Episode Transcript hideshow
**Voice-over:** *I try to imagine a fellow smarter than myself, then I try to think - What would he do?*
**Announcer:** *Charge up your axons, ready your receptors and shift your lobes in to upper beta phase. You're listening to Smart Drug Smarts, the podcast dedicated to helping you optimize your brain with the latest breakthroughs in neuroscience, nootropics and psychopharmocology.*
**Jesse:** Hello and welcome to Smart Drug Smarts. I'm your host Jesse Lawler excited to bring you the 46th episode – little bit late on this one – of this podcast, dedicated to the betterment of your own brain by any and all means necessary. This is a back-to-the-basics, core Smart Drug Smarts episode, all about smart drugs. In this episode we are talking about something I've got a lot of listener requests for over the months and we've managed to track down the world's leading expert, and in fact one of the inventors of this substance. I'm talking about something, the chemical name of which I will not pronounce right now, but which you might know as Noopept, if you want to pronounce it the easy-to-do way, or No-o-pept, if you want to try and get that second little "o" sound in there, which I am always torn as to whether I should say noo-tropics or no-o-tropics, because its actually from the Greek word "nous", or something like that, which means "mind". Yeah, when you are talking about nootropics there is some Greek-to-me stuff involved. Anyway, Noopept is a racetam-like chemical, which is not so well-known in the West, but quite a bit more so where it was invented. In Russia and in Eastern Europe, it is apparently getting more use than it is in the USA and Western Europe, but there are a lot of things that make it worth knowing about including its neuroprotective benefits and the fact that it has a really, really low toxicity profile. There don't seem to be a lot of bad things one can say about Noopept, but we'll get into all of that in the main interview. If you hang around until the end of the episode, in our Ruthless Listener Retention Gimmick, I am going to tell you how to take the ultimate nap insofar as getting maximum mental springiness on the far end of the nap, which is I guess what we take naps for to begin with. But before we get into any of that, let's do "This Week in Neuroscience".
**Voice-over:** *Smart Drug Smarts – This Week in Neuroscience!*
**Jesse:** So, if you want to talk about brain plasticity – the ability of the brain to kind of roll with the punches and re-wire itself on an as-needed basis – this one is amazing. Doctors in China recently came across a woman who has no cerebellum in her brain, whatsoever. So, a 24-year-old woman went into the doctor's with complaints of dizziness and nausea. One thing led to another, they did some brain scans, and they found out that this woman's entire cerebellum wasn't there. Now, if you can kind of imagine a picture of a brain – there is this little bulb down at the bottom, sort of at the base of the skull in the back; it almost looks like a miniaturized version of the brain kind of shoved on the back of the brain. Anyway, that's the cerebellum. But it's about 10% of the brain's total volume, so it's not, like, a small little micro-minuscule piece of the thing, and it also contains up to 50% of the brain's total neurons. This woman did not have a cerebellum at all – it just wasn't even there. The X-Ray scan is really quite amazing. The woman told the doctors she had had problems walking steadily for most of her life and her mother said that she hadn't walked until she was age 7, and that her speech was only intelligible at age 6. So, she had some developmental problems but basically she is a fully functional adult missing a giant piece of her brain. Says, Mario Manto, who researches cerebral disorders at the Free University of Brussels in Belgium, "These rare cases are interesting to understand how the brain's circuitry works and compensates for missing parts." Doctors suspect this function is normally taken care of by the cerebellum and in this woman may have been taken over by the cortex and they are doing brain scans now to kind of figure out how exactly her brain has re-wired itself to make up for the lack of this usual piece.
