But in spite of its connection with GABA, Piracetam didn’t show any behavior associated with this calming neurotransmitter. And cannot directly affect GABA receptors.
Instead, Dr. Giurgea discovered that Piracetam was able to boost cognition even in healthy people. The company launched this new ‘drug’ as ‘Nootropil’ in Europe in the early 1970’s.
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How do racetams work?
Dozens of racetam derivatives have since been developed based on the original Piracetam. All synthetic compounds, racetams share a pyrrolidone nucleus at their chemical structure core.
Several of these racetams are now sold as prescription drugs in countries around the world. And are prescribed for dementia, stroke recovery, ADHD, epilepsy and other neurocognitive disorders.
In the USA, racetams are available OTC without a prescription. But oddly enough are not classified as “dietary supplements”. Instead, the racetams described below are offered for “research” purposes only.
If you are new to the world of nootropics, and would like to try one of the racetams, but are not sure which one to choose, this post may help.
Below is a brief description of the 7 most popular racetams in use today. You don’t need to be a “nootropics expert” to use any of these compounds. But you need to know how to use them.
Each racetam has a live link through to a full review of that nootropic. Including what it is, where it came from, what it’s used for, how it works in your brain, clinical studies, dosage recommendations, side effects and where to buy them.
Top 7 Racetam Nootropics
Piracetam is considered the first true nootropic ever developed. It was synthesized by Dr. Corneliu Giurgea at UCB Pharma in 1964.
Since Piracetam is a cyclic derivative of the calming neurotransmitter GABA, Dr. Giurgea intended this first nootropic to be a calming type of drug for motion sickness. Turns out that’s not what happened.
Instead, Dr. Giurgea found that Piracetam as able to boost cognition even in healthy people.
Piracetam modulates AMPA and NMDA receptors in the brain which increases the effectiveness of glutamate. It improves the flow of acetylcholine (ACh) and sensitivity and density of ACh receptors.[i] And increases cerebral blood flow.
Many people new to nootropics start with Piracetam because it’s safe and has decades of clinical studies supporting its use. But many are often disappointed with Piracetam after trying it a couple times.
Piracetam didn’t work for them because they don’t know how to use it.
It takes 2 – 3 weeks of consistent daily use of Piracetam before you notice the benefits. To counter this, experienced neurohackers suggest starting with an ‘attack dose’ of 3,000 mg of Piracetam 3-times per day for the first 3 days.
But once you start noticing the benefits of Piracetam, you should be in a better mood, less social anxiety, heightened creativity, improved verbal fluency and eventually you’ll notice your memory is better.
Recommended dosage of Piracetam is 1,600 mg 3-times per day.
Aniracetam is my favorite racetam. It’s a fat-soluble ampakine nootropic developed at F. Hoffmann-La Roche AG in the 1978. Aniracetam boosts brain cell signaling by increasing the effectiveness of glutamate which helps focus and concentration.
Aniracetam helps release 200 – 300% more acetylcholine in your brain which helps with focus, clarity of thought, memory and recall. And it seems to affect dopamine and serotonin receptors in your brain as well.
Aniracetam distinguishes itself from the rest of the racetams by acting as an effective anxiolytic. Many who use this nootropic find that it helps reduce anxiety, depression and fear.
Recommended dosage of Aniracetam is 750 mg twice per day.
Coluracetam is a fat-soluble racetam nootropic created by Mitsubishi Tanabe Pharma of Japan in 2005. It boosts your brain’s ability to convert choline to acetylcholine (ACh) through the high affinity choline uptake (HACU) process. Leading to better learning and memory.[ii]
And Coluracetam increases the effectiveness of glutamate in your brain resulting in better focus and concentration.
Neurohackers use Coluracetam for the cognitive benefits mentioned above. But prefer this racetam because it also enhances sound and color.
Recommended dosage of Coluracetam is 20 – 80 mg per day.
Higher dosages should be split into two smaller doses. One dose first thing in the morning and then again at noon.
Nefiracetam is a fat-soluble racetam nootropic developed by Daiichi Seiyaku in the 1990’s as a treatment for cerebrovascular disorders.
Nefiracetam potentiates nicotinic acetylcholine receptors. Boosting the release of GABA and glutamate. Producing a calming effect while improving neuroplasticity and boosting learning and memory.
Nefiracetam enhances signaling of GABA on GABAa receptors when GABA is too low. And has a suppressive effect when GABA is too high. Leading to stabilized mood and sociability. No mood swings!
One American study with 159 stroke patients found that 600 – 900 mg of Nefiracetam daily for 12 weeks produced a significant improvement in mood in the most severely depressed patients.[iii]
Students report this is the best racetam for studying because when using Nefiracetam they have better attention span, motivation, and less apathy and mental fatigue.
Many users report a calm focus and being able to articulate thoughts, and improved speaking ability when using Nefiracetam.
And one of the coolest benefits are the visual effects when using Nefiracetam. It feels like your brain is processing a broader spectrum of what’s in your visual range. Nature and your surroundings look more vibrant and beautiful.
Recommended dosage of Nefiracetam is up to 900 mg per day.
Use smaller dosages like 400 mg once in the morning and another dose at noon.
Oxiracetam was the 3rd racetam nootropic and developed in 1977. It enhances choline-acetyltransferase (ChAT) in your brain which makes more acetylcholine. Leading to improved short-term and long-term memory. And eliminating ‘brain fog’.
Oxiracetam also increases the density of binding sites for neurotransmitters on AMPA receptors. Resulting in a stimulant-effect without any of the negative side effects associated with stimulants.[iv]
People who use Oxiracetam report that it helps clear brain fog and improves focus and motivation. Especially when learning new material or working through a tedious task.
