Your ability to think on your feet, solve problems, concentrate on projects at work for long hours, and remember where you left your glasses is largely dependent on your brain chemistry. Fortunately, you can take proactive steps to improve brain chemistry and with it cognitive function.
Okay. First a brief brain chemistry lesson….
One of the key chemicals in your body is phosphatidylcholine (PC), a phospholipid. PC is found in every brain cell – in fact, in every cell in your body! While cell membranes repel water, these same membranes absorb PC – because they are in fact made of it.
As a result, PC and any nutrients contained within PC are delivered deep into your brain cells for maximum mental performance. PC assists the operation of brain cells while regulating important enzymes within the brain.
In addition, PC increases the production of neurites – protective structures for neurons. Formation of neurites on axons and dendrites leads to greater plasticity of the brain. Plasticity refers to the ability of the brain to change composition over time, which may lead to improvements in memory and other functions.
So where does your PC come from? PC is synthesized in the body from choline, a water-soluble essential nutrient usually grouped within the B-complex vitamins. Choline is also a precursor of acetylcholine (ATC), a key neurotransmitter without which we couldn’t think or remember. The short-term memory loss we suffer as we age is largely caused by malfunction of neurons in the forebrain responsible for making acetylcholine.
Choline is various ammonium salts containing the N,N,N-trimethylethanolammonium (NNNT) cation. What is a cation? Well, an ion is an atom or molecule in which the total number of electrons is not equal to the total number of protons, giving the atom or molecule a net positive or negative electrical charge. In chemical terms, if a neutral atom loses one or more electrons, it has a net positive charge and is known as a cation. The NNNT cation is part of the structure of the phosphatidylcholine molecule.
Citicoline, also known as cytidine diphosphate-choline (CDP-Choline) or cytidine 5′-diphosphocholine, is a 100% natural nootropic (a cognitive enhancers). Citicoline is an intermediate in the generation of phosphatidylcholine from choline (see diagram below).
Fig. 1. Choline is converted into citicoline which in turn is used to synthesize PC. NNNT is a positively charged ion that is part of all three molecules.
The incredible value of citicoline
Because of this chain of biochemical reactions, having sufficient citicoline in your bloodstream is vital to keeping your brain at optimal health. The Mind Lab contains Cognizin, a branded form of citicoline, also called CDP-choline.
- As already noted, citicoline is a precursor for the synthesis of PC, a major constituent of brain tissue, from choline. In addition, CDP-choline:
- Helps maintain optimal levels of acetylcholine, a chemical that regulates memory and cognitive function.
- Enhances transmission of nerve impulses between neurons.
- Protects neural structures from free radical damage.
- Enhances metabolism and healthy brain activity.
- Helps sustain healthy cellular mitochondria, the “power plants” in your cells that provide the brain with sustained energy.
- Improves memory storage and recall.
Where to get your citicoline
Remember, citicoline is an intermediate in the generation of phosphatidylcholine from choline. That means you need an adequate supply of choline to make citicoline and PC.
There are two popular nutritional supplements on the market today that supply the needed citicoline: CDP-choline and alpha glycerophosphorylcholine (GPC).
While both have similarities and are able to supply choline, some research studies seems to favor CDP-choline or Cognizin as the preferred choline source.
For one thing, experiments with cultured brain cells reveal that soon after the cells are incubated with CDP-choline, newly synthesized PC can be detected. In addition, while alpha GPC is purely a choline supplement, CDP-choline is both a choline and a Uridine supplement.
Storing memories in your brain requires large amounts of RNA. By taking CDP-choline, you increase RNA levels to improve memory function and retention performance.
By comparison, alpha GPC does not supplement uridine levels. And uridine not only increases RNA, but it also combines with choline to produce cognitive enhancement effects. And low levels of uridine can lead to memory impairment.
What’s more the uridine in CDP-choline increases the brain’s production of is phosphatidylcholine – a PC boost that alpha GPC cannot provide.
CDP-choline has been shown to restore dopamine receptor densities in aging rodents. In the brain, dopamine functions as a neurotransmitter—a chemical released by nerve cells to send signals to other nerve cells. The brain includes several distinct dopamine systems, one of which plays a major role in reward-motivated behavior.
In one study seemingly favoring alpha GPC, 120 patients with mild to moderate dementia received either 1 gram of CDP or GPC daily for 90 days. While both substances helped reduced dementia symptoms, GPC was better at increasing various markers of cognition.
However, the study was flawed in that the supplements were given through intramuscular injection rather than orally. Avoiding the gut may have increased GPC’s efficacy as some GPC is metabolized during digestion, which is not the case with CDP-choline.