contains 
: (in addition to some vitamins and minerals) Phosphatidyl Choline, 
: L-pyroglutamic acid, L-Glutamine, DMAE, L-tyrosine, Choline,
: L-Phenylalanine,Taurine, Inositol, and some herbs like 
: Ginko, Ginseng, Gota Kola, Ginger Root, Schizandra. I asked one doctor 
: and he said that when you start adding chemicals where there is not
: a deficiency, it could cause problems. Does anyone have or know of any 
: research done on this subject? 


I'm a graduate student in neuroscience, and have looked a little into
nootropics as a way of increasing mental abilities.  I'm sorry to say
that for the normal person there are no currently available supplements,
bought over the health food counter, that will aid 
memory formation, recall, or increase in attention span.

Memory retention and formation are very complex processes with are highly
dependent of synapse formation and synaptic strength, and not really on
the quantity of amino acid precursor (although tyrosine is a precursor for
the dopamine pathway in the brain).. 

I would be cautious about consuming products that concentrate amino acids,
especially in an unbalanced form (like a predominance of L-tyrosine and 
L-Phenylalanine, which are both obligatory precursors of dopamine and
norepinephrine, in "Mental Edge"). The reason I say you should be cautious
is that amino acids are transported through a blood-brain-CSF barrier 
transport protein that moves neutral l-amino acids into the brain tissue.
All neutral amino acids compete for this transporter, and if you take
too much of one amino acid type, your brain can become deficient in others,
and this can screw up neurotransmitter pathways. Quoting from _Basic
Neurochemistry_Fifth Edition_ by Siegel et al., 1994, (690): "Since a single
type of transport carrier mediates the transcapillary movement of structurally related amino acids, these compunds compete with each other for entry into
the brain.  Therefore, an elevation in the plasma level of one will inhibit
the uptake of the others.  This may be important in certain metabolic diseases
such as phenylketonuria (PKU), where high levels of phenylalanine in plasma
reduce brain uptake of other essential amino acids."

Jason Eriksen

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