Nootropics are drugs that impact cognitive ability. They are known to enhance memory, motivation and attention. Through many scientific studies, scientists are now able to identify the pathways through which nootropics impact the brain. The better we understand how nootropics work, the better able we are to build new drugs that target specific pathways and deliver particular results. Current studies concentrate on four pathways: the dopaminergic system, the cholinergic system, amyloid precursor proteins and second messengers.
True to its name, the dopaminergic system involves pathways that control the levels of dopamine in your system. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that plays many roles, some of which we know about and likely others that we don’t. There are eight different dopaminergic pathways. Understanding them all and how various drugs might impact each pathways is no small matter.
The cholinergic system involves pathways that control the levels of acetylcholine in your system. Acetylcholine is also a neurotransmitter, with various roles to play in how your body functions. Inside the brain, for example, acetylcholine acts as a neuromodulator, controlling how your brain processes information. Understandably, this is an important component of a person’s cognitive ability.
Amyloid precursor proteins play an important role in neural growth and repair. The better these little buddies operate, the healthier the neurons in your brain. When amyloid precursor proteins become corrupted, they can act against their original design – destroying nerve cells. This has been implicated as a cause of Alzheimer’s disease.
Second messengers signal protein interactions and can be thought of as mediators of cognitive processes. Often, the presence of certain proteins can enhance or impair cognitive performance. Better understanding these processes may result in more specifically targeted nootropics and thus more efficient and effective results.
The brain is a complicated organ and we are only beginning to understand its inner workings. As we learn more, our nootropics will become increasingly sophisticated.