Racetams are a family of supplements known as nootropics. This comes from the Greek meaning ‘mind-turning,’ due to their ability to affect brain and cognitive functions. There are a number of supplements classified within this racetam family and the inner workings of each, including their mechanisms of action are all fairly similar. Yet, at the same time, each of these supplements can offer slightly different benefits and results. How does each of the major racetams work? Can they be taken together, or in different combinations?
The first nootropic was Piracetam, first synthesized in 1964 by a Belgian pharmaceutical company. It does appear to have some interesting effects and benefits upon improving cognitive functions, especially in those suffering from age-related mental decline. There is also no toxicity to this supplement.
Despite the fact that this has been on the market for a number of years, the mechanisms of action are still not entirely understood. It appears to enhance membrane fluidity by interacting directly with cell membranes. It controls excessive excitation within the brain largely by binding to both glutamate receptors and affecting the levels of circulating acetylcholine.
Another entry into the racetam family, Aniracetam, is more potent than Piracetam. It also is one of the few fat-soluble racetam members and this may be why many consider it to be more effective. This one is more geared towards improving creativity and holistic thinking, rather than Piracetam which seems to exert mild effects in a more general fashion. Aniracetam also has shown a surprising efficacy in helping to reduce feelings of anxiety and low moods.
The mechanism of action in this supplement is believed to be a positive modulation of certain excitatory receptors in the brain known as AMPA receptors. It also decreases the rate of receptor desensitization. This may be why the effects typical manifest as controlled and prolonged neurological stimulation.
The main benefit of Oxiracetam is potency. It is actually quite similar to the original Piracetam, improving many of the same processes. These beneficial processes include improving the effectiveness of brain training games, boosting memory, improving general cognitive function, repairing damage done by excessive alcohol consumption, and possibly effective in dealing with cognitive disorders and age-related memory loss.
Oxiracetam is fast acting and believed to effect the production of both acetylcholine and glutamate. These neurotransmitters play an important role in our ability to sustain attention in the CNS. This is also likely why short-term memory and learning are positively affected.
While all the members of the racetam family do have essentially similar mechanisms of action, we should still keep in mind a number of other factors. First, each supplement will affect different people in different ways. Also, the potency can vary considerably from supplement to supplement. Also bear in mind that stacking different nootropics and ractems may provide a synergistic effect, this should be done carefully and under controlled circumstances.