DMAE boosts alertness

Dimethylaminoethanol (DMAE / DMEA)

David Tomen
David Tomen
13 minute read
DMAE has been shown to boost alertness, focus, memory, and mental clarity.

Key Takeaways

  1. DMAE is structurally similar to choline but not a direct precursor to acetylcholine (ACh), causing confusion about its role as a nootropic.
  2. It may provide neuroprotection by removing lipofuscin and free radicals from brain cells.
  3. DMAE boosts choline levels in the brain and stimulates cholinergic receptors, potentially leading to improved mood, energy, and sleep patterns in some people.
  4. Studies have explored its potential benefits in treating cognitive disorders and ADHD, while it is also used in cosmetics for skin-firming properties.
  5. Recommended dosage is 100-200 mg per day, with short-term or intermittent use is considered safe, but should be avoided during pregnancy or by those with epilepsy or bipolar disorder.

DMAE (Dimethylaminoethanol, Deanol, Deaner) has two methyl groups and is structurally similar to choline, which is a direct precursor to the synthesis of acetylcholine (ACh).

ACh is a critical neurotransmitter that influences everything from memory to muscle control. And it is the relationship ACh has with DMAE that generates most of the hype around DMAE as a nootropic.

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 I’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.

DMAE helps:

  • 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.


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.

DMAE chemical structure

Researchers have speculated that DMAE may increase acetylcholine (ACh) levels in the brain by inhibiting choline metabolism in peripheral tissues.

By preventing the use of choline by other tissues (including acetylcholine synthesis), 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?

It could be that DMAE stimulates cholinergic receptors into taking action.[vi] And with extra choline floating around because of DMAE, these neuroreceptors may decide to produce some extra ACh.[vii]

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.

DMAE as a nootropic protects brain health by reducing lipofuscin

How does DMAE Work in the Brain?

DMAE boosts brain function and health in several ways. But two in particular stand out.

  1. DMAE is a neuroprotectant. Lipofuscin is a cellular waste product that accumulates in nerve cells in the brain 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.

  1. 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.

This procedure was repeated after 6 and 12 weeks of daily intake of DMAE or a placebo. The subjects taking DMAE for 3 months developed significantly less theta and alpha brain waves.

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]

How things go badDMAE helps with sleep and promotes lucid dreaming

As we get older, our brain chemistry and energy metabolism changes.

Concentration, working memory and executive function decline

↓ 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 benefits

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.

But DMAE does not directly elevate acetylcholine levels in the brain. DMAE is NOT a precursor to acetylcholine.[xi]

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 supplementing with DMAE not yet known by the neurohacking or research community.[xii]

DMAE has been used to treat a variety of conditions from cognitive disorders to attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). DMAE is also used in skin care products to help reduce age spots, fine lines and wrinkles, improve skin appearance, and even reduce 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:

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 Nootropic boosts cognition

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 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 human brain health.

The most recent research on DMAE is primarily for using the compound in skin cosmetic formulas. But too much DMAE may cause skin irritation.

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 Supplements Dosage

Recommended dosage the dietary supplement DMAE is 100 – 200 mg per day.DMAE dosage

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 the neurotransmitter acetylcholine for a fully optimized brain.

DMAE inhibits phospholipid synthesis. This means you won’t get much help with choline precursors. You need a good source of choline.

Without getting into a long explanation of the mechanics – Alpha GPC or CDP-Choline and Omega-3’s can help offset the damage caused by long-term DMAE use.

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.

See “DMAE Supplements Dosage” about how to stack DMAE if you’re going to supplement with this nootropic.

Where to buy DMAE

DMAE is available in tablet, capsule, powder, liquid, creams and gels.

DMAE tablets and capsules are usually DMAE bitartrate (see “DMAE Supplements Dosage”) 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.

Frequently Asked Questions

Should you take DMAE before bed?

DMAE should be used earlier in the day for its mild stimulant effect. But many users also report better sleep and lucid dreams and there is scientific evidence to support this benefit.

