Brain Health,
Fringe,
Smart Drugs,
34 MINS

#010: Biochemist Phil Micans On The Racetam Family of Pharmaceuticals

March 20, 2013

In this week’s episode, Jesse interviews biochemist and pharmacist Phil Micans, advisor to both the London Anti-Aging Conference and British Longevity Society.  With his Master’s Degree in Biochemistry and as the editor-in-chief of Aging Matters Magazine, Mr. Micans is a highly-qualified individual with some profound insights into the Racetam class of chemicals – which includes some of the best-known “smart drugs.”

Mr. Micans talks about the history of the Racetams, their practical applications and additional pharmaceuticals which can be used in conjunction with Racetams for synergistic effects on cognition and mental performance.  As a founding member of AntiAging-Systems.com, Phil shares his breadth of knowledge and three decades of passion for smart drugs in this insightful interview.

Creating the Lance Armstrong of Cognitive Performance

If Lance Armstrong can take himself from a relatively average athlete to the top of his sport with the use of performance enhancing drugs, can we amplify our levels of mental and cognitive performance in the same manner?  To achieve these types of advances, Mr. Micans says, the technology itself is readily available.  The challenge we currently face is turning the general population’s mindset in favor of using nootropics for performance enhancement instead of simply curing or slowing late-life mental decline.

Let’s take the four-minute-mile as an example of the significance of mental frameworks in performance enhancement.  Once Roger Bannister was able to break this seemingly physiological barrier and run a mile in under four minutes, dozens of runners came in under four minutes within the next few years.  The major challenge, in retrospect, didn’t seem to be primarily physical, but more a shared belief system that blocked people from achieving their peak levels of performance.

What Do We Know About These Drugs?

The term nootropics was coined by Dr. Giurgea, a Romanian psychologist and chemist who discovered Piracetam and developed the five categories that define a nootropic substance.  Those categories include Learning Enhancement, Facilitation of  Inter-Hemispherical Brain Flow, Resistance of Physical and Chemical Injuries, an Increase in the Efficacy of the Cortical and Sub-Cortical Mechanisms, and an Absence of Negative Effects.  Roughly translated into English, the Greek word nootropic means “towards the mind” – but its Greek meaning extends beyond this definition to imply a level of deep understanding, beyond simple awareness.

The discovery of the Racetam family of drugs was a lucky accident, as Racetams were not intended as mental enhancers but rather as a cure against motion sickness.  Serendipitous discoveries like this are common in pharmacology; another popular drug discovered in this unintentional manner is Viagra.  Originally designed as blood pressure medication, it wasn’t very effective for this purpose… but the older male patients given these pills as a test study were reluctant to return them to the testing clinics… for reasons you may well be able to guess.

Optimizing Your Racetam Regimen

Though any of the nootropic Racetams can be effective on their own, Mr. Micans discusses a few ways to synergize your Racetam regimen to get the biggest bang for your pharmaceutical buck.  Firstly, you’ll want to start out with a well-balanced lifestyle including exercise and a healthy diet… Two pieces of advice that almost every interviewee in the history of Smart Drug Smarts seems to agree wholeheartedly agree on.  To build on this foundation, adding Deprenyl can help with dopamine release and support Piracetam’s effects.  Centrophenoxine is another smart drug that can be taken with Piracetam to increase your recall speed – making you sharper, more focused, and more instantaneous in your fact-recall abilities.

An additional hormone called Vasopressin can be taken 15-20 minutes before a particular event to have a more detailed and keen memory of the event itself when recalling it later.   Pretty cool, huh?  This is because Vasopressin aids in the physical laying down of memories in the brain’s Hippocampus.

This Week in Neuroscience: The Next Step Beyond the Human Genome Project Making Loud Noises

The $3.75 billion Human Genome Project was completed under schedule and under budget — and is now roundly considered one of the most successful research tasks ever undertaken in the history of humanity.  The heir apparent to HGP is the Brain Activity Mapping project (affectionately called BAM!), which has as its objective the full mapping of neuron-level activity of a living human brain in real time.  BAM’s success would give scientists a virtually unlimited data set with which to learn how awareness, cognition, and even consciousness arise from the brain’s cellular and molecular substrates.

The first of many major questions now is whether BAM will get the government funding it needs to launch.  Even then, the best approach to obtaining this information with ethically acceptable and minimally invasive methods has not been agreed upon.  As with any groundbreaking endeavor – and multibillion dollar use of public funds – there are naysayers.  The particularly dry-humored Partha Mitra quipped, citing the inherent difficulties of accessing deeper levels of brain tissue within living humans: “Everyone should be reminded that we have skulls.”  Touché, Partha, touché.