**Voice-over:** *Smart Drug Smarts - where we turn information into sound into bits into packet-data, that turns back into bits and sound and then into neurotransmitters that release funds that release mail-order synthetic chemicals that cross the blood brain barrier to release augmented performance from your brain.*
**Jesse:** Okay, so as promised, we're about to go into our main interview with Dr. Rita Ostrovskaya, who is quite literally the foremost scientist in the world on the compound Noopept. We reached out to her and invited her and she very graciously accepted, but in her initial emails she was a little bit concerned about communicating in spoken English, because English is not her first language and so on and so forth. So, for a while, we communicated and we were thinking that maybe we would do a text chat interview and then sort of a have a stunt voice come on and voice her part of it. But, just when I was ready for the text chat, an night or two ago, Dr. Ostrovskaya arrived at the agreed upon time and just gave me a phone call and said that she was ready to do the interview as a normal audio interview, and so, we did. But, because of that we hadn't had time to get her audio environment set up and there's definitely some pops and imperfections in the audio conversation, so I apologize about that in advance. There are also a couple of words that I want to give a little bit of a glossary to, just to make sure that nothing gets misunderstood on the basis of Dr. Ostrovskaya's accent. There are a few times she says, what sounds like. "hemists" but that would be "chemists". Similarly, "hemical" is "chemical" and there is once or twice where she was talking about "peppers" and then I realized that's "papers", like scientific paper. So, if you hear her talking about "peppers" and you're wondering what the relevance of "peppers" is, that's what's going on. Lastly, there is a few times when "years" are pronounced as "ears". So, with that as preamble, here comes a really interesting interview with one of the leading minds in nootropic research chemistry, Dr. Rita Ostrovskaya.
**Voice-over.** *Smart Drugs Smarts.*
**Rita Ostrovskaya:** I am one of the authors of this molecule.
**Rita Ostrovskaya:** You're probably interested in how we came to this molecule, yes?
**Jesse:** Very much so. I'd love to hear the history.
**Rita Ostrovskaya:** History is so - you certainly know about Piracetam, yes?
**Rita Ostrovskaya:** Piracetam was invented by one scientist who worked in UCB in Belgium and it was his invention. He got a substance which was able to improve memory disturbed by, for example, electric convulsion or hypoxia - and so he proposed it to clinics. And up to now some people don't like this molecule and specially in America they are very negative to this substance. Why? The point is it has lot of disadvantages. It means that it works only in very high doses. Doses of about 12 grams per day. It's a huge dose and in some people it doesn't work a lot. So I'm working in the Institute of Pharmacology. That is a very old and traditional institute. I'm working there for more than 50 years. You can imagine how old I am. I am 82 years old. Very, very, very active person. I have a lot of fellowships, a lot of students and so on. But let's come to the beginning and the history of Noopept.
**Rita Ostrovskaya:** We have in our institute a rather big chemistry department. Our chemists decided to do something with Piracetam to improve it. Because its disadvantage is very low activity. All over the world there are many chemists who are trying to improve Piracetam by looking around this molecule. But our chemists used another way. They moved to so-called peptides. Peptides are a chain of amino acids and although they have positive features because they're rather active. But because they are close to the board they are not toxic and that is positive. But they also have negative features because they're not stable. They have a very low biological stability because of enzyme activities. So the exception is it conserves lower peptides. For example 10 or 100 amino acids. But if you take 2 amino acids only - the so-called dipeptides - it is another situation because they're rather stable and they penetrate good in the brain.
As you know, it's difficult to choose which amino acids you should take. So our chemists, they're very, very clever. They compared the structure of Piracetam and they took two amino acids - proline and glycine - and combined them to get the molecule which is closer to Piracetam. So we got the peptide, an analogue of Piracetam, and it appears it works very good in experiments in doses which are thousands less than Piracetam. For example, Piracetam works in doses of 200mg per kilo and our substance works in 1mg per kilo. You can understand the quantitative difference. And also there are qualitative differences because our substance works in a better way, in a wider spectrum of pathology. You know I run experiments for my colleges and we use a battery of tests which imitate the clinical situations. For example, we can have a model of brain trauma or ischemia or aging or pre-natal damages, so different kinds of damages. So in all these models our substance works very well. And it is not toxic. Our toxicologists perform the experiments on two kinds of animals - rats and rabbits - in different levels of doses. And they show that the substance is not toxic because it is close to indigenous amino acids. So it was in the very beginning, you know, we started with this substance in 1995. That is the history.
**Jesse:** With such low toxicology, are there any downsides that people should be aware of?
**Rita Ostrovskaya:** Not yet. It is in practice for a long time and there is really no side-effect, except for one. You know, during the first clinical trial, people have to write this information list. They agreed to be a part of this examination which was a second step of a clinical trial. And the people were rather nervous and had some anxiety while writing this paper. So many people who have hyperthyroid, they must rate a little bit higher blood pressure after Noopept. But we guess it was psychological. It is a very important problem of clinical trials, not only in our case.