Why is DMAE banned?

DMAE has not been ‘banned. But neither does it have FDA approval as a drug nor a supplement. In 1983 the FDA insisted that Riker Laboratories who were producing DMAE provide 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. Now DMAE is sold as a nootropic supplement.

Does taking DMAE cause anxiety?

Some neurohackers report insomnia, headaches and muscle tension when using DMAE. Usually because the dose was too high.

If you have a negative reaction like anxiety then you should stop using DMAE.

What is the best way to take DMAE?

Take your DMAE dose in the morning before or with breakfast. Dose DMAE a few times a week, but not every day. You should use CDP-Choline or Alpha GPC and a good Omega-3 to help offset any potential damage while using DMAE.

How long does it take for DMAE to start working?

DMAE should starting working soon after you take it. This nootropic does not require long-term use before experiencing DMAE benefits.

Nootropics Expert Recommendation

DMAE 100 – 200 mg per day

Nootropics Expert - Tested and Not ApprovedI do NOT recommend using DMAE as a nootropic supplement. But if you must use DMAE, refer to the “DMAE Supplements Dosage” and “DMAE Side Effects” in this review.

Your body does make some DMAE on its own. But DMAE production inevitably declines with age.

Some neurohackers report that a DMAE supplement has a significant effect on concentration, memory, alertness, focus and mental clarity.

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.

As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases. This post may also contain other affiliate links and I will be compensated if you make a purchase after clicking on my links.

[i] Haubrich D.R., Gerber N.H., Pflueger A.B. “Deanol affects choline metabolism in peripheral tissues of mice.” Journal of Neurochemistry. 1981 Aug;37(2):476-82. (source)

[ii] Jope R.S., Jenden D.J. “Dimethylaminoethanol (deanol) metabolism in rat brain and its effect on acetylcholine synthesis.” Journal of Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics. 1979 Dec;211(3):472-9. (source)

[iii] Zeisel S.H. “Choline: Critical Role During Fetal Development and Dietary Requirements in Adults” Annual Review of Nutrition. 2006; 26: 229–250. (source)

[iv] Waymiare J.C. “Chapter 11: Acetylcholine Neurotransmission” The UT Medical School at Houston (source)

[v] Millington W.R., McCall A.L., Wurtman R.J. “Deanol acetamidobenzoate inhibits the blood-brain barrier transport of choline.” Annals of Neurology. 1978 Oct;4(4):302-6. (source)

[vi] Kostopoulos G.K., Phillis J.W. “The effects of dimethylaminoethanol (deanol) on cerebral cortical neurons.” Psychopharmacology Communications. 1975;1(3):339-47. (source)

[vii] Haubrich D.R., Gerber N.H., Pflueger A.B. “Deanol affects choline metabolism in peripheral tissues of mice.” Journal of Neurochemistry. 1981 Aug;37(2):476-82. (source)

[viii] Russell R.W., Jenden D.J. “Behavioral effects of deanol, of hemicholinium and of their interaction.” Pharmacology, Biochemistry and Behavior. 1981 Aug;15(2):285-8. (source)

[ix] Dylewski D.P., Nandy S., Nandy K. “Effects of centrophenoxine on lipofuscin in the retinal pigment epithelium of old mice.” Neurobiology of Aging. 1983 Spring;4(1):89-95. (source)

[x] Dimpfel W., Wedekind W., Keplinger I. “Efficacy of dimethylaminoethanol (DMAE) containing vitamin-mineral drug combination on EEG patterns in the presence of different emotional states.” European Journal of Medical Research. 2003 May 30;8(5):183-91. (source)

[xi] Zahniser N.R., Chou D., Hanin I. “Is 2-dimethylaminoethanol (deanol) indeed a precursor of brain acetylcholine? A gas chromatographic evaluation.” Journal of Pharmacology and Experimental Therapy. 1977 Mar;200(3):545-59. (source)

