How Nootropics Work

To understand how nootropics work it is necessary to understand more about how the brain works and functions first.  The human brain has a much larger cerebral cortex (also known as the cerebrum, is the largest portion of the brain, located right under the forehead) than any other mammal. In fact, the cerebral cortex makes up approximately 80% of the total mass of the human brain. The human brain has biilions of neurons (nerve cells) as part of a network of cell-to-cell connections and communications through pathways. When the brain has the proper nutrition and oxygen and pathways are clear, neurons can communicate at an optimum level which leads to better cognition.

Neurotransmitters are the keys to communication of signals from one neuron (nerve cell) to another. Neurotransmitters are chemicals that act as messengers delivering signals between neurons and other cells in the body.  The function level and amount of neurotransmitters in the brain can affect not only psychological but also physical functions. This includes everything from learning, thinking, and mood which we associate with the brain. But it also includes organ and bodily functions, even our heart beat.

What are Some Neurotransmitters & What Functions Do They Affect?

Acetylcholine (Ach) – Thinking cognition, memory and learning, stimulation of muscles, including the muscles of the gastro-intestinal system
There is up to a 90% loss of acetylcholine in the brains of people suffering from Alzheimer’s, which is a major cause of senility.

Dopamine (DA)- Pleasure pathways for mood and motivation
Schizophrenia has been shown to involve excessive amounts of dopamine in the frontal lobes.  Not enough dopamine in the motor areas of the brain can cause Parkinson’s disease.

Endorphin– Pain reduction, pleasure
Opioids (opium, morphine, heroin, etc.) work by attaching to endorphin’s receptor sites slowing heart beat, respiration and metabolism.

Epinephrine (NE)- Energy levels
Also known as Adrenaline, it increases cardiac output and glucose levels in the blood.  It is released during acute stress, “fight or flight”.

Gamma-Aminobutyric Acid (GABA)– Calmness, relaxation
People with too little GABA tend to suffer from anxiety disorders. Drugs like Valium work by enhancing the effects of GABA.  Lots of other drugs influence GABA receptors, including alcohol and barbituates.  If GABA is lacking in certain parts of the brain, epilepsy can result.

Glutamate– Memory
The most common neurotransmitter in the central nervous system. Over production of glutamate is linked to many diseases such as ALS and other diseases of the nervous system.

Norepinephrine  (EPi)-  Focus, attention, heart rate, blood pressure, forming memories
Amphetamines cause the release of norepinephrine, as well as dopamine and serotonin.

Serotonin (5HT)- Satisfaction, relaxation, emotion, mood
Too little serotonin can lead to depression, anger issues, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and suicide.  Too little serotonin leads to an increased appetite for carbohydrates and trouble sleeping. It has also been tied to migraines, irritable bowel syndrome, and fibromyalgia.

How Nootropics Work & Help the Brain

Even though much more research is being done on the human brain than ever before, much about the brain is still a mystery. However, in the 1990’s we became aware of substances classified as nootropics that can protect and optimize the functions of the brain. Ultimately how nootropics work is they help the brains levels of neurotransmitters (described above) which are the key to communication between the nerve cells or neurons in the brain.

What are Nootropics?

Nootropics are substances (nutrients, supplements, smart drugs and nutraceuticals) that have been observed to improve overall cognitive function and brain health. Some of the improvements are increased focus, motivation, mood, energy, memory, learning ability, speaking ability, speed of thinking and reasoning. There are reports from nootropics users that their use has helped with pain relief, relief from anxiety, depression and reduced cravings for food and addictive substances like cigarettes. Basic understanding of the use of nootropics and how nootropics work is that they help brain function in various ways by optimizing neorutransmitters.

There are dozens of nootropics that have varying degrees of affect on neurotransmitters. The key is to decide what cognitive function one wants to improve. Then identify what nootropic (or nootropics stack) affects the appropriate neurotransmitter. See our next blog post.

Nootropics can help with circulation in the brain. This is important to note as we get older and as cerebral circulation declines. A deficiency in certain B vitamin levels as we age add to the risk of damage of cerebral blood vessels.

Nootropics also affect brain waves.  L-Theanine, as an example, can raise Alpha brain waves which promotes an alert yet relaxed state of mind.

The brain and its neurons are in a constant state of regenerating cells which is called neurogenesis.  It is important to have a balanced state of neurogenesis. Certain nootropics may assist with neuroregeneration, and may be particularly useful in reversing age-related changes in the brain.

Cognitive Benefits of Nootropics

Creativity – Creativity may be improved by alpha brainwave-promoting nootropics.

Focus, Concentration, and Attention – Nootropics may help target attention-related brain chemicals for improved focus capacity.

Information Processing or Thinking – Nootropics may-enhance information processing and the mental ability to intake, process, store, and recall information at accelerated speeds.

Memory and Learning (Long-term, short-term, and working memory)- Nootropics may improve various aspects of memory performance, resulting in improved learning and informational processing.

Mental Stamina – Stress impairs cognition. Anti-stress and anti-fatigue nootropics may help to keep brainpower charged throughout a long day and/or stressful situation.

Mental Composure Under Pressure – Under highly stressful, distracting and chaotic scenarios, the brain seems to lose track of ongoing thought processes and memories. Replenisher nootropics, such as L-tyrosine, keep the brain calm and composed for peak performance when it matters the most.

Mood and Motivation – Low dopamine activity has suggested links to poor mood and motivation. Nootropics may contribute to a healthier pleasure-reward system for enhanced drive and positivity.

Verbal Acuity – Nootropics may help pave cleaner pathways between your thoughts and words.

Nootropics Stacking

Individual nootropics can be taken in standalone, single-ingredient brain supplements. With standalone supplements, people may selectively choose the ingredients that best match their specific cognitive needs.

In understanding how nootropics work it is important to note that some nootropics may work better together than when they are taken alone. Other nootropics may “team up” on specific cognitive concerns to address the same cognitive functions from many different angles.

The smartest nootropic stacking strategies can elevate brain supplements to new levels of effectiveness. However, stacking different nootropics improperly can result in side effects, ineffectiveness and other unintended results. While some people still enjoy self-experimenting with DIY stacking, haphazard or ill-informed nootropic stacking strategies may raise safety risks.

Nootropic Stack Supplements

When designed properly, nootropic stacks can amplify brainpower boosts without the risks of self-experimentation. We have found some great nootropics stacks that are safe and proven.

Nootropics can be either synthetic or natural. We only focus on natural nootropics. To learn more about how nootropics work, in our next blog post we will start to delve into specifics about what natural nootropics affect what neurotransmitters. And list the cognitive affect one can reasonably expect.


Dale Guiducci is one half of Tenacity & Heart along with his with, Shirley Guiducci. They represent a company that produces and sells nootropics and nootropics-infused products. After years of struggle they broke through and became successful home-based entrepreneurs. In this blog, in social media and on podcasts they share their journey and the key component that made all the difference. Dale is also a entrepreneur trainer with Entrepreneurs International. To find out more, visit

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