**Jesse:** One of the things that I read was that not only does it have neurological benefits but it can be an inhibitor for diabetes.
**Rita Ostrovskaya:** Yes, I will tell you. The point is that now it is clear that brain damages of different origins have the same mechanism of damages. You can understand that there are chemical mechanisms, such as excessive formation of free oxygen on glutamic acid and inside other amino acids. Excessive accumulation of calcium or inflammatory cytokines. And all these mechanisms are involved in any kinds of brain damages. So it means that, for example, Piracetam is a weak substance, but it works in different kinds of brain pathology. It means the substance that helps to recover after stroke - the same substance can help to recover after brain trauma. And after pronounced convulsions in epileptic patients. So the mechanism of neuroprotection is really universal because the mechanism of damage is very similar. Except, for example, Alzheimer, where all these mechanisms also work, but it has other additional components such as beta amyloids. So it is another mechanism, but there are several common mechanisms in different kinds of brain pathologies. So that is the reason why many neuroprotective substances are effective in a wider spectrum of brain pathologies. In diabetes the beta cells of the pancreas are damaged and insulin is not produced. And that is the first point. The second point is that the genetic origin of beta cells is very similar to that of neurons and their chemical features. So it came to my mind that I can use neuroprotective molecules to treat diabetes. It is only my experimental data, no clinics yet. And I don't know when I have the possibility to try in clinics because it is rather expensive and so on. But now we have a rather good battery of tests for this diabetic model, and not only is Noopept working, but several other neuroprotective substances appear to be effective. So now we're in the process, but you saw probably our publications.
**Jesse:** Very interesting. Are the amounts of the neuroprotective substances that are effective for protection of the brain similar in scale to the amounts that are effective against diabetes?
**Rita Ostrovskaya:** I don't know because nobody has studied it. It's just the beginning. You know there is one lady, her name is Suzanne de La Monte - she proposed such ideas that Alzheimer's disease can be considered as diabetes of the brain.
**Jesse:** One thing that I read about Noopept that was surprising but in a good way, is that you don't build up a tolerance to it the way that you do with various chemicals but it is something that can sustain it's usefulness within your body.
**Rita Ostrovskaya:** No, there is no tolerance. We advise that the people use Noopept for around three months and then take an interval three times per year. As a prophylaxis - not a therapy, but also a prophylaxis.
**Jesse:** How much would be a normal amount for an adult person to take per day?
**Rita Ostrovskaya:** Three tablets - each tablet contains 10mg.
**Jesse:** It's metabolized pretty quickly within then the body then, if you're taking it three times per day.
**Rita Ostrovskaya:** Yes, yes - you know this is a very important point because all peptides are metabolized very quickly.
**Jesse:** What further studies are you working on now? You sound like such a vital and active person. What is it that you'd like to see happen next with your invention?
**Rita Ostrovskaya:** Yeah, I don't know, but I have to tell you that I'm taking Noopept for many years. But I'm not sure, in spite of the fact that I'm older, I'm not sure that is the main reason. I guess main reason is that I'm very active. I'm very active mentally and also I have a lot of interests. I work at the institute then I come back, I have a very small dinner and very small sleep. For example five hours and then I'm again near computer.
**Rita Ostrovskaya:** That is my secret because you know unfortunately I'm a widow. I lost my husband when I was 35 and he was also very young. He was a professor of rheumatology. He had a heart attack and he passed away. So my job is my hobby, unfortunately. It is not very good, but that is a fact.
**Voice-over:** *Smart Drug Smarts.*
**Jesse:** Thank you so very very much to Dr. Ostrovskaya for joining us for the podcast. Fantastic to hear about, what I believe is, truly her life's work and a source of great pride and ongoing interest to her. Super awesome to hear about somebody who is up there in her years but still very, very active and engaged in what she's doing. I think she is obviously a role model for those of us who are looking to keep our brains super-engaged throughout our lives. And, now, turning away from Noopept to the Ruthless Listener Retention Gimmick.