Read the full article here.  Or this article, here.

Key Terms Mentioned

*Aniracetam is a key ingredient in NEXUS, Axon Labs‘ flagship nootropic stack.

17 comments

  1. Matt Aaron says:

    I have a few questions/comments:

    1. Jesse, thanks for this!

    2. What about taking L Dopa which goes for about $11-$15 on Amazon in order to get dopamine as opposed to Deprenyl?

    3. Phil mentioned the Piracetam safety record as being the longest, but I wanted to inquire a bit more about the toxicity tests: were they done on all of the Racetams or just Piracetam? Is it accurate to extrapolate tests from Piracetam and use that as a validator of safety in the other Racetams?

    As I understand, Pramiracetam is DERIVED form Piracetam and they have different chemical compositions.

    This study (discussed in a forum with citations) talks about the potential danger of neurons being “killed” in the long term with Pramiracetam: http://www.longecity.org/forum/topic/4636-pramiracetam/

    4. Is there any consensus on the risk of kidney damage while taking Piracetam? It has been discussed quite a bit online.

    Any insight would be greatly appreciated.

  2. Jan says:

    Jesse – Roger Bannister was the man who broke the 4:00 mile, Jesse Owens was a sprinter.

    Source: I am on Bulletproof Coffee

    1. Webmaster says:

      Youch! Thanks for fact-checking me. 10 Demerits for me on my sports trivia. 10 Merits to you for your Bulletproof’ed brain. 🙂

      1. Rich says:

        Also, Armstrong was a top cyclist before taking performance enhancing drugs, just not the best. And, he was competing against people who were all taking PEDs. Greg LeMond, a two time tour winner, quit cycling because of PEDs a couple of years before. The Armstrong story as told by your guest is a just so story. It fits his theory, but is factually wrong. One just so story destroys credibility. It demonstrates reaching too hard for proof. It destroyed this guest’s credibility for me.

        1. Jesse Lawler says:

          I hear what you’re saying about an example not being proof. However, I would guess that what Micans would respond (disclaimer: I don’t know the details of the Lance Armstrong story), is that Armstrong must have at least *believed* he was drawing performance benefits from what he was taking, or he wouldn’t have been taking it. And, given that he was the world’s best, he’d probably done his research, or seen compelling research from others.

  3. Jan says:

    Jesse – Roger Bannister was the man who broke the 4:00 mile, Jesse Owens was a sprinter.

    Source: I am on Bulletproof Coffee

    1. Webmaster says:

      Youch! Thanks for fact-checking me. 10 Demerits for me on my sports trivia. 10 Merits to you for your Bulletproof’ed brain. 🙂

  4. Will says:

    This particular episode is easily my favorite of the 3 or 4 I’ve listened to so far. I’m slowly catching up with you but if this episode is a sign of things to come then I’ve got plenty to look forward to.

    Unfortunately, I now have another 4 drugs on my list of shit to research…

    1. Jesse Lawler says:

      Yeah, Phil Micans really did give a great interview. And yes, I hear ya – this interview sent me on a mini research-binge as well. 🙂

  5. Will says:

    This particular episode is easily my favorite of the 3 or 4 I’ve listened to so far. I’m slowly catching up with you but if this episode is a sign of things to come then I’ve got plenty to look forward to.

    Unfortunately, I now have another 4 drugs on my list of shit to research…

    1. Jesse Lawler says:

      Yeah, Phil Micans really did give a great interview. And yes, I hear ya – this interview sent me on a mini research-binge as well. 🙂

  6. Peter says:

    Jesse,
    I love this podcast. Have been listening to a lot of them lately. Maybe you could have a side project called recreationaldrugsrecreationals.com ha 🙂

    1. Jesse Lawler says:

      Thanks Peter. That other URL doesn’t lend itself to easy typing or pronunciation, unfortunately. But it could certainly provide some interesting subject matter. 😉 There’s definitely a lot of fuzziness around what exactly could constitute a “smart drug.” I tend to agree with my friend (cited in the Marijuana Episode) a few weeks ago who thinks that an occasional creativity-burst brought on by a non-nootropic drug is still a significant “performance enhancer,” when viewed in the broader context. We’ll try to keep the occasional fringe episodes coming.

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