Two ways I boost my memory for medical school


#1

​Since studying the brain extensively during my neuroscience degree, I’ve had a particular curiosity about the extent of which it is possible to improve cognition. But now as an over-worked medical student getting closer and closer to finals, I’ve taken a more practical interest in this topic rather than purely curiosity! As such, I thought I’d share a few of my personal techniques to get the most from your cognitive abilities!
Here, I explain my preferred nootropics and review piracetam and the uses of combining l-theanine and caffeine.

​I hope it’s of use to some of you!

My article is here, by the Neuroscience of Self-improvement


#3

I stumbled on that combo myself. L-Theanine is subtle, by itself, but you can experiment, and once you recognize the effect, it’s quite remarkable. Once you’ve learned to isolate the feeling, add caffeine to the mix (I prefer 250 mg of theanine to 100mg of caffeine) and then try caffeine without. It removes the jittery feeling and edge off of caffeine, and gives you an intense focus.

Choline uptake is like fuel to the brain (one of the reasons fish is called brain food.) Caffeine has many effects, but one of the most prominent is increased bloodflow. Piracetam seems to allow the brain to better distinguish concurrently firing patterns in the neural hierarchy, allowing more patterns within sequences and more complexity within patterns.

Piracetam takes several days, taken consistently, and amplifies the effects of the previous two, with some benefits in recall and what I consider mental agility. You’ll have benefits in the number of sequences and complexity of patterns you work with.

As a neuroscientist, do you recognize the memory prediction framework and the neocortex as the drivers of human intelligence? I’ve been an AI buff since the late 90’s and have followed the field of artificial intelligence with great interest, from the biological side. It seems to me that memory-prediction aligns best with biology, and offers the greatest theoretical insight into why some nootropics work.

These are chemicals that augment the natural processes of the brain. The 4 are great - safe, effective, and noticeable within days or hours of first taking them.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Acetylcholinesterase - this is a great starting point for understanding some of the mechanisms involved in choline uptake and inhibition. Having a ready supply of choline in the blood, with increased blood flow is why caffeine and choline are good together.

The best advice I can give is to try the theanine and caffeine separately over the course of a week until you can recognize the effects of theanine by itself, and then combine the two. Once you recognize theanine, it will be much easier to recognize the effects of piracetam, and the combination of all three will have you amazed. I tried it out in June - The synergistic effects of all 4 gave me one of the most productive months of my life.


#4

So. This is all interesting and fun, but I have to be very careful about what I do to my brain chemicals, because I have that lovely disorder called “Narcolepsy” – which is, in case you haven’t heard, the result of autoimmune processes destroying the cells which create orexin.
http://psychiatry.stanford.edu/narcolepsy/articles/lancet355.pdf for a more formal description.

So, having used caffeine for years, I know it helps somewhat. Having used modafinil and armodafinil (and shame on Teva for keeping Cephalon’s abusive pricing in place after buying it when they were making a cheap generic before) and having used ritalin (which has profoundly negative side-effects on my memory and ability to focus cleanly) I know that I am not sure what would be put at risk by adding more neurochemicals. Has there been any examination of the effects of piracetam on people with low or absent orexin levels?

How about theanine?


#5

Piracetam is generally considered safe, and has been reported to be effective in helping narcoleptic patients with wakefulness and concentration.

Theanine is sometimes said to have a calming effect, but I find it more focusing - I can filter out extraneous input and zone in on things more easily. It also helps me to multitask. Even if you avoid caffeine normally, I would try it out in conjunction with theanine (250 mg theanine to 100mg caffeine.) And, of course, run it by your doctor.


#6

I think I shall avoid it based on this:

I already know from my issues with ritalin (which is my alternative when I can’t get nuvigil) that my adrenal system gets slapped hard and it messes with my ability to focus and think coherently, as well as shortening my memory shelf.
I already rely on my adrenal system to take up the slack for the missing orexin, which shows especially in situations where I would have an adrenal surge and find myself shaking, weak, and ready to collapse. Precisely NOT what I want to mess with.


#7

One anecdotal reference and badly misinterpreted studies aren’t a great reference. That guy also self-medicates and self-diagnoses lots of different things… not a very reliable source. I respect your right to choose what to supplement with or not, but I’d recommend expanding your sources significantly. My experience with piracetam is that it works. I don’t experience the brain fog, unless I cold turkey after about a month of use. And even then, the brain fog goes away after caffeine.

To anyone that experiments with this - I recommend a thorough review of as many sources as you can find, even ones like the above, and discuss them. Research what you’re planning to take for at least a month before you start supplementing.


#8

For you personally, that makes sense. But if somebody gets sufficient sleep and has a strong adrenal system, it shouldn’t be a problem. The recurrent issues with racetams presented in the article you cited’s pages comes from a few sources:

  1. Insufficient Choline
  2. Excessive dosage (racetams have a noted n shaped curve of effectiveness, using above that dose will cause problems)
  3. poor diet/high stress/etc
  4. excess choline use (in the case of kidney complaints, excess choline can cause kidney struggles)

Generally, the brain is a machine with a lot of requirements. the racetams have plenty of benefits, but they don’t work on a machine that is broken.

Also, going further, many complain of feeling stupid after coming off of piracetam after a long period on it. Cognitive enhancers have some cumulative effects, yes, but a good part of the effect is during the dosage, if you have built up new brain pathways to process information that require long sequences of information to be connected and then reduce the length of sequences your brain can process, you may run into mild troubles.

Of course, I’m not an expert. But on these issues, just about nobody is, as there isn’t enough research and there isn’t even enough known to do good research on these matters. A great deal of basic science is needed. Also, the military has looked into racetam and ampa-drugs a great deal, especially those from Cortex pharmaceuticals. Just something to consider.