Your productivity skyrockets and you feel a real sense of accomplishment for the rest of the day.
A variety of techniques have been suggested to help re-create this state of intense concentration and focus. You may have even tried some them; the Pomodoro technique, meditation, technology vacations, and goal-setting.
And yet, this goal seems so allusive.
But experienced neurohackers have discovered another method of supporting concentration and intense focus.
The thing is you can’t take acetylcholine as a supplement. There is no such thing as “acetylcholine pills”, or “acetylcholine tablets”.
But certain foods can help boost acetylcholine (ACh) by providing your brain with the choline it needs to synthesize ACh.
Food sources of choline are egg yolks, liver, milk and other dairy products, certain grains like quinoa and amaranth, bacon, edamame and cruciferous vegetables.
The problem is we don’t get enough choline in our diet to produce the acetylcholine we need.
In this post we’ll investigate the best nootropic options available to help increase ACh release in the brain, inhibit its breakdown, encourage reuptake, stimulate ACh neuroreceptors, or provide the ingredients needed to create acetylcholine.
When we optimize acetylcholine use in our brain, we can improve memory and concentration.
Table of Contents
Nootropics for concentration
Imagine what your life would be like if you could concentrate your brain power with laser-like focus on whatever you wished to accomplish.
Laser-like concentration and focus can be supported and fueled with the following nootropic supplements.
CDP-Choline (Citicoline) – is a naturally occurring choline source present in every cell in your body. It enhances the release of dopamine, norepinephrine and serotonin.[i] And provides the choline needed for the synthesis of acetylcholine.[ii]
Gotu Kola – is often called “the student herb” in Bali because it sharpens the mind. It helps prevent the breakdown of acetylcholine (ACh) in the brain. More ACh helps boost cognition, concentration, learning, memory and mood.
N-Acetyl L-Tyrosine (NALT) – is a highly bio-available form of the amino acid L-Tyrosine. Your brain uses the enzyme tyrosine hydroxylase to convert L-Tyrosine into L-DOPA. Decarboxylation of L-DOPA results in synthesis of the neurotransmitter dopamine.[iv]
Which is an integral part of the flow of crucial neurotransmitters like dopamine and acetylcholine. Supporting alertness, concentration, memory and mood.
Rhodiola Rosea – is an adaptogen used in traditional medicine in Russia and Scandinavian countries for centuries. Rhodiola Rosea helps improve mental performance under stress. It stimulates your central nervous system to fight fatigue and boost mental clarity.[v]
Nootropics for memory
Science has now discovered not only how memory works in our brain all the way down the molecular level. But it has also empowered us to be able to select the best nootropics for improving learning and memory.
Each of the following nootropic supplements have been proven to support each area of memory in your brain.
Alpha GPC – helps in the synthesis of acetylcholine (ACh). In your hippocampus, acetylcholine stimulates astrocyte cells which then are induced to release the neurotransmitter glutamate. The released glutamate then activates neurons which inhibit pathways needed for the retrieval of memories.
Ashwagandha – is one of the most powerful herbs in Ayurvedic healing. And as a nootropic helps generate axons, and dendrites, and reconstructs synapses in brain cells.[vi] Critical for the formation and retrieval of memory.
DHA – is an Omega-3 fatty acid which is an integral part of each brain cell membrane. DHA regulates calcium oscillations which are involved in neurotransmitter release, mitochondrial function, gene activation, oxidative stress and helps activate Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor (BDNF). Playing a central role in cognition, learning and memory.
Ginkgo Biloba – acts as a monoamine oxidase inhibitor (MAOI) which boosts levels of dopamine in your brain.[viii] And increases cerebral blood vessel microcirculation (blood flow in the smallest of blood vessels).[ix] Improving cognition, learning and memory.
L-Theanine increases Alpha brain waves (8-12Hz) within 40 minutes after taking it as a supplement. Alpha brain waves are called sleep spindles which spike during Stage 2 sleep.
Turmeric (Curcuma longa) – is one of the most studied herbs in Ayurvedic, Siddha, Unani and Chinese healing. And has remarkable nootropic properties. The curcumin in turmeric boosts Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor (BDNF), and the neurotransmitters dopamine and serotonin. [xiii] Improving cognition, focus, learning and memory.
Memory touches every aspect of your life. Your heart beating, to remembering your anniversary, to making sure you pick up bread on the way home.
Searching for “how to improve focus and concentration” will turn up a variety of techniques from the Pomodoro Technique to meditation and goal setting.
