But it turns out that DMAE is NOT a precursor to acetylcholine as reported on many nootropic and brain optimization sites. However, many neurohackers report that supplementing with DMAE has worked wonders for their brain.
So here we’ll try to clear up some of the confusion and misinformation surrounding DMAE as a nootropic supplement. And if adding DMAE to your stack makes sense.
- Neuroprotection. DMAE helps eliminate lipofuscin and free radicals from brain cells.
- Neurotransmitters. DMAE prevents choline uptake by cells forcing more free choline to be available in your system. And DMAE stimulates cholinergic receptors that may promote the use of acetylcholine (ACh) in your brain.
- Mood. DMAE supplementation may improve mood and energy while influencing sleep patterns.
Table of Contents
DMAE (Dimethylaminoethanol, Deanol, Deaner) is an amine naturally produced in small amounts in your brain. High levels of DMAE are also found in seafood like anchovies and sardines.
By preventing the use of choline by other tissues (including synthesis into acetylcholine), DMAE increases choline levels in the bloodstream.[i]
Once DMAE crosses the blood-brain barrier, it increases choline levels in the brain. So with higher choline levels present, you would expect elevated levels of acetylcholine (ACh).
But research has shown this is not always what happens when DMAE gets to your brain. In one study DMAE was rapidly taken into the brain. But when it reached synapses – nothing happened. Choline levels rose but did not convert into acetylcholine.[ii]
What’s going on here? First, we must look at how acetylcholine (ACh) is made. ACh is synthesized in a single step reaction catalyzed by the enzyme choline acetyltransferase (ChAT).[iii] The rate-limiting steps in ACh synthesis are the availability of choline and Acetyl Coenzyme A (Acetyl-CoA).
The only other source of acetylcholine (ACh) is synthetization from phosphatidylcholine (PC) via phosphatidylethanolamine N-methyltransferase (PEMT).[iv] And this ACh synthesis only happens in cholinergic receptors.
So it would appear that DMAE cannot be converted to either choline or ACh. The only way DMAE can increase choline is by inhibiting choline metabolism.
And the reason why choline levels rise in the brain when supplementing with DMAE is because the choline does not synthesize into acetylcholine (ACh).[v]
So why do some neurohackers experience a benefit in increased focus, clearer cognition, and even an antidepressant effect with DMAE?
DMAE may be useful to those dealing with a choline deficiency in the brain. And studies show that DMAE effectiveness in the brain depends on the health of the cholinergic system in your brain.[viii]
But as neurohackers we have more efficient options available for boosting acetylcholine in the brain. Centrophenoxine which is a combination of DMAE and cCPA (parachlorphenoxyacetic acid) seems to boost acetylcholine in the brain much more efficiently than DMAE.
How does DMAE Work in the Brain?
DMAE boosts brain health and function in several ways. But two in particular stand out.
- DMAE is a neuroprotectant. Lipofuscin is a cellular waste product that accumulates in brain cells as we age. It’s the same waste product that causes brown spots on skin. Lipofuscin hides in cells throughout your body including your brain, eyes, liver, kidneys, heart, adrenals and nerve cells (neurons).
Neurohackers often report that supplementing with DMAE produces enhanced vision. This vision effect may be DMAE’s ability to help remove waste like lipofuscin from cells that affect vision.
This lipofuscin removal mechanism of action by DMAE has been shown in animal studies. Researchers used Centrophenoxine injections on 17-month old female mice. The animals were injected daily for 3 months.
The researchers studied changes in pigment layers of the retina of both eyes in the mice. And found there was significant reduction of lipofuscin pigment in the treated animals.[ix]
Centrophenoxine breaks down into DMAE once in your body. And it is the DMAE in this nootropic that provides the lipofuscin scavenger affects.
- DMAE enhances attention and mood. DMAE has been reported by some neurohackers to improve vigilance, attention, mood and energy while alleviating depression. A study by German researchers may explain where this feeling of well-being comes from when supplementing with DMAE.
This double-blind, placebo-controlled trial used 80 human subjects evenly split between male and female. The study analyzed their brain’s electrical reaction during the presentation of five 7-minute video clips followed by a 3-minute pause for each.
Decreases in theta and alpha brain waves have been associated with increased vigilance and attention. The subjects using DMAE were also more active and felt better.
The researchers concluded that DMAE can induce a state of better feeling of well-being.[x]
As we get older, our brain chemistry and energy metabolism changes.
↓ Cholinergic receptors degenerate
↓ DMAE levels decline
↑ Lipofuscin and free radicals build up in brain cells
All of these age-related changes could be influenced by declining DMAE levels. And are contributing factors to neurodegenerative diseases and depression.
DMAE levels are an inevitable consequence of aging. And may contribute to the onset of degenerative disease.
DMAE increases choline levels in your brain. This increase in choline and DMAE’s ability to stimulate cholinergic receptors into action may lead to an increase in acetylcholine (ACh) levels.
Increased ACh levels affect learning and memory. ACh helps the encoding of memories and your ability to concentrate. As neurohackers, we absolutely want to increase acetylcholine levels. Especially if our brain is low on ACh.
But DMAE is not the best way to achieve the goal of elevated ACh levels.
