Piracetam belongs to a chemical group called racetams, and it was synthetically created in the 1950s. In some countries, it is regarded as a prescription medication while in others it is treated as an over-the-counter supplement.
The compound was first produced to treat epilepsy and is still used for this purpose. However, researchers later found that it improves metabolism of brain cells, and thus it can help improve memory, cognition and other aspects of mental performance.
How Does Piracetam Work?
The exact mechanism of action of this drug is still poorly understood, although most researchers agree that it boosts the metabolism of brain cells. Research indicates that it increases oxygen and glucose concentration in neurons. That may explain its beneficial effect on cognition. Studies also show that this effect is more pronounced in old people or those living with various brain diseases. However, in healthy subjects, improvement in the metabolism of brain cells is limited.
Another suggested way of working of piracetam is through suppression of excessive firing by neurons. It does so by interacting with calcium channels. It also acts on AMPA (glutamate) receptors, by suppressing their potentials. Although piracetam is a GABA derivative, it does not interact with GABA receptors.
Further, piracetam may help maintain the fluidity of the membrane of brain cells. During oxidative stress, the cell membrane becomes more rigid. Similarly, membrane fluidity decreases with age. Piracetam is also known to improve fluidity of mitochondrial membrane in brain cells. Many investigators believe that it is this ability of piracetam that plays a vital role in improving memory and other cognitive skills.
Benefits and Uses of Piracetam
Piracetam has diverse uses in different countries. The following are the common uses and benefits of this drug:
1. Memory and cognition. This is perhaps the most common use of piracetam. There are very few drugs that can improve memory. Piracetam seems to help improve short-term working memory. Research also shows that the benefits are more significant in people with memory issues, whereas in healthy people, such benefits are very limited. Additionally, it seems that piracetam may also help reduce age-related decline in cognition. Thus it can be part of anti-aging therapy.
Neurodegenerative diseases like dementia, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and multiple sclerosis are on the rise. At present, none of these conditions can be cured, and they are poorly managed. In all these conditions there is a continuous decline in memory and other mental abilities. Research seems to favor the use of piracetam in people with such diseases. It may slow down the decline in memory and cognitive functions.
2. Dyslexia. Piracetam may help improve learning, verbal communication and academic performance.
3. Epileptic seizures. As piracetam suppresses hyper firing by some neurons, it may help in seizures.
4. Neuroprotection. Diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s are not reversible, thus many researchers propose that the only way to prevent them is by using neuroprotective agents. Piracetam has been shown to possess neuroprotective properties, and so it may help avoid these medical conditions or at least delay the onset.
5. Stroke. This is one of the common cardiovascular events. Studies show that piracetam may help to reduce the complications associated with the condition.
6. Pain reduction. It seems that piracetam may help reduce pain associated with acute inflammation.
7. Stress, depression and anxiety. Although no conclusive evidence has been discovered, it may have a beneficial effect in these conditions based on what consumers report.
8. Central movement disorders. Piracetam may help improve activity level in those living with various movement disorders resulting from brain diseases.
Apart from having various beneficial effects on the brain, it seems that piracetam is also good for heart health as it has antithrombotic properties. It may also suppress acute inflammation, and may have an immunomodulating effect.
Above all, it seems that piracetam is an amazingly safe compound. In some studies, it was used at very high doses for more than one year, and yet no significant side effects were reported. There is also no known toxic dose of piracetam.
This drug may not be beneficial for everyone, especially healthy individuals with no remarkable mental difficulties. But of the many off-label cognitive enhancing drugs on the market today, piracetam is quite safe and mild, which makes it a better choice to try before considering more potent and more risky alternatives.