And you should experience a significant improvement in recall. Reading is easier by giving you the ability to get through more pages faster and retain the information for later. Great for preparing for an exam or your next board presentation.
Oxiracetam also helps improve mood.
Recommended Oxiracetam dosage is 750 – 1,500 mg per day. Divided in two equal doses. One dose in the morning, and one in the early afternoon.
Phenylpiracetam was created by adding a phenyl group to Piracetam by Russian scientists in 1983. To boost the physical and mental performance of astronauts during space flight. It’s currently used by Russian cosmonauts on the International Space Station.
And it turns out that Phenylpiracetam is very effective in boosting athletic performance. It provides significant stimulatory effects and helps you resist cold. The World Anti-Doping Agency has banned Phenylpiracetam for athletes in the Olympics and other professional sports.
Phenylpiracetam increases the density of acetylcholine (ACh), NMDA, GABA and dopamine receptors in the brain. More receptors mean more binding sites for neurotransmitters that affect memory formation, cognition, sleep and mood.[v]
It increases blood flow in the brain which provides more oxygen and nutrients to brain cells boosting alertness, cognition, focus and mood.
And Phenylpiracetam helps reduce symptoms of anxiety, depression and fear without the type of side affects you get from antidepressants. Likely because it increases the density of receptors for acetylcholine (ACh), GABA and NMDA.
Phenylpiracetam also provides an ‘anti-convulsive’ action in the brain which has been shown to be an effective treatment for epilepsy.
Many neurohackers say Phenylpiracetam is the strongest nootropic they’ve ever experienced. It’s highly bioavailable and you experience the effects within 30 minutes of taking it.
Recommended Phenylpiracetam dosage is 100 mg twice per day. One Phenylpiracetam dose in the morning, and one in the early afternoon.
Pramiracetam was first synthesized by scientists at Parke-Davis in the late 1970’s. Pramiracetam boosts high affinity choline uptake (HACU) which has a profound effect on the synthesis of the neurotransmitter acetylcholine (ACh). Helping cognition, memory, recall and focus.
Unlike some of the other racetams, Pramiracetam does not directly influence GABA, dopamine, norepinephrine, or serotonin in the brain. So is not a good choice if you’re looking to improve mood or anxiety issues.[vi]
Many neurohackers report that taking Pramiracetam quickly provides an intense increase in focus and for some even a boost in confidence.
It is reported to be great for intense, long study sessions. Or when you face logical, attention-based tasks where you need sharp focus.
Others report improved recall, fluidity of thought, and ease of verbal communication and numerical calculations.
Recommended Pramiracetam dosage is 250 – 400 mg up to 3-times per day. One dose in the morning, and one in the early afternoon, and if you’re doing a 3rd dose do it later in the afternoon.
Which racetam is best for you?
Each of the above racetams share a pyrrolidone nucleus core. And have some similarities like boosting acetylcholine and modulating glutamate in your brain.
But each racetam also has a unique mechanism of action providing unique benefits. All are considered non-toxic and safe to use if you follow dosage recommendations.
If you’re just starting out and want something safe, you may want to try Piracetam. But you need a lot of it to work (i.e. several grams per day).
If you are a student, you may want to try Nefiracetam, Oxiracetam, or Pramiracetam.
Aniracetam is a very effective anxiolytic and helps relieve anxiety and depression.
If you are an astronaut or athlete you may want to try Phenylpiracetam for the reasons detailed above. But DO NOT attempt using this nootropic if you are an Olympic athlete. And check your professional sports association to see if this racetam is on their “banned” list of substances just to be on the safe side.
And Coluracetam is worth trying if you’d like to see and hear the world in more vivid colors and sound.
And finally, many of the above racetams are only available in certain countries like the USA as a nootropic that you can easily buy online. Many are sold as prescription drugs in countries around the world. Check your local regulations to see if they are available in your country.
Most of the racetams featured in this post are available at Hard Rhino based in Pheonix, AZ. The company has a comprehensive testing program, their racetams are pure, and they work. I’ve tried them and recommend them. (I get a small commission if you buy using the link above).
[i] Stoll L., Schubert T., Müller W.E. “Age-related deficits of central muscarinic cholinergic receptor function in the mouse: partial restoration by chronic piracetam treatment.” Neurobiology of Aging. 1992 Jan-Feb;13(1):39-44. (source)
[ii] Takashina K., Bessho T., Mori R., Eguchi J., Saito K. “MKC-231, a choline uptake enhancer: (2) Effect on synthesis and release of acetylcholine in AF64A-treated rats.” Journal of Neural Transmission (Vienna). 2008 Jul;115(7):1027-35. (source)
[iii] Robinson R.G., Jorge R.E., Clarence-Smith K. “Double-blind randomized treatment of poststroke depression using nefiracetam.” Journal of Neuropsychiatry and Clinical Neurosciences. 2008 Spring;20(2):178-84. (source)
[iv] Nicoletti F., Casabona G., Genazzani A.A., Copani A., Aleppo G., Canonico P.L., Scapagnini U. “Excitatory amino acids and neuronal plasticity: modulation of AMPA receptors as a novel substrate for the action of nootropic drugs.” Functional Neurology. 1992 Sep-Oct;7(5):413-22. (source)
[v] Firstova Y.Y., Abaimov D.A., Kapitsa I.G., Voronina T.A., Kovalev G.I. “The effects of scopolamine and the nootropic drug phenotropil on rat brain neurotransmitter receptors during testing of the conditioned passive avoidance task” Neurochemical Journal June 2011, Volume 5, Issue 2, pp 115-125 (source)