What are Nootropics?

Nootropics. You might have heard of them. The “limitless pill” that keeps Billionaires rich. The ‘smart drugs’ that students are taking to help boost their hyperfocus ( Vice ). The cognitive enhancers that give corporate executives an advantage. ( Harvard Business Review ). All very exciting. But as always, the media are way behind the curve. Yes, for the past few decades, cognitive enhancers were largely sketchy substances that people used to grasp at a short term edge at the expense of their health and wellbeing. But the days of dropping Adderall and Ritalin to pull an all-nighter are so 2010. The better, safer path isn’t with these stimulants but with nootropics. Nootropics consist of supplements and substances which enhance your cognition, in particular when it comes to motivation, creativity, memory, and other executive functions.

These days, nootropics are beginning to take their rightful place as a particularly powerful tool in the Neurohacker’s toolbox. After all, biochemistry is deeply foundational to neural function. Whether you are trying to fix the damage that is done to your nervous system by a stressful and toxic environment or support and enhance your neural functioning, getting the chemistry right is table-stakes. And we are starting to get good at getting it right. What’s changed?

Scientific Research

A big part is that we are finally starting to apply complex systems science to psycho-neuro-pharmacology and a nootropic approach. The neural system is awesomely complex and old-fashioned reductionist science has a really hard time with complexity. Big Pharma spends hundreds of millions of dollars trying to separate the effects of just a single molecule from placebo – and nootropics invariably show up as “stacks” of many different ingredients (ours, Qualia , currently has 42 separate synergistic ingredients from racetams and alpha GPC to bacopa monnieri and L-theanine). That kind of complex, multi pathway input requires a different methodology to understand well that goes beyond simply what’s put in capsules.

But, thanks to the efforts of a number of remarkable scientists, researchers and plain-old neurohackers, we are beginning to put together a “whole systems” model of how all the different parts of the human brain work together and how they mesh with the complex regulatory structures of the body. It’s going to take a lot more data and collaboration to dial this model in, but already we are empowered to design stacks that can meaningfully deliver on the promise of nootropics “to enhance the quality of subjective experience and protect the brain from injury while having extremely low toxicity and possessing very few side effects.” It’s a type of brain hacking that’s is intended to produce noticeable enhancing effects.

The Future of the Nootropic Industry

Even the best of today’s nootropics only just barely scratch the surface. You might say that we are in the “Nokia 1100” phase of taking nootropics, and as better tools and more data come along, the leading thinkers in the space see a powerful future. For example, they are already beginning to look past biochemistry to the epigenome. Not only is the epigenome the code that runs much of your native biochemistry, we now know that experiences in life can be recorded in your epigenome and then passed onto future generations. There is every reason to believe that you are currently running epigenetic code that you inherited from your great-grandmother’s life experiences. And there is every reason to believe that the epigenome can be hacked – that the nootropics of the future can not only support and enhance our biochemistry, but can permanently change the epigenetic code that drives that biochemistry and that we pass onto our children.

We’ll dive into the cognition enhancing possibilities in future posts, but for now, here are just a few resources to get you started in exploring this domain of neurohacking:


Steven Fowkes –- quorafacebookgoogle+youtubelinkedin
* Organic chemist who co-wrote the foundational book on Smart Drugs
* Founded the Cognitive Enhancement Research Institute
* Founded Project Wellbeing
* Related interests: Nutrition, Neurohacking/ Biohacking, Human Performance, Nano-tech

David Pearce -- @webmasterdave -- facebook
* Wrote the online bible of nootropics at nootropics.com
* Founder of The Hedonistic Imperative , a project outlining how bioengineering and nanotechnology will abolish suffering in all sentient life
* The Hedonistic Imperative Facebook public group
* The Abolitionist Project
* Related Interests: Philosophy of mind, Ethics, Transhumanism, AI

Joe Cohen --@Selfhacked
* Authors the blog SelfHacked
* Embodies much of the neurohacker ethos; taking responsibility for his health & wellbeing and upgrading his experience through research and self-experimentation


Longecity: Brain Health @imminst facebook
* Forum for discussing nootropic stacks and mental health Reddit Forum Groups – Forum for discussing nootropics and cognitive enhancers
* r/Nootropics/ @CognitvEnhancer , @Smart_Drugs, @Nootropix
* r/CognitiveEnhancement/
* r/DrugNerds @DrugNerds
* Forum for discussing brain nootropics and psychedelics

Informational Resources & Scientific Literature

* An independent encyclopedia on supplementation and nutrition.
* Citations for biomedical literature
* Independent testing of health and nutrition products

Educational Blogs & Websites
* Research-backed content & reviews of effectiveness of supplements
Smarter Nootropics

Self Tracking Apps & Brain Training Programs
Cambridge Brain Sciences
Dual N-Back
Quantified Mind

Vendors / Suppliers

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