[xii] Lewis J.A., Lewis B.S. “Deanol in minimal brain dysfunction.”Diseases of the Nervous System. 1977 Dec;38(12 Pt 2):21-4. (source)

[xiii] Grossman R. “The role of dimethylaminoethanol in cosmetic dermatology.” American Journal of Clinical Dermatology. 2005;6(1):39-47. (source)

[xiv] Siesjö B.K., Agardh C.D., Bengtsson F. “Free radicals and brain damage.” Cerebrovascular and Brain Metabolism Reviews. 1989 Fall;1(3):165-211. (source)

[xv] Malanga G., Aguiar M.B., Martinez H.D., Puntarulo S. “New insights on dimethylaminoethanol (DMAE) features as a free radical scavenger.”Drug Metabolism Letters. 2012 Mar;6(1):54-9. (source)

[xvi] Nagy I., Nagy K. “On the role of cross-linking of cellular proteins in aging.” Mechanisms of Ageing and Development. 1980 Sep-Oct;14(1-2):245-51. (source)

[xvii] Nagy I., Floyd R.A. “Electron spin resonance spectroscopic demonstration of the hydroxyl free radical scavenger properties of dimethylaminoethanol in spin trapping experiments confirming the molecular basis for the biological effects of centrophenoxine.” Archives of Gerontology and Geriatrics. 1984 Dec;3(4):297-310 (source)

[xviii] Sergio W. “Use of DMAE (2-dimethylaminoethanol) in the induction of lucid dreams.” Medical Hypotheses. 1988 Aug;26(4):255-7. (source)

[xix] Lewis J.A, Young R. “Deanol and methylphenidate in minimal brain dysfunction.” Clinical Pharmacology and Therapeutics. 1975 May;17(5):534-40. (source)

[xx] PFEIFFER C.C., JENNEY E.H., GALLAGHER W., SMITH R.P., BEVAN W. Jr., KILLAM K.F., KILLAM E.K., BLACKMORE W. “Stimulant effect of 2-dimethylaminoethanol; possible precursor of brain acetylcholine.”Science. 1957 Sep 27;126(3274):610-1. (source)

[xxi] Uhoda I., Faska N., Robert C., Cauwenbergh G., Piérard G.E. “Split face study on the cutaneous tensile effect of 2-dimethylaminoethanol (deanol) gel.” Skin Research and Technology. 2002 Aug;8(3):164-7. (source)

[xxii] Grossman R. “The role of dimethylaminoethanol in cosmetic dermatology.” American Journal of Clinical Dermatology. 2005;6(1):39-47. (source)

[xxiii] Fisher M.C., Zeisel S.H., Mar M.H., Sadler T.W. “Inhibitors of choline uptake and metabolism cause developmental abnormalities in neurulating mouse embryos.” Teratology. 2001 Aug;64(2):114-22. (source)

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Join The Discussion - 159 comments

Susanne Sacco
February 17, 2023

If Taking DAME for dreaming, easier meditation, skin, and preventative for cognition, is taking choline bitartrate 250/ inositol 250 with it a good match? Should I take it at night and is every day okay?
This stuff is so complicated and I really appreciate your work!
Thank you

    David Tomen
    February 19, 2023

    Susanne, choline bitartrate does not cross the blood-brain barrier. I suggest using CDP-Choline (Citicoline) instead. And using DMAE every other day is a better idea that using it every day because DMAE prevents choline from making acetylcholine.

    And DMAE is the last thing I’d choose for meditation because studies show those taking DMAE for 3 months developed significantly less theta and alpha brain waves. I do not think there are enough benefits to warrant using DMAE as a supplement. It seems to work great however in skin care products.

      Susanne sacco
      February 21, 2023

      thank you!

December 22, 2022

Thanks for the interesting reading. Out of DMAE, Acetyl l choline and CDP Choline, which i the long term is the most natural or least toxic on the kidneys ? Ive used all and they all seem to prep my focus up.

