Coluracetam is a nootropic used to help memory and learning, depression, anxiety, as well as to improve vision. What we know about it has been pieced together from animal studies and user experiences, since the few human trials of this drug have never been published. Keep reading to find out its potential uses and side effects.
Note: 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 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-’90s 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 [R].
Coluracetam’s second round of research, by Brain Cells Inc., on more than 100 people with major depression and anxiety, revealed benefits for major depressive disorder (MDD). These trials have never been 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). This choline uptake system increases the amount of acetylcholine in the brain. Coluracetam can restore this choline uptake system after nerve cell damage [R, R, R].
Effects of Coluracetam
1) May Improve 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 [R, R, R].
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 [R].
2) May Reduce Treatment-Resistant Depression
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 [R].
Unfortunately, this is the only human study on coluracetam.
3) May Improve 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 [R].
4) May Promote Neurogenesis
Patents state that coluracetam promotes nerve cell growth (neurogenesis). The mechanism is unknown, yet is thought to be related to the increase in hippocampal acetylcholine when coluracetam is dosed daily for a few weeks [R].
5) May Help with Schizophrenia
The enzyme that helps make acetylcholine (ChAT) is impaired in schizophrenia [R].
Coluracetam increased the activity of ChAT in rats with nerve cell damage. This suggests coluracetam may benefit patients with schizophrenia through this same enzyme. More research directly on people with schizophrenia is needed [R].
6) May Improve Vision
In degenerative disease of the retina, coluracetam may promote nerve growth [R]. Numerous user reports describe sharper eyesight and enhanced color vision; however, no scientific research supports these effects.
An unpublished study of levels up to 240 mg daily did not report major side effects in humans [R].
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.
Forms of Supplementation
Coluracetam can be taken:
- Orally – capsule or power
- Under the tongue
Eat choline-rich foods to support the effects of coluracetam to create acetylcholine. Choline can be found in:
- Beef & beef liver
In research, doses ranged from 10 mg daily to 80 mg 3 times daily, for a total of 240 mg daily, which did not show side effects [R].
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, coluracetam should be used with caution.
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