Potential and Mechanisms of Pramiracetam
Pramiracetam is a drug belonging to the racetam family of cognitive enhancers. Pramiracetam may improve memory and enhance learning ability. It also has the potential to treat amnesia and help with brain injuries. Read on to see the potential uses, mechanisms, and side effects of pramiracetam.
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. Please discuss your medications with your doctor.
What is Pramiracetam?
Pramiracetam (also known as Pramistar) is a cognitive enhancer (nootropic) that is synthesized from piracetam, the original racetam, by substituting the amide group in piracetam with a dipropan-2-ylamino ethyl group. This substitution allows pramiracetam to be more potent than piracetam.
Pramiracetam was developed in 1979 by Parke-Davis, a division of the Warner-Lambert pharmaceutical company. Pramiracetam was at first distributed under the brand name Pramistar. Now, it is part of Pfizer, since Warner-Lambert merged with Pfizer in 2000.
Pramiracetam is found to increase rats’ object recognition with a significantly lower dose when compared to piracetam. Piracetam required 13 times the dose of pramiracetam to have the same effect [R].
Pramiracetam Mechanism of Action
- Acetylcholine (ACh) is a neurotransmitter involved in learning and memory. Pramiracetam increased the rate of choline uptake into the rat brain cells by 30 to 37% [R, R, R]. Increased uptake of choline provides more choline as a source to build ACh. This effect lasts approximately 24 hours [R].
- Even when rats were given scopolamine, a substance that reduces choline concentration in the brain, treatment with pramiracetam prevented choline depletion [R].
- Nitric oxide is a compound that is known to play a role in memory and learning. Pramiracetam increases nitric oxide production in the brain [R, R].
- The action of pramiracetam and other racetams depends on adrenal hormone availability. In rats, racetams, including pramiracetam, lost their “memory-improving effect” after the animals had their adrenal glands removed. Inhibition of adrenal hormone production also suppressed the memory-improving effects of pramiracetam in mice [R, R].
- However, higher levels of adrenal hormones aldosterone or corticosterone (cortisol equivalent) also blocked the memory-improving effects of this drug in mice in a dose-related manner [R].
Uses of Pramiracetam
1) Improves Memory
A pilot study of 35 elderly volunteers with memory loss found that those who received pramiracetam showed greater improvements in memory than those who received memory training, as well as those who did not receive either [R].
In a study (double-blind randomized controlled trial) of four young men with brain injury, pramiracetam improved both short- and long-term memory. This effect lasted for 1 month after the treatment was discontinued [R].
Seven weeks of treatment with pramiracetam was found to increase long-term memory and learning ability in rats [R].
Pramiracetam also improved object-recognition memory in rats [R].
2) Helps Prevent and Reverse Amnesia
In a study (double-blind randomized controlled trial) of 24 young and old healthy volunteers, pramiracetam partially reduced the memory loss caused by scopolamine, a drug that produces temporary amnesia [R].
In a study (prospective cohort) of 65 patients with head injuries, pramiracetam worked better than piracetam at reducing symptoms associated with amnesia [R].
Pretreatment with pramiracetam prevented memory loss in rats treated with a substance that causes amnesia (hemicholinium-3) [R].
Pramiracetam reversed memory loss in mice caused by electric shock [R].
3) Improves Recovery from Brain Injuries
In a study (prospective cohort) of 65 people with mild brain injury, pramiracetam reduced headaches, dizziness, and nausea and improved orientation and feeling better than piracetam [R].
A study (double-blind randomized controlled trial) of four men with severe brain injuries found that six weeks of pramiracetam supplementation significantly improved memory compared to placebo [R].
4) May Improve Memory Decline Caused by Lack of Blood Flow to the Brain
Chronic cerebrovascular insufficiency refers to a number of conditions in which the arteries supplying blood to the brain are blocked, causing memory loss. Pramiracetam improved memory decline in chronic cerebrovascular insufficiency patients [R].
Side Effects of Pramiracetam
“Pramiracetam demonstrated a wide margin of safety in animals and was well tolerated in normal human volunteers” [R].
No side effects have been reported or observed at any dosage in a random controlled trial [R]. However, anecdotal reports discuss common side effect being headache, dizziness, and insomnia.
Overall, pramiracetam possesses very low toxicity and lacks major adverse effects [R].
Forms and Dosage of Pramiracetam
Pramiracetam is taken in the form of powder, capsules, or tablets. The powder form has a strong unpleasant taste, therefore many users prefer to take the capsule or tablet forms instead. Although the powder and capsule forms have a faster absorption rate than the tablet form, effectiveness is the same [R].
A total of a 1200 mg daily intake was effective in clinical trials, divided into two 600 mg doses or three 400 mg doses.
Pramiracetam is often combined with a choline source (e.g. alpha-GPC or citicoline) as racetams have been shown to reduce acetylcholine levels in the brain and the combination of piracetam and choline has synergistic effects on cognitive function [R, R].
Limitations and Caveats
Most of the research on pramiracetam has been conducted on animals and there are few clinical trials in humans. Caution should be taken when applying this research for human use.
“I find it excels at increasing focus and depth of focus for 2 to 3 hours. It is useful when preparing for exams or writing a research paper or typing up lengthy lab reports, etc. Unlike every other nootropic, I have tried I would never take pramiracetam and go into public. I find it grants a very slight depersonalization effect and I have no desire to talk to or deal with people in any social context.”
“Pramiracetam gave me one of the best racetam experiences and helped get me out of my head. I might not want it for taking exams but it’s suited more for reading/working/studying.”
“I’ve been a user of piracetam for a year or so, and just got some pramiracetam and decided to try it instead and to me, it definitely feels cleaner than piracetam. Both increase alertness, but piracetam seems to be more eccentric and electric. I’m on day 2 now and pramiracetam seems to bring even more alertness in a more centered, peaceful and calm way.”
“Pramiracetam was responsible for getting me into the mood of studying and making my brain work at a fast rate, but I don’t think that I should take it long-term because there haven’t been a lot of studies done on the drug, therefore, it should be used with caution and ONLY when doing something productive like studying for an exam. The side effects, as said, haven’t been studied fully yet, but just be careful.”
“Time almost seems to pass at a slower rate on pramiracetam, it is almost as if I am able to think at a higher speed within a shorter period of time. I have experienced higher productivity at work, both on in terms of being able to more quickly deal with tedious tasks and to produce higher quality material in more mentally intensive projects. Now for the bad/weird: 1) Pramiracetam tastes absolutely horrible. 2) It tears up my stomach if I don’t consume food with it. 3) I have a greater propensity to employ words on the frontiers of my mastered vocabulary, which can occasionally lead me to either misuse a word or sound like a pretentious dick for using “big words” regardless of the context. 4)I often find myself attempting to create new words on Pramiracetam. The most common manifestation of this is my tendency on pram of converting words into a non-standard English adverb form in both text and speech. 5) I feel incredibly robotic and logical, which can often be a bad thing in social situations.”