Coornail’s thoughts

What keeps me up at night

Nootropic Self-experiments

I have always been fascinated by the idea that we can significantly improve our wellbeing by making relatively small changes: exercising, changing our diet, adding some supplements. Even before I knew about the word “Nootropic” I was convinced that supplements highly influence our daily lives.

Goals

If you think about your day, there are so many factors and variables which influence how you feel and how productive you are: How much did you sleep? What did you eat? Did you have an argument? Is your work too demanding?

In this article I will try to filter out all these things that I cannot help you with, and concentrate on my experiment with nootropics, to give you a hint which supplements I have found valuable.

Disclaimers

I am not a medical doctor, all this article was hacked together by fanatic googling. Although these supplements are generally quite safe, you can still hurt or even kill yourself by taking stupid doses. Before you take any supplements based on this article (or in general), always consult your doctor!

This article is still in progress, I try to add more references and graphs.

Data collection

I collected data over more than a year about several aspects of my life, as of the writing of the article it consists of data from 224 days (I didn’t record every day). Most missing days are weekends and holidays, where i didn’t felt the need to measure my productivity (although on some days I continued tracking my mood).

Overview

As you can see these are quite small correlation, with the exception of mood (0.3622). This is quite expected, I’m going to take a leap of faith and assume that my mood influences my productivity and not the other way around, I will use it when creating multiple regression models.

Piracetam Aniracetam Noopept Choline
bitartrate
DMAE ALCAR
Mood 0.1599 0.1717 -0.1017 0.1251 0.0295 0.1479
Productivity -0.0062 0.0540 0.2513 -0.0885 -0.1853 0.0646

It confirms my feelings that nootropics can influence my day to day life in a subtle way at most (and there is nothing wrong with that, I think too many people get into this topic with too high expectations). For now, I’ll ignore correlations under 0.1 .

Mood

In the beginning I recorded my mood on a 1-5 scale at night, but I’ve found that I was too biased by the current mood at the time of recording. So after a week or so I recorded a sample of my mood 3 times a day: at 8:30, 12:00 and 22:00. My mood is the average of these 3 times.

Productivity

I estimated my productivity at the end of the day. I’m working as a programmer, so ideally most of my day would be spent writing code. Unfortunately this is not always the case, but I counted meetings and such errands as productive. I used a 5 point scale here as well.

Sleep

I used the Sleep cycle iPhone app to record the time I slept and my sleep quality (the amount I spent moving at night). This is not the most accurate device in the world, but it works surprisingly well.

Lifestyle

I’m 182cm (6 feet). During the experiment I fluctuated between 82 and 86 kg (180-187 lbs). As a dayjob I worked as a software engineer. I exercised about 3 times a week in a gym, doing weightlifting. I have no diagnosed medical condition. I consider myself an introvert, but by no means I feel isolated.

Substances

Caffeine + Theanine

Caffeine is the default goto stimulant for a working western man and I’m no exception. We all know it has problems (jitterness, dependence, tolerance), but we all know it works.

The addition of theanine supposed to ease the jitterness, and improve the positive effects of caffeine12345.

Subjective

In the beginning I thought that I felt nice with this combination, but later I didn’t really notice.

I feel that Theanine itself works very well to improve my sleep, I sleep wonderfully when taken at night (without caffeine of course).

Scientific

I almost always drink coffee, so there is no significant correlation between caffeine and my mood or productivity (if there is no variance, there is no covariance and there is no correlation).

Piracetam

The father of all racetams and the nootropics family. Piracetam is the usual recommended nootropic for first timers, because it is very safe (safer than salt).

Subjective

This substance was my introduction to the world of nootropics. The first time I took it (before collecting this data), I felt great on it, and I believed that it really made a difference. My last batch was ordered from Cerebral health, the webshop of quite some scandals .

Scientific

Mood: Piracetam made no significant effect on my mood. (P=0.116, P>0.05)

Productivity:

Well, this is sad, Piracetam didn’t make the cut for the 0.1 correlation. I was really hoping for something here. As the last grasp, I tried to factor in mood, but still nothing. Also factored in Choline Bitartrate, as I was taking the two mostly together, but meh…

I wonder about these results… Maybe my piracetam was crap? Or maybe I have to take something else to feel the full effects of piracetam? I certainly took the worst choline source there is, might try with Alpha GPC or CDP-Choline some other time.

Aniracetam

Aniracetam is similar to piracetam, although a bit more potent. Anecdotal evidence suggests that it is the most anxylotic racetam. It should be great for people who cannot perform because of anxiety (I don’t consider myself part of that group). Nevertheless I did feel some anxylotic effect while taking it, although not consistently.

Subjective

In the beginning I felt great mood-brightening effects from Aniracetam, but soon I started feeling very tired about 8-10 hours after taking it. I couldn’t find a solution to that yet, so I temporarely suspended taking it.

Scientific

Mood: Almost there, but still not significant (P=0.0821, P>0.05). The anxilotic effects look promising, I will look back at it when I will have more data.

Productivity: I couldn’t find any correlation between Aniracetam and my Productivity. Well, maybe racetams are just not for me…

The only reason for me to take it is because of its anxilotic effect.

Noopept

The russian-developed racetam derivate Ноопепт gained my attention with its high potency and NGF and BDNF expression stimulating effects. Low BDNF is associated with Depression 67, and in fact people reported that it helped with the mood. I ordered 10g of noopept from ebay in September, 2012. As the usual dose is around 15-50mg/day, this should last me around 200 days. To achieve the optimal neurogenerative effect, people recommend taking a break from it. If I followed the 2 months on, 1 months off rule, it’s easily lasts more than a year. My investment of $47.5 translates to $0.2375/day. In the past year the price went down, so it is easily one of the cheapest nootropics out there.

