Pramiracetam, a synthetic racetam derivative, is a common nootropic for individuals that want a little support in long-term memory formation. As a member of the racetam family, Pramiracetam remains to be one of the most unique, potent and effective members, thus its widespread use. Its high esteem is attributed to its ability to work on healthy adults, instead of purely already damaged brains (either due to age decline, injury or drug-induced damage).
In this review, we will be discussing how Pramiracetam works, its benefits, side effects, dosage as well as its history. Read on to find out more.
Pramiracetam is a stimulant and nootropic agent of the racetam family. In Italy and some European countries, it is licensed for the treatment of memory decline, attention deficits and neurodegenerative dementia. In other parts of the world, it is used as a nootropic that is a favourite for students, professionals, athletes and executives that need robust spatial memory.
Although the mechanism of action of Pramiracetam is not clear, it is suggested that it enhances acetylcholine synthesis by influencing high-affinity for choline uptake (HACU). (1) Acetylcholine is the primary neurotransmitter that is responsible for learning and memory. Pramiracetam increases the rate of choline uptake for the synthesis of acetylcholine by more than 30%. (2) This effect can last for up to 24 hours, (3) making its effects relatively long-lasting.
Pramiracetam has also been demonstrated to improve blood flow to the brain by increasing nitric oxide levels. Another function of nitric oxide is that in the hippocampus it is involved in learning and memory processes. (4)
Other sources (5) also state that Pramiracetam affects the electrical activity of the frontal cortex and hippocampus regions of the brain.
One of the most sought-after benefits of Pramiracetam is that of decreasing forgetfulness by enhancing the process of memory formations. Pramiracetam improves and protects memory in several ways. First, by increasing the synthesis of acetylcholine, it avails the primary neurotransmitter required for encoding new memories. (6) Second, it upregulates the levels of nitric oxide (NO) in the brain. The role of nitric oxide in memory formation, predominates when it is in sufficient concentrations, hence the need for a supplement that increases its level in the brain.
NO activates the computational ability of the neurons and also increases cerebral blood flow, which is necessary for cholinergic transmission. (7) It signals the cerebral blood vessels to relax, thus reducing resistance for blood to flow freely. That effect brings more oxygen, glucose, and removes waste products from the neurons. It also supplies the necessary raw materials for the synthesis of neurotransmitters.
The interesting thing is that Pramiracetam improves long-term memory without necessarily having an effect on the working memory component, according to a study (8) published in the Psychopharmacology journal. During the study, the investigators injected two doses of Pramiracetam (7.5mg/kg and 15mg/kg) daily for seven weeks. The two doses improved spatial learning and memory but did not have any significant effect on working memory.
Pramiracetam also improves memory by acting as a neuroprotective agent. In a study (9) with 65 patients that had mild craniocerebral trauma, Pramiracetam brought about significant improvement in amnesia. It also manifested restoration of orientation and improved the recall process. This suggests that Pramiracetam can reliably be used in reversing damage caused by injury. Brain injury does not have to be as a result of direct trauma. It can be due to athletic events, dehydration, inadequate sleep, scopolamine or substance abuse. Pramiracetam can therefore be used to reverse amnesia caused by these injuries.
Another benefit of Pramiracetam is that it increases learning capacity as a result of lengthened attention span, better concentration, and improved overall speed of thinking and mental processing. (10) Most users report that it gives them the ability to solve new problems, use logic in new situations, and use learned knowledge and experience more effectively. These effects are partly due to increase in acetylcholine levels and partly improved blood flow.
The cholinergic system provides an essential substrate for most cognitive processes, particularly those involved in learning and memory. (11) Acetylcholine influences the hippocampal and the cortex, two regions where spatial learning and memory take place. (12) It affects the interneuron functioning to increase the capacity for those specific regions to process signals in organized maps. (13)
Pramiracetam also improves learning ability by increasing the brainwave profile. According to a study carried out to assess arousal deficit in aged rats and action of Pramiracetam and Piracetam, the results showed that there was significant electroencephalography (EEG) changes. The dominant high voltage slow wave components in the aged rats decreased and was accompanied by an acceleration of alpha and beta waves activity. (14) This study was also able to demonstrate that Piracetam was weaker than Pramiracetam. These EEG changes in other studies have corresponded to an improvement of communication behavior and cognitive functioning. (15)
By increasing blood flow to the brain, Pramiracetam increases the mind’s learning power since it increases alertness, mental clarity and focus. The brain depends very critically on oxygen, glucose, other nutrients and neurotransmitters for cognitive processes. This explains why poor brain circulation causes brain fog.
Social anxiety is the reason that most people do not speak up their minds for fear of being judged and negatively evaluated by others. For an entrepreneur, for instance, anxiety is almost always a natural byproduct of the highs and lows of business. The unfortunate thing is that it is an impediment to achieving goals, as one feels insecure to approach people and talk to them yet, communication is central to any business. Therefore, when social anxiety becomes debilitating to life, it has to be dealt with.
Social anxiety is primarily a neurotransmitter imbalance issue. If this balance is restored, one is relieved of their social anxiety problems. Nootropics that are anxiolytics could be the answer to this problem. Pramiracetam is one such nootropic that the smartest people turn to, to be calmer, verbally intelligent and articulate with words. The secret to alleviating social anxiety is to achieve a balance of serotonin, dopamine, GABA, acetylcholine and other neurotransmitters. Pramiracetam does not directly bind to the receptors of the mentioned neurotransmitters, but instead, it increases the uptake of their precursors.
Like any other supplement or drug, Pramiracetam dosage varies from one person to another. We therefore recommend consulting a licensed medical professional prior to using Pramiracetam or any other drug. However, for general cognitive enhancement, most nootropic users use either 400mg three times daily or 600mg twice per day, making a total of 1200mg in 24 hours. (18)
Pramiracetam has an awful taste which some users describe as a mixture of fish scales, burning fire and acid. To be on the safe side, it is better to purchase capsules or coated tablets. They may cost a little more, but they are worth it, to avoid the inconvenient taste. However, if for the reason of quick digestion and absorption (19) you prefer the powder formulation, you may want to consider taking it with a beverage such as a smoothie.
Pramiracetam can be taken alone, but one gains an invaluable addition if combined with other nootropics. It is often taken with a choline source such as Alpha GPC or Citicholine. (20) Pramiracetam just like other racetams, reduces the levels of choline and thus has synergistic effects on cognitive functions if combined with a choline supplement. Furthermore, this combination helps to lessen headaches, which are a common occurrence when choline levels are low. It is also generally advised to take Pramiracetam with a meal that contains healthy fat sources, to improve its bioavailability.
Beyond the many benefits of Pramiracetam, it is not without some downsides. It has some side effects, which include a burning sensation on the throat and esophagus when swallowing or belching (especially for powder formulations), headaches particularly when one runs low on choline, nausea, irritability and insomnia. The sleep pattern is mostly affected if Pramiracetam is taken late in the day. As a stimulant, it makes it difficult to shut off an active mind, thus delaying the onset of sleep. (21) However, the downfalls are negligible when compared to the benefits.
Pramiracetam appears to have been synthesized in 1984, as a modification of its parent compound, Piracetam. (22) It was formed by substituting the amide group in Piracetam with a dipropan-2-ylaminoethyl group. This substitute group is what makes Pramiracetam 30 times more potent than Piracetam. (23) Pramiracetam was discovered by scientists at Parke-Davis, which was a division of Warner-Lambert at the time. In 2000 Warner-Lambert merged with Pfizer.
Today, Pramiracetam is licensed as medication in some European countries, but in the US, it remains unregulated by the FDA.