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3 Potential Uses of Coluracetam + Side Effects & Safety

Written by Puya Yazdi, MD | Last updated:
Evguenia Alechine
Jonathan Ritter
Medically reviewed by
Evguenia Alechine, PhD (Biochemistry), Jonathan Ritter, PharmD, PhD (Pharmacology) | Written by Puya Yazdi, MD | Last updated:

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Coluracetam is a nootropic that proponents believe can help memory and learning, depression, anxiety, as well as to improve vision. However, research is sorely lacking, and the company that was developing coluracetam has since closed. Learn the whole story here.

Note: We recommend strongly against using coluracetam or any other unapproved experimental 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 Coluracetam?

Coluracetam, also known as BCI-540 or MKC-231, is a nootropic of the racetam class.

Coluracetam was originally studied in Japan in the mid-1990s for Alzheimer’s treatment. These studies showed coluracetam’s ability to repair memory and learning in mice with damaged nerve cells. However, none of the research on Alzheimer’s has ever been published [1].

Coluracetam’s second round of research, by Brain Cells Inc., on more than 100 people with major depression and anxiety, is reported to have shown benefits for major depressive disorder (MDD). However, these trials were never published either.

Mechanism of Action

Coluracetam is unique among brain enhancers in that it improves choline uptake in the nerve cells via the choline uptake system (HACU) in cell studies. This choline uptake system could potentially increase the amount of acetylcholine in the brain. According to some researchers, coluracetam could, therefore, restore this choline uptake system after nerve cell damage; this has yet to be confirmed in animal or human trials [2, 3, 4].

Coluracetam also protects the NMDA receptors from glutamate toxicity. Damage to these receptors is involved in stroke, Alzheimer’s, traumatic brain injury, and other brain diseases [5].

Treatment-Resistant Depression Study

In a study (double-blind randomized controlled trial) of 101 people with depression who had failed treatment with 2 antidepressants and also had anxiety, coluracetam had a positive effect on depression scores at doses of 80 mg 3 times daily [6].

Unfortunately, this is the only published human study on coluracetam. There is nowhere near enough evidence to support its use, and safety data is also sorely lacking. The risks overwhelm the potential benefits; this is why we strongly recommend against using coluracetam.

Animal Research on Coluracetam

No clinical evidence supports the use of coluracetam for any of the conditions listed in this section. Below is a summary of the existing animal and cell-based research, which should guide further investigational efforts. However, the studies listed below should not be interpreted as supportive of any health benefit.

Furthermore, it’s important to remember that coluracetam has not been approved by the FDA for any medical purpose. It is currently illegal to import and sell coluracetam in the United States [7].

We therefore strongly recommend avoiding coluracetam. The following animal research is included for educational purposes only.

1) Memory and Learning

Coluracetam improved memory and learning in rats treated with a nerve toxin that damages the choline uptake system in the brain. This improvement surprisingly lasted beyond treatment. However, these benefits in learning and memory were not seen in rats who were not exposed to the nerve toxin [2, 3, 4].

Acetylcholine levels are often lower in those with Alzheimer’s. By boosting acetylcholine in the hippocampus, coluracetam may improve some Alzheimer’s symptoms, such as poor memory and learning [8].

In rats that were given the recreational drug PCP (which inhibits ChAT, the enzyme that creates acetylcholine), coluracetam repaired the damage to the learning function by increasing ChAT [9].

2) Anxiety

In a rat study, dosing 21 days of coluracetam led to a 20% improvement in anxiety, which was greater than the 12% effect valium had in a single dose in the same study [10].

3) Schizophrenia

The enzyme that helps make acetylcholine (ChAT) is impaired in schizophrenia [11].

Coluracetam increased the activity of ChAT in rats with nerve cell damage. More research directly on people with schizophrenia is needed [9].

Side Effects, Interaction, Supplementation, Dosage

Side Effects

Users report brain fog, low mood, suicidal thoughts, and changes in response to coluracetam based on their sleep levels.

An unpublished study of levels up to 240 mg daily did not report major side effects in humans [12].

Drug Interactions

Coluracetam may counteract the effects of anticholinergic drugs, such as Benadryl, Parkinson’s medications, and some antipsychotics.

Coluracetam may also increase the effects of cholinergic drugs, such as some medications for glaucoma and Alzheimer’s, and nicotine.

It may also interact with drugs that act on the NMDA receptor, such as cough suppressants and anesthetics.

To avoid adverse effects and unexpected interactions, we recommend talking to your doctor about better-studied and safer alternatives to coluracetam.

Forms of Supplementation

Coluracetam can be taken:

  • Orally – capsule or power
  • Under the tongue

Proponents of coluracetam believe that its benefits come from an increase in acetylcholine. A better and safer way to increase acetylcholine may be to eat foods rich in choline, the precursor to acetylcholine. Choline can be found in [13]:

  • Eggs
  • Beef & beef liver
  • Scallops
  • Chicken
  • Salmon
  • Cod
  • Shrimp
  • Broccoli

Many people who take coluracetam also take choline as CDP-Choline or Alpha-GPC to enhance coluracetam’s effects and reduce possible side effects. No evidence supports these combinations.

Dosage

There is no safe and effective dose of coluracetam because no sufficiently powered study has been conducted to find one. Furthermore, safety data is lacking.

Limitations and Caveats

The only research on coluracetam that has been published is in rats and mice, whereas human research has not made it to publication. As of January 2014, the company BrainCells Inc, the last company to research coluracetam, is closed.

With the numerous side effects listed from users and no long-term studies, we strongly recommend against using coluracetam.

User Experiences

While not being studied extensively, nootropics users say coluracetam:

  • Brightened color vision
  • Improved visual clarity
  • Improved mood
  • Improved memory
  • Reduced anxiety
  • Increased focus
  • Increased energy
  • Improved visual imagination

However, users also reported these side effects:

  • Brain fog
  • Increased depression
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Irregular results
  • Varied results depending on the duration of sleep

These are strictly anecdotal reports which have no scientific basis whatsoever. We strongly recommend avoiding coluracetam and talking to your doctor about appropriate strategies for beating brain fog or other mental troubles.

About the Author

Puya Yazdi

Puya Yazdi

MD
Dr. Puya Yazdi is a physician-scientist with 14+ years of experience in clinical medicine, life sciences, biotechnology, and nutraceuticals.
As a physician-scientist with expertise in genomics, biotechnology, and nutraceuticals, he has made it his mission to bring precision medicine to the bedside and help transform healthcare in the 21st century.He received his undergraduate education at the University of California at Irvine, a Medical Doctorate from the University of Southern California, and was a Resident Physician at Stanford University. He then proceeded to serve as a Clinical Fellow of The California Institute of Regenerative Medicine at The University of California at Irvine, where he conducted research of stem cells, epigenetics, and genomics. He was also a Medical Director for Cyvex Nutrition before serving as president of Systomic Health, a biotechnology consulting agency, where he served as an expert on genomics and other high-throughput technologies. His previous clients include Allergan, Caladrius Biosciences, and Omega Protein. He has a history of peer-reviewed publications, intellectual property discoveries (patents, etc.), clinical trial design, and a thorough knowledge of the regulatory landscape in biotechnology.He is leading our entire scientific and medical team in order to ensure accuracy and scientific validity of our content and products.

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