But nootropics will provide the foundation of a healthier and optimized brain for any other technique you may want to try for boosting memory and concentration.
Choose two or three nootropic supplements from each of the two categories above. Or try all of them if you like.
Every nootropic recommended in this post is considered non-toxic and safe when following dosage recommendations.
Each nootropic above has a live link through to a full review which dives deeper into what the supplement is, how it works in your brain, how much to use and how often, side effects and even forms or types of the nootropic to buy.
For a deeper understanding on how learning and memory works, please see my post:
For a deeper dive into concentration and the flow state, please see my post:
Pre-formulated nootropic stacks for memory & concentration
If you’d like to try the nootropics recommended in this post for memory and concentration …
… but don’t want the expense of a lot of individual supplements …
… consider a high quality pre-formulated stack that contains many of the nootropics described above.
For memory, consider trying Mind Lab Pro® which contains Vitamins B6, B9 and B12, CDP-Choline (Citicoline), Bacopa Monnieri, Lion’s Mane Mushroom, Phosphatidylserine (PS), N-Acetyl L-Tyrosine (NALT), Rhodiola Rosea, and Pine Bark Extract.
Both pre-made nootropic stacks have great reviews because they really work and will save you money.
[i] Agut J., Coviella I.L., Wurtman R.J. “Cytidine (5’) diphosphocholine enhances the ability of haloperidol to increase dopamine metabolites in the striatum of the rat and to diminish stereotyped behavior induced by apomorphine.” Neuropharmacology1984 Dec;23(12A):1403-6. (source)
[iii] Raves M.L., Harel M., Pang Y.P., Silman I., Kozikowski A.P., Sussman J.L. “Structure of acetylcholinesterase complexed with the nootropic alkaloid, (-)-huperzine A.” Nature Structural Biology. 1997 Jan;4(1):57-63. (source)
[v] Lishmanov Iu.B., Trifonova Zh.V., Tsibin A.N., Maslova L.V., Dement’eva L.A. “[Plasma beta-endorphin and stress hormones in stress and adaptation].” – in Russian Biull Eksp Biol Med. 1987 Apr;103(4):422-4. (source)
[vii] Calabrese N.D., Gregory W.L., Leo M., Kraemer D., Bone K., Oken B. “Effects of a Standardized Bacopa monnieri Extract on Cognitive Performance, Anxiety, and Depression in the Elderly: A Randomized, Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled Trial” Journal of Alternative and Complimentary Medicine 2008 Jul; 14(6): 707–713. (source)
[viii] Wu W.R., Zhu X.Z. “Involvement of monoamine oxidase inhibition in neuroprotective and neurorestorative effects of Ginkgo biloba extract against MPTP-induced nigrostriatal dopaminergic toxicity in C57 mice.” Life Sciences. 1999;65(2):157-64. (source)
[ix] Mashayekh A., Pham D.L., Yousem D.M., Dizon M., Barker P.B., Lin DD. “Effects of Ginkgo biloba on cerebral blood flow assessed by quantitative MR perfusion imaging: a pilot study.” Neuroradiology. 2011 Mar;53(3):185-91. (source)
[x] Dang-Vu T.T. et. al., “Cortical reactivations during sleep spindles following declarative learning.” NeuroImage, 2019; 195: 104
[xi] Park S.K., Jung I.C., Lee W.K., Lee Y.S., Park H.K., Go H.J., Kim K., Lim N.K., Hong J.T., Ly S.Y., Rho S.S. “A combination of green tea extract and l-theanine improves memory and attention in subjects with mild cognitive impairment: a double-blind placebo-controlled study.” Journal of Medicinal Food. 2011 Apr;14(4):334-43. (source)
[xii] Nishioka K., Hidaka T., Nakamura S., Umemura T., Jitsuiki D., Soga J., Goto C., Chayama K., Yoshizumi M., Higashi Y. “Pycnogenol, French maritime pine bark extract, augments endothelium-dependent vasodilation in humans.” Hypertension Research. 2007 Sep;30(9):775-80. (source)
[xiii] Kim S.J., Son T.G., Park H.R., Park M., Kim M.S., Kim H.S., Chung H.Y., Mattson M.P., Lee J. “Curcumin stimulates proliferation of embryonic neural progenitor cells and neurogenesis in the adult hippocampus.” Journal of Biological Chemistry. 2008 May 23;283(21):14497-505. (source)