**Voice-over:** *Smart Drug Smarts - Ruthless Listener Retention Gimmick!*
**Jesse:** Okay, so I think we've talked about coffee naps on Smart Drug Smarts before, but this is such an awesome thing that I wanted to go back into it again. So, there's a really [good article](http://www.vox.com/2014/8/28/6074177/coffee-naps-caffeine-science?utm_content=bufferd3a5a&utm_medium=social&utm_source=twitter.com&utm_campaign=buffer) on Vox.com, specifically about coffee naps, how to use them to your advantage and why they work. So, quick recap. What is a coffee nap? A coffee nap is essentially, you're drinking a big glass of coffee, then immediately going to sleep, waiting for about 20 minutes while you sleep, then waking up and springing into action - well you could do whatever you want once you wake up, but the idea is that a coffee nap, as far as its resuscitative powers for your brain is more powerful than a nap, more powerful than coffee and, in fact, more powerful even than the additive effects of coffee plus a nap, which seems a little weird. And, of course, caffeine has a bad reputation for interfering with your sleep, which is generally true. But, here's what's going on and why a coffee nap is as effective as science backs it up to be. So, at the risk of radically oversimplifying, we get tired because our brain builds up something called adenosine or at least, the build-up of adenosine is one of the triggers for our brains that we are tired and, in fact, we should take a nap. So, our brain has these things called adenosine receptors and adenosine is a neurotransmitter. During the course of our waking hours, adenosine builds up and gets captured in these receptors within our brain and when we reach a some critical threshold of adenosine receptors being filled up with adenosine, we get real tired and either go to sleep or really wish that we could be asleep. Now, what makes caffeine effective at prolonging our wakefulness is that caffeine is chemically shaped very similarly to adenosine and so it can kind of fit into these adenosine receptors and plug them up and keep adenosine from getting in there, so our traditional mechanism of knowing when we're tired gets gummed up. So, you drink a cup of coffee or some other caffeine containing something or other. You get the caffeine in your body, it crosses the blood-brain barrier goes into your brain, plugs up the adenosine receptors and you stay awake longer than you otherwise would have. So, the other part of this process is that when you sleep, your brain does a clean sweep and knocks the adenosine out of the adenosine receptors, you're not tired anymore and that's why you feel rejuvenated when you wake up, So, if you think about drinking a cup of coffee or something like that when you are already part-way through this getting sleepy cycle, you've already got some of your adenosine receptors filled up with adenosine, then there is not quite as many open spots for the caffeine to fill up. But if you do a coffee nap, you kind of have this double whammy effect going for you. While you're napping, your adenosine is getting released from your brain's adenosine receptors and it takes about 20 minutes or so, normally, for caffeine that you ingest to actually hit your blood stream and thus, wind up in your brain. So, just about the time you're waking up from your nap with your adenosine receptors somewhat cleared out, you've got this burst of caffeine in your system which can plug up all those empty spots - and thus, voila: the magic of the coffee nap. I just took a coffee nap earlier today and I feel marvelous, I might add.
**Voice-over:** *Smart Drug Smarts - the podcast so smart, we have smart in our title, twice!*
**Jesse:** Okay, you've heard it.That is the episode 46 cruising in for a landing. Thank you very much for staying with us. You're once again invited, by the way, for the iPhone users out there to download the new [Axon app](https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/axon/id904233608) that we've recently published. By the time this episode comes out, version 1.1 should be in the store and we're coding on version 1.2. Now, version 1.2 is going to have some pretty neat little goodies and version 1.1 was just a couple of bug fixes. But, yeah, get your app while the getting's good. So, I'll catch you next week. Same time, same podcast, and with the same unflagging commitment to fine-tuning the performance of your own brain. Have a great week and stay smart.
**Announcer:** *You've been listening to the Smart Drugs Smart podcast. Visit us [online](http://smartdrugsmarts.com/) at www.smartdrugsmarts.com and subscribe to our mailing list to keep your neurons buzzing with the latest in brain optimization.*
**Disclaimer:** *Smart Drug Smarts should be listened to for entertainment purposes only. Although some guests on the show are medical doctors, most are not and the host is just some random guy. Nothing you hear on the podcast or read on Smart Drug Smarts should be considered medical advice. Consult your doctor, and use some damn common sense before doing anything that you think might have a lasting impact on your brain.*