This post was written by the original Peak Nootropics blog team and has been recreated for reference purposes:
Can certain nootropics help to reduce or even reverse the effects of brain damage or traumatic injury? Obviously, we cannot make a medical statement but we can present the facts and this article is meant to clear up some of these common questions people have about nootropics and brain damage.
UNDERSTANDING TYPE & SEVERITY OF BRAIN DAMAGE
Not all brain damage is created equal. There are different types and severities. Some types of brain damage could be recoverable whereas other types may never completely recover. Recovery from damage will depend on many different factors but primarily the severity of the injury, area and exposure length.
Brain damage can be a result of internal or external factors. An external factor would be for instance, if someone hit their head. This trauma, depending on the severity can damage the cells within the brain which may result in a number of problems. Internal injury factors could be something like neurotoxicity induced from a chemical or hypoxia (lack of oxygen) from stroke resulting in brain cell death. Brain damage can also be caused internally over a long period of time. Brain aging due to oxidative stress is a perfect example.
The results of brain damage can affect different areas of the brain causing multiple and different negative effects. Speech, coordination and movement may be primarily affected. On the other hand, the damage can relate strictly to memory and learning processes. Other factors like mood can also be affected. Understanding the primary cause of the damage can help one understand which system is primarily affected.
SO CAN NOOTROPICS HELP?
For people with brain damage racetams may help to improve cognitive functioning. Racetams like piracetam will not work to reverse damages. With this said damages to the cholinergic system as a result of brain injury or aging may be helped by possibly enhancing the function of existing neurons.
People with damages to the cholinergic system may suffer primarily from memory loss and cognitive deficits relating to learning and memory. Even though racetams may not work to recover damaged cholinergic neurons, they may help to improve the effectiveness of existing ones. Certain cholinergic nootropics may also have neuroprotective qualities by helping preserve the integrity of the existing neurons.
NEUROPROTECTION & BRAIN AGING
Piracetam has immediate neuroprotective qualities for those who suffer from an ischemic stroke . This is because piracetam increases cerebral blood flow. This property can help with brain damage when the oxygen supply to the brain is disrupted. For this reason, taking piracetam during times when oxygen supply can be severely restricted may help to reduce brain damages as a result.
The other more common type of brain damage that affects everyone is oxidative stress. Oxidative stress is active in all of our brains and the level of it will determine how fast cells in our brain are destroyed. Brain aging is the depletion of neurons due to the release of free radicals which damage brain cells internally. Alzheimer’s is thought to be a result of brain aging linked to oxidative stress .
Many cholinergic nootropics may help to reduce oxidative stress but one that particularly stands apart is noopept. Studies have shown noopept to reduce oxidative stress and possibly even reverse cell death .
As a prevention strategy of long term oxidative stress brain damage, racetams and cholinergics like noopept are a good option. Their neuroprotective qualities on the cholinergic system may produce a significant reduction in cognitive decline associated with brain aging.
EXISTING BRAIN INJURY RECOVERY
The good news is the brain can repair itself to some extent. Damage to the Central Nervous System (CNS) is much harder for the body to repair than the Peripheral Nervous System (PNS). The cholinergic system is part of the PNS so damages to motor movement, learning, memory and speech may be possibly repaired in this respect.
One way the body regenerates and preserves cells is through small protein-like signaling molecules known as growth factors. In the brain, brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) and nerve growth factor (NGF) are two such growth factors known as neurotrophins that are known to contribute to the regeneration of brain cells.
With the spotlight on noopept, BDNF and NGF expression was demonstrated to be increased in the hippocampus of rat brains . This shows possible implications that nooept may reserve certain brain impairments as a result of damage to this area which is prominent in a long list of cognitive processes.
Apart from noopept’s possible implications in brain recovery, the natural nootropic known as the “lion’s mane mushroom” has shown to increase NGF specifically and it has even been studied for possible applications for late Alzheimer’s and dementia treatment.
One popular study found lion’s mane to have neurotrophic properties by stimulating the release of NGF . Lion’s mane was not shown to reduce oxidative stress and therefore is not considered to be neuroprotective. The good news is the increase and stimulation of NGF release may be positive news for those who have mild brain damage in the peripheral nervous system and want a natural supplement that may help them.
The type, severity and length of exposure will determine whether or not nootropics will have a resulting improvement on brain damages. Damage to the central nervous system is much harder to repair than that in the cholinergic related peripheral system.
Taking nootropics for neuroprotective qualities may not reverse damages but may help to protect the integrity of the damaged system. Nootropics have merit in helping brain damaged sufferers who want to help protect their brain from further (and rapid) decline.
Certain nootropics like noopept and lion’s mane may help to regenerate certain cells in the brain by stimulating the expression and release of neurotrophins like BDNF an NGF which are known to grow new cells within the brain.
Whether or not your brain damage may be severe, nootropics may have their place in helping to reduce and maybe even reverse some of the damages. Always follow the advice of your doctor before using nootropics, especially if you are taking treatment for damages.
- http://stroke.ahajournals.org/content/28/12/2347.full – Piracetam and Stroke
- http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC161361/ – Oxidative stress and Alzheimer’s
- http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0736574803000315 – Noopept & Oxidative Damage
- http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19240853 – Noopept BDNF and NGF Expression
- http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24266378 – Lion’s Mane neurotrophic