Brain Health,
Smart Drugs,

#021: Abelard Lindsay and Roy Krebs on Long-Term Potentiation

October 02, 2013

Abelard Lindsay might not carry vaunted letters behind his name like MD or PhD, but he has a wealth of first-person experience with cognitive enhancement and nootropics. In his time as a computer software engineer, he has had to be able to compartmentalize a problem, solve it in pieces, then put reassemble the results – and this is exactly how he was able to come up with CILTEP.

His new business partner, Roy Krebs, saw that Abelard was on to something and joined forces with him in their nascent company Natural Stacks (link below). One thing that’s an interesting focus in Roy and Abelard’s approach to the nootropics business is that they’re developing their stacks’ ingredient lists in the manner computer programmers call “open source.” The tinkering process is done in public, with open invitations for others to interact and participate, and they’re iterating even their flagship products based on the user experience.

Long-Term Potentiation

Long-Term Potentiation is a natural process by which synaptic connections are strengthened in response to simultaneous stimulation of the nerves on either side. This is believed to be a major component of both learning and memory, as strong memories are understood to be, at a cellular level, among the most active and well-traveled neural pathways. Long-Term Potentiation (LTP) is one of the most critical parts of synaptic plasticity (how brain structures change through time).

After reading about Long-Term Potentiation animal studies in 2011, Abelard decided to dissect the research and look for a way to apply this brain-boost to himself and other humans.

Some Biochemical Background

PDE4 breaks down cAMP. cAMP is a secondary messenger in neurons which increases transcription of genes in the nucleus that produce proteins for increased neuron growth (dendrites to connect to other neurons, etc.). Long-Term Potentiation causes an increase the production of cAMP, which triggers a biochemical cascade of reactions whose macro-level effects we feel as learning, memory, and the good stuff that nootropics fans are generally seeking to promote.

Enhancing Long-Term Potentiation

The ideal one-two punch to promote Long-Term Potentiation would be to inhibit PDE4 while promoting the production of cAMP. Other options for achieving this have been tested, but with limited degrees of success. For example – Rolipram achieved great results in lab rats, but even a small amount caused humans to vomit.

In his research, Abelard discovered that artichoke extract was a natural PDE4 inhibitor. It would have a long half-life, but without being overpowering. He also found that Forskolin, a traditional ayurvedic Indian medicine, would increase cAMP levels.

This combination of ingredients, says Abelard, provided him with an immediate boost in desire-to-learn, as well as what felt like an ability to learn… And for the past two-plus years, he has been testing and refining what he came to call the “CILTEP” stack, standing for Chemically-Induced Long-TErm Potentiation. He has been “open-sourcing” the development of CILTEP on the discussion forum at, where the CILTEP thread is now the most active and popular.


Most users of CILTEP experienced an increase in their desire to study, as well as absorption of information. Abelard self-reported a major increase in his desire to study, and he started taking online courses, seeing improvements at his job, and went back to graduate school. Users have also reported mood enhancement.

There has been one arguably negative side-effect reported: sleepiness. Because of the up-regulation of Acetylcholine Esterase, the brain has lower levels of acetylcholine and calls for sleep. To remedy this, Abelard has added Acetyl-Carnitine, which calms the up-regulation of Acetylcholine Esterase.

(Plus, with everything neurologists keep telling us at Smart Drug Smarts, sleep is almost always something we should strive to get more of, and it is also a key part of laying down memories.)

Abelard cautions against taking CILTEP with serious stimulants… but caffeine is okay.

This Week In Neuroscience: Avoid Dementia By Keeping The Brain “Active”

The Rush University Medical Center in Chicago conducted a study of 294 people over 55 years old. They were tested on their memory for on average 6 years, and after their deaths (for those who died, anyway), their brains were examined for physical signs of dementia. This, combined with their earlier self-assessments regarding their use of their brains, was expected to give clues as to what lifestyle-choices would help contribute to maintained brain function as people age.

The resulting data showed that people who kept their brains intellectually busy throughout their lives slowed their mental decline by 15% compared to their less intellectually-stimulated counterparts.

No surprise here, this adds further weight to the old adage of “use it or lose it.”

Read the original article here.

Key terms Mentioned


  1. Gabriel says:

    Very interesting podcast.
    Is there any herbal or drug to use as an alternative to forskolin?

    1. Jesse Lawler says:

      Hi there Gabriel — I’m not sure the answer off the top of my head, but am happy to look into this. Question first: What aspect of forskolin is making you look for an alternative?


      1. Gabriel says:

        Jesse, thanks for the reply. Unfortunately where I live there is not forskolin available (and importing is a problem) so I am searching for a drug alternative which I may find at a pharmacy.

        1. Jesse Lawler says:

          Sesamin ( has been discussed as an alternative in a few forums, but there’s not much research on it. I checked in with the Natural Stacks guys, but Abelard hadn’t tried it.

  2. Gabriel says:

    Very interesting podcast.
    Is there any herbal or drug to use as an alternative to forskolin?

  3. Adam P says:

    What was the South African plant and the high potency drug made from it called? The one that was too much and caused studying tunnel vision. It isn’t mentioned in the write up above.

    1. Jesse Lawler says:

      Hi Adam — The plant in question was Kanna, which has a standardized extract called “Zembrin.” Please bear in mind the warnings Abelard gave about this compound, and please do (a lot) more research before considering trying it yourself.  We only lightly touched on the subject here.

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