Enhancing Memory with Nootropics and Lifestyle Tweaks

Enhancing Memory with Nootropics and Lifestyle Tweaks

Memory stands as a cornerstone in the tapestry of human experience, enabling us to navigate past, present, and future. It's our internal archive, converting life's experiences into storable data to be retrieved when necessary and sometimes when it’s not necessary. Yet, like all aspects of our being, memory is susceptible to the wear and tear of time. Aging, stress, lifestyle, and environmental factors weave complex patterns that can either enhance or erode our ability to recall and make sense of the world. Here, we will play with ideas related to the resilience of the human mind, exploring how certain lifestyle habits and supplements, including nootropics, can significantly bolster memory maintenance and improvement.

Dipping Our Toes Into This Whole Memory Thing

I am sure that all of us know of the concept of memory. Memory serves as a tool that allows us to learn, reason, problem solve, and make decisions. A simple way to think of how it works is that we experience something and afterward we convert that stimuli into a form that can be stored (encoding). That then gets filed away into a few different memory storage facilities which most of us are familiar with called sensory memory, short term or working memory, and long-term memory. Sensory memory being the shortest form of storage, and long-term memory being well…the longest. The last part of memory is retrieval, which is the process of going through those stored memories when they are needed for the sake of recalling ideas, or reconstructing events from the past.

The things that influence memory are innumerable but can be summed up by factors such as attention, emotion, repetition, and the meaningfulness of the stimulation we experienced. Some other factors that affect memory include age, stress, general health, diet, and sleep.

Unfortunately, the quality of our ability to retain memories can decline over time, as a lot of things do. It’s just how things go until we discover the fountain of youth. The structure of our brain changes over time, our ability to provide important nutrients and blood flow declines, and our neuroplasticity decreases. That being said, the part of memory that decreases most during the aging process is our sensory and short-term memory, while our semantic memory (knowledge of facts and concepts) might actually improve with age.

Ways To Strengthen Our Memory

Like a lot of things, when it comes to strengthening our memory, we must take a multifaceted approach. Sure, we will primarily be covering what individuals can take in the form of supplements to improve their memory, but we will cover a few other lifestyle habits and changes that can provide benefit.

Nootropics and Supplements for Memory

Enhanced mental acuity and memory retention have brought about the significance of nootropics and dietary supplements into the spotlight of cognitive health. Exploring the variety of brain-boosting substances, it's crucial to recognize the contribution of each component to overall cognitive functioning. Below is a curated list of notable supplements known for their memory-enhancing qualities:

Lion’s Mane Mushroom: Beyond its unique culinary uses, this mushroom supports brain health by stimulating the synthesis of Nerve Growth Factor (NGF), which can regenerate and protect brain tissue, thereby enhancing memory and cognitive functions. This also tastes really good pan fried in butter...just sayin'.

  • Studies indicate that Lion’s Mane can stimulate the synthesis of Nerve Growth Factor (NGF), a protein crucial for the growth and survival of neurons. A study published in "Biomedical Research" (2011) by Mori et al. demonstrated that individuals consuming Lion’s Mane Mushroom showed significantly improved scores on cognitive function scales compared to a control group, particularly in elderly patients with mild cognitive impairment. Another research study conducted by Nagano et al., published in "Phytotherapy Research" (2010), reported improved concentration and memory in adults who consumed Lion’s Mane extract. The mushroom is believed to have neuroregenerative properties that may benefit overall brain health, potentially aiding in the prevention of neural damage related to age-related cognitive decline.

Alpha-GPC (L-Alpha glycerylphosphorylcholine): A natural choline compound, Alpha-GPC is involved in the production of the neurotransmitter acetylcholine, which is essential for memory and learning. It’s considered to support cognitive function and enhance memory. You are already probably VERY familiar with this one if you've read some of our other stuff. It's one of our favorites.

  • Studies show Alpha-GPC supports cognitive function and enhances memory by increasing acetylcholine production. A study in "Clinical Therapeutics" found that Alpha-GPC improved cognitive symptoms in patients with mild-to-moderate Alzheimer's disease (De Jesus Moreno Moreno, 2003).