It is also worth to note that unlike the racetams this is a substance you can overdose.

Subjective

Unlike racetams noopept has a side effect to make you more irritable. I did feel this effect in the first few weeks, but I didn’t later (I got used to it?).

Scientific

So let’s see what noopept did to me:

Mood: The scary negative correlation with mood is not significant (P=0.933, P>0.05). Strange, I’d expect some mood-elavating effects, based on the forums.

Productivity: Those little *s on the right side is what we were looking for, a statistically significant improvement in productivity (P=0.00437, P<0.05)! It explains 6.58% of the variance (R^2=0.06317). For less than $0.2 I can buy more than 6% improvement in productivity for a day; sounds like a good deal.

These results are awesome results, but let’s correct it with mood: P=0.000398! I didn’t expect this low P value in this whole experiment, definitely convinced me to continue taking it.

Choline sources

When I started researching nootropics, choline sources were considered essential if you are taking racetams (as they deplete the brain’s acetylcholine sources).

I didn’t argue, went ahead to buy the cheapest there is: Choline bitartrate.

Choline bitartrate

No wonder the price is so low, this is a very poor source of acetylcholine. As you could guess from “bitartrate” it is very acidic, so I would recommend capping it.

Subjective

Honestly I didn’t feel anything on choline bitartrate, but I also never had headaches without them while taking racetams. Does that mean that my choline levels are high enough?

Scientific

Mood: Users reported depressive effects for choline bitartate, let’s see if I got hit by it or not: No significant effect on mood yet (P=0.0781, P>0.05), although there is hope, maybe with a big bigger sample size.

Productivity: Nothing significant, not even if I correct with mood.

After seeing this, I have no reason to take it in the future.

DMAE

Subjective

I bought DMAE under the impression that it will be a better source of choline than choline bitartrate.

Scientific

Mood: No correlation between DMAE and my mood.

Productivity: Well, this is worrysome. DMAE significantly reduces my productivity (P=0.0427, P<0.05). It hits my productivity by around 3.2% (R^2=0.03219).

No reason to take it anymore. Maybe its cousine centrophenoxine is a better choice, but after seeing this, I’m reluctant to try.

Acetylcarnitine

Acetylcarnitine (ALCAR) is powerful antioxidant, neuroprotective agent8 and a cholinergic, seems like everything we need.

Subjective

I took Acetylcarnitine to help with fatigue, I’ve found that it helps keeping my energy level high. There is some scientific evidence to support it as well: 910111213.

Scientific

Mood: No significant effect (P=0.0816, P>0.05).

Productivity: Could not find correlation between ALCAR and my productivity.

No real surprises there, I think the sample size is too small to conclude anything.

Conclusions

This quick analysis convinced me that I should dig deeper in the area of nootropics. I’ve only found Noopept to be surely worthy for me to continue taking it. To my surprise Choline sources seems to do nothing for me in the best case, worst case they hurt my productivity. I will continue with ALCAR, but stop taking the rest.

My experiments with Piracetam, Aniracetam and ALCAR are still inconclusive. The positive (but not significant) correlation with mood is quite encouraging as my mood explains more than 13% of my productivity alone.

Self-critisism

Let’s consider a few points where I could have made mistakes.

Not measuring the right things

I didn’t measure nor short nor long term memory. I feel that it is not that big of a deal in my day to day, it would be a lot more important for a student for example.

Placebo effect

Well, this is a big one… I didn’t blind myself while taking these pills, so placebo effect could very-well be a factor in these results.

Maybe in the future I will do such experiments, but from a personal perspective, a $10 placebo that works worth exactly as much as a $10 active agent.

Data measurement

I measured the substances once a day, so taking caffeine at 8:00am is no different from taking it at 8:00pm from the data’s perspective.

My mood is by definition a subjective datapoint, I could have used a scientific questionnaire.

Substance measurement

I have a miligram scale. It is fairly accurate for the amounts I’m usually measuring, except for noopept (~10 mg) and melatonin (~1-10mg).

In the future it would be better to dissolve melatonin in water and measure it drop-by-drop (it seems I can do it without problems).

  1. The combined effects of L-theanine and caffeine on cognitive performance and mood.

  2. The effects of L-theanine, caffeine and their combination on cognition and mood.

  3. L-theanine and caffeine improve task switching but not intersensory attention or subjective alertness.

  4. L-Theanine and Caffeine in Combination Affect Human Cognition as Evidenced by Oscillatory alpha-Band Activity and Attention Task Performance

  5. Assessing the effects of caffeine and theanine on the maintenance of vigilance during a sustained attention task.

  6. Hippocampal neurogenesis: opposing effects of stress and antidepressant treatment.

  7. The role of BDNF and its receptors in depression and antidepressant drug action: Reactivation of developmental plasticity.

  8. Carnitine esters prevent oxidative stress damage and energy depletion following transient forebrain ischaemia in the rat hippocampus.

  9. Acetyl L-carnitine (ALC) treatment in elderly patients with fatigue.

  10. Effects of Citric Acid and l-Carnitine on Physical Fatigue.

    “The administration of another substance, l-carnitine, for 8 days failed to cause any significant differences at all time points for all physiological or biochemical markers investigated except for serum l-carnitine and acylcarnitine levels.”

  11. L-Carnitine in the treatment of fatigue in adult celiac disease patients: a pilot study.

  12. Exploratory open label, randomized study of acetyl- and propionylcarnitine in chronic fatigue syndrome.

    “This study indicates that both ALC and PLC are successful in the treatment of symptoms of CFS in a major subset of CFS patients.”

  13. Effect of L-carnitine on submaximal exercise metabolism after depletion of muscle glycogen.

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