Aniracetam is a popular compound used to enhance cognitive function. Research suggests it can also help with dementia, anxiety, and depression. Read on to discover the potential uses of aniracetam as well as its side effects and mechanisms.

Disclaimer: By writing this post, we are not recommending this drug. Some of our readers who were already taking the drug requested that we commission a post on it, and we are simply providing information that is available in the clinical and scientific literature.

What is Aniracetam?

Aniracetam (N-anisoyl-2-pyrrolidinone) is a popular cognitive enhancer (nootropic) taken to boost mood, focus, and memory. It was developed in the 1970s by the Swiss pharmaceutical company Hoffmann-La Roche.

Aniracetam is a type of racetam, a class of compounds that have a similar core chemical structure and similar effects on the brain. Aniracetam remains unregulated in many countries including the US and the UK, and therefore there is a grey area that allows for personal use.

Aniracetam Mechanism of Action

Like all racetams, the mechanisms of action are not fully understood. However, research has shown that aniracetam has the following effects on the brain:

  • AMPA receptors are activated by the excitatory neurotransmitter glutamate. Aniracetam binds to AMPA receptors, amplifying their response to glutamate activation and causing the release of noradrenaline [1, 2].
  • Aniracetam slows down AMPA receptors desensitization to glutamate. Desensitization is when receptors no longer or less efficiently respond to neurotransmitters after prolonged exposure [3].
  • Aniracetam also binds to another class of glutamate receptors called kainate receptors and increases the effects of glutamate stimulation [4].
  • Aniracetam is cholinergic, meaning it increases acetylcholine transmission in the brain [5].
  • Aniracetam reduces dopamine levels in certain areas of the brain (striatum and hypothalamus) and increases serotonin levels in some areas (cortex and striatum) while decreasing it in others (hypothalamus) [6].

Uses of Aniracetam

1) Helps Improve Symptoms in Dementia Patients

In a study (double-blind randomized controlled trial) on 109 mild-to-moderate Alzheimer’s disease patients, subjects that were given aniracetam showed a large improvement in attention, verbal and visuospatial memory, and logical-perceptual ability compared to patients who received a placebo [7].

Another study (double-blind randomized controlled trial) of 60 patients with mental deterioration found that 1,500 mg/day of aniracetam for four months improved cognitive function [8].

In a study (randomized controlled trial) of 276 dementia patients, aniracetam supplementation for 12 months prevented cognitive decline and improved mood [9].

In a preliminary study on rats, aniracetam increased levels of acetylcholine, a neurotransmitter that is associated with memory, learning, and muscle movement [10].

2) May Improve Sleep

Aniracetam restored REM sleep and a normal sleep cycle after five days in stroke-prone rats. The control rats showed decreased REM sleep during the day and excessive non-REM sleep at night [11].

3) May Improve Anxiety

In mice, aniracetam had anti-anxiety effects as shown by increased social interactions and improved performance in mazes and fear stress tests [12].

4) May Improve Depression

Aniracetam increased serotonin and dopamine, which enhance mood and are associated with positive feelings [13].

Aniracetam’s effects on AMPA receptors may help with depression caused by cognitive diseases like Parkinson’s disease. A study in rats showed that aniracetam’s influence on AMPA receptors reduced symptoms of depression [14].

In a study on aging rats with impaired brain function, aniracetam decreased depressive behavior in a stressful forced-swim test [15].

5) May Help with Brain Damage Recovery

Aniracetam reversed the effects of fetal alcohol syndrome in young rats by increasing the amount of AMPA receptors in the hippocampus [16].

In a study on the brain cells of young mice, aniracetam enhanced the growth of neurons. This indicates aniracetam may have the potential for brain tissue repair after a traumatic brain injury that damages neural connections [17].

Aniracetam caused an increase in bladder capacity in rats with blocked blood flow to the brain, which caused tissue damage and led to bladder overactivity. This was due to a restoration of the neural pathways that were disrupted by blocking blood flow to the brain [18].

Aniracetam corrected behavior and memory in rats with a lack of blood flow to the brain and exposure to excessive nitrogen gas [19].

6) Aniracetam May Improve Memory

Aniracetam improved behavioral performance and reversed memory loss in rats [20].

Aniracetam improved memory loss due to sleep deprivation in rats [21].

7) May Increase Focus

Aniracetam increased attentiveness in rats impaired by a chemical called apomorphine [22].

In aged rats, aniracetam reduced impulsivity and distracted behavior without reducing choice accuracy or speed in a physical test through modulation of the AMPA receptors in the brain indicating an increase in focus [23].

Side Effects of Aniracetam

The most common side effects of this drug are anxiety, uneasiness, and insomnia. Other side effects at higher dosages include a headache, vertigo, diarrhea, and strong rashes [24].

Forms and Dosage of Aniracetam

Aniracetam comes in powder form and capsules.

Taken orally, the majority of clinical trials use a range of 1,000 to 1,500 mg daily, with 1,500 mg being the maximum for those with cognitive impairment [24].

Aniracetam is fat-soluble, meaning it should be taken with some type of fat for better absorption.

The half-life of aniracetam is 1 to 2.5 hours, which is relatively short; therefore, it should ideally be taken in smaller doses throughout the day. In rats, a concentration of 4.5 grams/kg was the maximum concentration allowed by the body before the drug was filtered out by the liver.

Like all racetams, it is recommended to take aniracetam with a choline source due to it being cholinergic. Examples of choline sources are alpha-GPC and citicoline.

Limitations and Caveats

Most of the research on aniracetam has been conducted in animals and there are few clinical trials in humans, especially cognitively healthy humans. Caution should be taken when applying this research for human use.

User Reviews

“I love the Aniracetam capsules! the taste of the powder isn’t for me (even though I’d drink it with milk). I find that Aniracetam works better for me than oxi or piracetam. I’ve incorporated aniracetam in my daily regimen and am taking two capsules in the morning along with a hearty breakfast. The aniracetam seems to increase my verbal memory (words come to mind easier), and reduce my normal morning anxiety.”

“They really boosted my focus after a week or two. I took them with my other vitamins. Two capsules a day. It really helped! I need a higher dosage but so far I am satisfied with the capsules. I will post a new review in 2 months to see how much this has helped. It sorta feels like it creates new pathways in your brain, but takes a while to see results.”

“The best way to describe it is relaxed yet highly focused. There isn’t an edge to it if I stick with one 750 mg capsule per day. More than that and the focus becomes a little edgy for me… Aniracetam helps me concentrate at work and makes me feel cool and confident in meetings. I expect to always have some around.”

“Last night I tried for the first time, one tablet of 750mg taken with fish oil and yogurt. About 30mins in I started feeling a little foggy, then within one hour, I was downright tired, disoriented and nauseous! I had to lay down on the couch, and couldn’t even use/read on my phone. A headache started so I quickly took an Ibux to avoid it escalating into something like a migraine. This did go away but still, I just felt like going to bed and that was it.”

Buying Aniracetam

Want More Targeted Ways to Enhance Brain Function?

If you’re interested in improving your cognitive function, we recommend checking out SelfDecode’s Limitless Mind DNA Protocol. It gives genetic-based diet, lifestyle and supplement tips that can help improve your cognitive function. The recommendations are personalized based on your genes.

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About the Author

Will Hunter

BA (Psychology)
Will received his BA in Psychology from the University of California, Los Angeles. 
Will's main passion is learning how to optimize physical and mental performance through diet, supplement, and lifestyle interventions. He focuses on systems thinking to leverage technology and information and help you get the most out of your body and brain.

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