    David Tomen
    December 26, 2022

    Mike, CDP-Choline can be safely used long-term as far as I can tell through my research.

December 13, 2022

Hi there, apologies for my silly question but with the mention of
“may stunt the childs brain during pregnancy”
would this apply to the childs growing brain also outside the womb also?
I have a 7 year old with dyslexia and found a fish oil that includes DMAE.
Also, do you have any suggestions for supplements for dyslexia children please? Many thanks, Michelle

November 2, 2022

Are all the supplements you list on 1/2/22 necessary to take together as better aids to memory, focus, attention and alertness, instead of DMAE? It’s quite a few, even considering that I already take Omega 3 and a food-based multivitamin from Megafoods. Thanks!

    David Tomen
    November 3, 2022

    Wendy I am not sure what list you are referring to. But if you find your memory, focus, attention and alertness are all optimal from using only DMAE, Omega-3, and a multivitamin. Then you do not need to use anything else.

Dean Swanson
August 9, 2022

Hi David. Thanks so much for your site! Your vast knowledge is invaluable.
I am wondering about why you are cautioning against DMAE. Many previous comments show people are receiving benefits from it; and your article states some also. But under your dosage recommendations you accentuate “Don’t take it every day”. Why?

    David Tomen
    August 10, 2022

    Dean, because DMAE does not create acetylcholine. It seems to help neurons that contain choline to release it which can go on to produce acetylcholine. If you do not support it by using something like CDP-Choline with ALCAR you are robbing those cells of your choline stores.

      February 3, 2023

      Hi David,

      I seem to be someone with a high threshold for choline. I typically take 900 mg of alpha gpc with 450 mg of uridine and 2g of alcar without issue and feel pretty good on this. I’m diagnosed high functioning autistic.

      I’ve just started with carnosine 500mg (morning and afternoon) and intermittent dmae 50mg morning and afternoon. It felt good. Strangly I had sustained pupil dilation, but no other issues. Can I just take a day on and a day off, or is there a way to take it more frequently so long as I am getting in sufficient choline?

        David Tomen
        February 9, 2023

        Jonathan, search for the half-life for each choline supplement and that will tell you how long each one lasts in your system. Alpha GPC has a short half-life and is used 3-times per day to get its benefits all day. CDP-Choline on the other hand has a longer half-life and you only need it twice per day.

July 31, 2022

Hi David! Really enjoyed the read, it was very concise and informative. I do have one question though. There are some pre-workout supplements that I’ve been taking that have 750mg of DMAE per serving. I only use them maybe once a week. I was wondering if using DMAE in this manner would cause any long term damage, or if that only applied to more frequent use. Thank you!

    David Tomen
    August 2, 2022

    Henry, if you are only using DMAE once per week I highly doubt it’ll cause any problems. There is no evidence that it will.

July 14, 2022

Hi David.

You say ‘Recommended dosage of DMAE is 100 – 200 mg per day.’

Is this 100-200mg of DAME or DMAE bitartate?

And other things I have read.

‘In 14 senile patients, DMAE (1,800 mg daily for 4 weeks) reduced the signs of depression, anxiety, and irritability but didn’t benefit cognition. The lack of placebo control and tiny sample prevent us from drawing any conclusion from this study’

Again, is the dosage referring to DMAE or DMAE bitartate?

Thanks a lot


    David Tomen
    July 15, 2022

    Daniel, DMAE tablets and capsules are usually DMAE bitartrate. Dosage is for DMAE no matter how it is labeled.

    Clinical studies typically use much, much higher dosages because they are trying to test the reaction to a supplement in a very short period of time. Usually 1 – 4 weeks.

July 7, 2022

what is the best dmae gel for your face.
Thank you

    David Tomen
    July 8, 2022

    Lin, my research is into supplement for the human brain and cognition. And not skin. But from what I’ve seen in my research any form of DMAE may be helpful.

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