Research into DMAE is ongoing and there may be some benefits to DMAE supplementation not yet known by the neurohacking or research community.[xii]
DMAE has been used to treat a variety of conditions from cognitive disorders to ADHD. DMAE is also used in skin care products to help reduce age spots, fine lines and wrinkles, and even sagging skin.[xiii]
Free radicals can cause damage to DNA, upset cellular metabolism, and induce the creation of oxygen species that kill brain cells.[xiv] Some research has found that DMAE is a somewhat effective free radical scavenger.[xv]
DMAE has been found to diminish the extent of “cross-linking” of proteins that have been implicated in diseases like Alzheimer’s.[xvi] Researchers think this may be due to DMAE’s effectiveness as a free radical scavenger.[xvii]
DMAE is reported to induce lucid dreaming.[xviii]
How does DMAE feel?
Some neurohackers report that DMAE supplementation causes a noticeable boost in their ability to concentrate.
DMAE users often report:
- better memory (especially short-term memory)
- mentally alert
- improved focus
- mental clarity
- better sleep patterns
Dosing more DMAE than recommended has been reported to make you feel edgy and tense. And you may experience muscles spasms, particularly in your shoulders and neck.
DMAE Clinical Research
Early DMAE Research
A prescription form of DMAE called Deaner or Deanol was in clinical use as far back as the 1960’s and 70’s. Deanol was used for the treatment of learning and behavioral problems associated with shortened attention span.
Two clinical trials conducted over 40 years ago proving the efficacy of using DMAE for treating what’s now known as ADHD are below.
But in 1983, the FDA in all their wisdom insisted on additional studies to prove the effectiveness of DMAE. And because clinical trials would have been costlier than product sales could support, the company making Deanol and Deaner took them off the market.
DMAE is now available as a nootropic supplement. One that your doctor or psychiatrist is unlikely to prescribe to you for treating your ADHD.
DMAE to Treat ADHD
One double-blind, placebo-controlled study compared the effects of DMAE supplementation with methylphenidate (Ritalin) for treating ADHD. 74 children diagnosed with learning problems and hyperactivity were referred to this study.
The children received 40 mg of Ritalin, 500 mg of DMAE or a placebo daily for 3 months. Behavior, reaction times and other psychometric tests were done before and after treatment.
Both ‘drugs’ proved to be effective according to several tests. The researchers concluded that DMAE supplementation significantly improved performance in children with learning and behavior disorders.[xix]
Another study conducted by Dr. Carl Pfeiffer of the Brain-Bio center in Princeton, New Jersey with 25 girls and 83 boys found similar results in using DMAE for treating ADHD.
In this study, Dr. Pfeiffer found that DMAE enhanced the behavior in 2/3 of the boys and 3/4 of the girls. Attention span was better, irritability and hyperactivity were decreased, scholastic ability improved and in some cases even IQ got a boost.[xx]
So if you’re ADHD, and using Ritalin or Adderall and looking for a natural alternative, you may want to try DMAE.
DMAE use in Cosmetics
Most of the research on DMAE in the 1950’s and 60’s centered around using this compound for cognitive function and brain health.
The most recent research on DMAE is primarily for using the compound in skin cosmetic formulas.
DMAE has been shown to increase skin firmness even in young skin. One study with 30 healthy adults aged 36 – 49 applied DMAE gel or a placebo. The results of the study showed that DMAE-treated skin was much firmer.[xxi]
Another randomized clinical study used 3% DMAE facial gel applied daily for 16 weeks. The gel was able to reduce forehead lines, wrinkles around the eyes and improve lip shape and fullness. And the effects did not regress even 2-weeks after stopping application.
Another open-label extension of the same trial showed that long-term application of DMAE gel had a good safety profile.[xxii]
DMAE nootropic supplements are usually sold as DMAE bitartrate. A capsule of DMAE bitartrate is only 37% DMAE and the rest is 67% tartaric acid.
A 250 mg capsule of DMAE bitartrate yields 92.5 mg of actual DMAE.
Take your DMAE dose in the morning before or with breakfast. Dose DMAE a few times a week, but not every day.
If you are going to use DMAE, stack it with a good source of choline. Remember that DMAE inhibits choline and metabolism of choline. And you absolutely need choline and acetylcholine for a fully optimized brain.
DMAE Side Effects
DMAE is considered non-toxic and safe for short-term or intermittent use. Your body naturally produces some DMAE on its own.
You shouldn’t experience any side effects as long as you use DMAE in recommended doses.
Some neurohackers report insomnia, headaches and muscle tension. Usually because the dose was too high.
If you have a negative reaction to DMAE stop using DMAE.
If you are planning on becoming pregnant do not use DMAE. Clinical studies have shown that DMAE may stunt the growth of the child’s brain.[xxiii]
If you have epilepsy or bipolar disorder you should avoid using DMAE entirely.
Where to buy DMAE
DMAE is available in tablet, capsule, powder, liquid, creams and gels.
DMAE tablets and capsules are usually DMAE bitartrate (see “Dosage Notes”) and 150 – 350 mg.
Depending on the size of capsule or tablet, do the conversion for pure DMAE, and start slowly with a low dose of 50 mg. And see how you respond.
Nootropics Expert Recommendation
DMAE 100 – 200 mg per day
Your body does make some DMAE on its own. But DMAE production inevitably declines with age.
But here at Nootropics Expert, I feel there are much more effective and safe ways to improve alertness, concentration, focus, and memory.
If you’re going to use DMAE, start with 50 mg of DMAE per day. And see how you feel. Increase the dose no more than 50 mg at a time.
And watch for side effects. Don’t forget to cycle it. Take it for a few days and take a couple of days off.