CDP Choline (Citicoline): This nootropic is known for its ability to enhance memory and cognitive function by increasing the levels of acetylcholine within the brain. Acetylcholine is a key neurotransmitter for learning and memory. Citicoline also contributes to the synthesis of phosphatidylcholine, an important component of brain cell membranes, thereby supporting brain cell integrity and communication.

  • Research indicates Citicoline improves memory and cognitive function by increasing acetylcholine levels. A study published in "Psychopharmacology" found that Citicoline improved memory performance in older adults (McGlade et al., 2012).

Bacopa Monnieri: This traditional Ayurvedic herb has been revered for its memory-enhancing properties. It is believed to improve neuronal communication by increasing the growth of nerve endings (dendrites), which enhances memory and cognitive function.

  • Studies suggest Bacopa Monnieri enhances memory and cognitive function by promoting dendrite growth. A systematic review in "The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine" found Bacopa may improve memory free recall (Pase et al., 2012).

Ginkgo Biloba: Extracted from one of the oldest living tree species, this supplement is well-known for its ability to improve blood flow to the brain. It may help with memory improvement, especially in individuals experiencing cognitive decline due to aging.

  • Research demonstrates Ginkgo Biloba can improve blood flow to the brain and memory, especially in cognitive decline. A study in "Phytomedicine" reported improvements in cognitive function for patients with Alzheimer’s receiving Ginkgo extract (Oken et al., 1998).

Omega-3 Fatty Acids: These essential fats, particularly EPA and DHA, are crucial for maintaining brain health. They help build and repair brain cells, and their anti-inflammatory properties can protect against cell damage, enhancing memory and cognitive functions. While these are available in supplement form, a can of quality sardines gives you all you all the omega-3 fatty acids you will need for a week!

  • Research supports Omega-3s, especially EPA and DHA, in maintaining brain health and enhancing memory. A study in "Alzheimer's & Dementia" found dietary supplementation with Omega-3 fatty acids improved cognitive functions in older adults (Yurko-Mauro et al., 2010).

Huperzine A: This natural compound, extracted from Chinese club moss, acts as an acetylcholinesterase inhibitor, which means it helps increase levels of neurotransmitters related to learning and memory. It’s especially touted for its neuroprotective properties.

  • Studies suggest Huperzine A improves memory by inhibiting acetylcholinesterase, which increases acetylcholine levels. Research published in "Neurosignals" supports its use for enhancing cognitive performance (Zhang et al., 2008).

Vinpocetine: Sourced from the periwinkle plant, Vinpocetine is believed to enhance memory by improving blood circulation to the brain and thus increasing oxygen and nutrient delivery to brain cells.

  • Evidence suggests Vinpocetine improves memory and cognitive function by enhancing cerebral blood flow. A review in "The Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews" examined its efficacy for cognitive impairments (Szatmari & Whitehouse, 2003).

Phosphatidylserine: A crucial component of cell membranes, phosphatidylserine supports brain health by maintaining cellular function and improving communication between brain cells, which can help enhance memory and cognitive function.

  • Studies show Phosphatidylserine supports brain health and memory by maintaining cellular function. A study in "Nutrition" found that phosphatidylserine supplementation improved cognitive functions in the elderly with memory complaints (Kato-Kataoka et al., 2010).

Acetyl-L-Carnitine (ALCAR): This amino acid is vital for energy production in the brain. It's associated with improved memory, cognition, and mood and is known for its neuroprotective benefits.

  • Research indicates ALCAR supports brain energy production and improves memory, cognition, and mood. A study in "The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition" found ALCAR supplementation improved cognitive function and reduced cognitive decline in the elderly (Malaguarnera et al., 2008).

Rhodiola Rosea: Known as an adaptogen, this herb helps the body resist physical, chemical, and environmental stress. It has been used to improve concentration, reduce fatigue, and enhance memory by balancing the body’s stress-response systems.

  • Research suggests Rhodiola Rosea helps improve concentration, reduce fatigue, and enhance memory by balancing the body’s stress-response systems. A study in "Phytomedicine" showed Rhodiola improved mental performance during stress and fatigue (Olsson et al., 2009).

