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It’s no surprise that studying and schoolwork can put a lot of pressure on children. It’s also no surprise that this pressure can sometimes lead to students thinking of ways to improve concentration and focus for longer than normal to get all their work done (although let’s be honest, this strategy doesn’t die when you leave the education system.)
Perhaps your own kids are looking for ways to try and cram in all the things they need to get done for an essay, an exam or for university applications. Perhaps you are worried about what the best way is of supporting them, without it turning into Jessie Spano taking caffeine pills in Saved By The Bell.
We at LYMA think we have a healthy, sustainable solution in the form of our patented nootropic Cognizin®. This is how Cognizin®, and other nootropics or ‘smart drugs’, compare to a cup of coffee, or a study drug like modafanil.
Nootropics are natural substances that both improve your focus and concentration in the short-term but also, in the best cases, proactively nurture your brain in the long-term. While some stimulants like caffeine are nootropics, and stimulate the brain in return for a crash later in the day, others – like citicoline – work by giving smaller immediate rushes with other benefits. Citicoline, and some other nootropics, help to feed and develop your brain’s ecosystem, the same way that hitting your macros will help you put on muscle mass.
They do this in a multitude of ways, but some increase the production of chemicals and hormones in the brain, or increase blood flow. Others help to improve the communication cells in our brains – neurons – while also protecting them against damage.
A lot of stimulants, especially the most intense ones – illegal drugs, for instance, or Adderall – make you fire on all cylinders until you don’t have enough neurotransmitters left to keep firing. By exhausting them faster than you produce them, your body can’t keep up and this can lead to addiction. A good nootropic will make sure you’re planting more trees than you’re chopping down by supporting the production of phospholipids, the main component in our cell membranes.
You may also hear nootropics referred to be the term ‘smart drugs’. Not only does this sound a little bit like something out of a dystopian sci-fi novel, but Stanford neuroscientist Andrew Huberman has pointed out that this term is destructively vague. “Smart means very different things in different contexts,” he explains in this episode of his podcast, “so the idea that there’s one pill or one formula that would make us smarter and better at all these things at once just doesn’t stand up to logic.” Instead, different combinations of nootropic can benefit different parts of concentration, focus, memory and the like.
Before we talk a bit more about our favourite nootropic, and the patented version we use in LYMA, it’s worth looking at whether nootropics are themselves used as performance enhancers. After all, can something that works so gently, and over a long time, really provide benefits on par with amphetamines or caffeine?
It’s important to note that, fundamentally, nootropics will never compare in the short-term to caffeine, or Adderall, or even something milder like Modafanil: these short-term boosts have long-term repercussions, and that’s the exact trade-off Nootropics don’t want to have. But that doesn’t mean nootropics don’t, therefore, have provenance as a useful tool.
The OG smart drug was a nootropic known as piracetam, discovered in the early 1960s by Corneliu Giurgea. It’s a prescription drug here in the UK, and cannot be sold as a supplement. Ironically, it was discovered in the attempt to find a sedative, and was found to improve memory over a month of taking it. It has since become a favourite – like Modafanil and other ‘smart drugs’ - for students and people in jobs that demand long hours. But there’s not a huge amount of evidence out there to back piracetam’s efficacy. However some people swear by it, or variations like phenylpiracetam, which Soviet cosmonauts used to take to stay diligent in space.
But there is a nootropic that does have peer-reviewed clinical trials and proven science behind it. It’s citicoline – and in particular our patented version Cognizin® - and it might just be the study aid your child needs.
Citicoline is a type of choline - an essential nutrient found in the body – that synthesises phospholipids. As phospholipids keep your brain well fed, this is great for improving your brain functions. Various phospholipids have been proven to boost the transfer of vital goodies around the brain, and keep memory sharper than normal as you age.
You can take various phospholipids themselves straight up as supplements, but they are less bioavailable (and therefore useable by the body) because they are big molecules the body finds harder to absorb. By taking the nutrients that help produce them instead, you arguably allow your body to do it more efficiently.
Ultimately, citicoline is great for maintaining long-term brain health. “You’re helping the brain structures and cells be as healthy as possible,” explained Danielle Citrolo, resident pharmacist at US nootropic company Kyowa Hakko, “and maintain their health over time, for as long as you continue to take it.”
The best citicoline in the game is Cognizin®, a patented form backed up with peer-reviewed evidence and proven to be beneficial to those who take it. That’s why we include it in LYMA’s Supplement.
Studies have shown Cognizin® to have a bevvy of benefits, including in phospholipid production and preventing cognitive decline, but also in improving focus and concentration: subjects who took Cognizin® and then did “a fancy MRI” (Citrolo’s words) called a ‘Phosphorous Magnetic Resonance Spectroscopy’ showed a significant increase in phosphorous in the brain. The area of the brain responsible for focus and concentration - the anterior cingulate cortex – was also lit up like Blackpool Illuminations during the scans. “That’s where Cognizin® has the most impact,” says Citrolo.
Caffeine works by inhibiting our brain’s adenosine receptors: when adenosine is transmitted via these, it gradually makes us feel more sleepy as the day goes on. By stopping this process, caffeine keeps our brain alert for longer, but once the caffeine is dislodged it can mean we crash.
Modafanil is a popular ‘study drug’ that was, originally, designed to help narcoleptics suffer when low on sleep.
It works by preventing the re-uptake of dopamine into cells, meaning dopamine hangs around the nerve synopsis for longer, and the user gets the benefits of that dopamine for longer than usual. Unlike Adderall or amphetamines, it doesn’t activate the entire central nervous system.
Cognizin® only slightly increases dopamine, and focuses instead on acetylcholine: a type of choline that is part of the parasympathetic nervous system. Its effects on neurotransmitters, however, are secondary to how it increases the production of phosphatidylcholine, one of the aforementioned phospholipids, which has neuroprotective effects.