Panax Ginseng: This root has been used for centuries in traditional medicine to improve memory and cognitive performance. It's believed to act as an antioxidant, reducing inflammation in the brain and thereby improving cognitive functions.

  • Studies indicate Panax Ginseng improves memory and cognitive performance, possibly due to its antioxidant properties. A study in "Psychopharmacology" found that Ginseng showed improvements in cognitive performance in healthy young adults (Reay et al., 2005).

Lifestyle Behaviors That Can Positively Impact Memory

While we may immediately gravitate towards supplements and drugs to improve memory, there are actually several lifestyle activities that have been shown to improve memory. Sure, taking something is generally much easier, but implementing some of these activities can be pretty fun and add to your quality of life beyond just improving memory. Here are some of the examples:

Regular Physical Exercise:

Engaging in regular physical activity such as aerobic exercises, strength training, and balance activities can enhance neurogenesis (the formation of new neurons), improve mood and sleep, and reduce stress and anxiety. This, in turn, can lead to better memory retention and cognitive agility. Movement is not only fun, but makes us feel pretty darn amazing while improving our memory! I can’t think of a single time I have regretted getting a workout in, but I can think of several occasions where I regretted not getting some type of movement in.

Adequate Sleep:

Proper sleep facilitates the brain's processes of memory consolidation, where new learning and experiences are transferred to long-term memory. Lack of sleep, on the other hand, can impair your ability to form or maintain pathways in your brain that let you learn and create new memories. This one can be tricky, and we are not always in control of how much sleep we can get or the quality of it. That being said, there are several strategies that can be leveraged to improve sleep.

Stress Management:

Prolonged stress leads to elevated levels of cortisol, which can damage the brain over time, particularly areas involved in memory. Techniques such as mindfulness, meditation, deep-breathing exercises, and yoga can help reduce stress levels and protect memory. I am a huge fan of breathwork and meditation. While I am not always consistent here, I notice that it allows me to put daily stressors into a more manageable perspective.

Mental Stimulation:

Challenging your brain with puzzles, reading, or learning new skills helps form new neural connections and can even generate new brain cells, leading to improved cognitive function and memory retention. This is one of my favorites, but of course this is coming from someone who enjoys to game and dabble in a variety of different hobbies. How cool is it that you can improve memory simply by doing art, playing a stimulating game, or reading?

Social Engagement:

Regular interaction with friends and loved ones can protect against memory loss and cognitive decline, possibly due to increased mental stimulation and emotional support, which, in turn, contributes to a healthier brain. We need people.

Avoidance of Alcohol and Smoking:

This is probably pretty obvious, but smoking and excessive alcohol consumption can impede blood flow to the brain and exacerbate memory loss. Quitting smoking and moderating alcohol intake can prevent further memory deterioration and contribute to overall brain health.

In wrapping up our discussion on enhancing memory with nootropics and lifestyle adjustments, it's evident that maintaining a sharp and resilient mind involves a thoughtful combination of strategies. We've examined the benefits of nootropics such as Lion’s Mane Mushroom, Alpha-GPC, and Citicoline, which support neural health and enhance cognitive abilities. Equally important are the lifestyle changes we've explored—engaging in regular physical activity, ensuring sufficient sleep, managing stress effectively, stimulating our minds through new challenges, and nurturing social connections. These practices contribute significantly to our overall mental health and memory capabilities. It's about finding the right balance between dietary supplements and positive lifestyle habits to support mental clarity and improve memory. By adopting these strategies, enhancing memory becomes a more accessible and enriching part of our lives, offering a path to improved overall well-being and cognitive longevity.





Meet the Author:
David Battisti, MScN

I am a multi-sport athlete with a fascination with nutritional sciences. I was diagnosed with severe chronic asthma at the age of 5, and over the years discovered how diet could be used to alleviate my symptoms. While I am pretty diet agnostic, I have found ways that work for me, and love to help people discover ways they can do the same! I also own a small business called Alacrity Nutrition, which seeks to help people discover what gets them excited about health. Check out my website at: Alacritynutrition.com

Back to blog

Leave a comment

Please note, comments need to be approved before they are published.