Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor
Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor and How to Use It to Win the Space Race
Inside every brain,
be it that of a communist revolutionary or a bourgeois swine,
there exist a class of proteins called the neurotrophic factors.
These are a group of peptides and small proteins that moderate the
birth, survival, function, and death of neurons.
Within this group are the neurotrophins, of which
Neural Growth Factor (NGF) and Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor (BDNF) are the most important.
Both of these compounds are involved in
the creation of new neurons
the creation of new dendrites
(the “tentacles” of neurons that make connections with new neurons),
(deciding where the dendrites go).
NGF is extremely expensive to create in a lab,
and is therefore significantly under-researched
(thanks, ethical capitalism).
There are, however, dozens of ways to increase BDNF safely and effectively.
What does BDNF do?
What does BDNF do for me?
BDNF streamlines the reward pathways responsible for pleasure, which in turn increases the ability to focus and attenuates ADHD.
Low levels of BDNF, which are completely normal in the later stages of life, are associated with dementia, Alzheimer’s, schizophrenia, depression, anorexia, and bulimia.
What this means is that BDNF is neuroprotective against cognitive decline, and is able to attenuate the effects of the aforementioned mental illnesses.
Is there such a thing as too much BDNF?
When the infrastructure of the reward system becomes too integrated, drug-seeking behavior increases in rats exposed to opioids. Interestingly, when rats are exposed to opioids, they see an increase in BDNF as well.
What compounds increase BDNF?
This pigment that makes ginger and turmeric yellow is famous for being a strong anti-inflammatory that breaks the neurological positive-feedback loop of stress, inflammation, and low BDNF. In other words, BDNF is usually not created in the presence of stress as much as it would have been at baseline levels, but when curcumin is present, BDNF is created at the baseline quantity. Curcumin must be taken with piperine or black pepper in order to ease absorption.
Originally developed to help stroke and cognitive disorders, Semax is a post-Soviet Union peptide that “rapidly” increases the levels of BDNF throughout the brain, as well as the reward system. Because Semax activates the reward system, it should be taken in the morning and not at night, as it may cause insomnia. Interestingly, BDNF’s receptor TrKb is not downregulated (i.e. does not appear less throughout the brain after administration) by Semax but is upregulated, which means that Semax does not form a tolerance. Instead, Semax may form a reverse-tolerance, which means that less Semax will be required to reach the same effects over time. It is a stimulant, anxiolytic, and antidepressant. Semax increases BDNF in the hippocampus and the frontal cortex.
The sister-compound to Semax, Selank is another post-Soviet Union peptide that increases BDNF in just the hippocampus. Unlike Semax, Selank is primarily an anxiolytic compound with strong anti-depressant effects. Selank’s antidepressant effects have to do with the ability to increase serotonin and dopamine throughout the brain rapidly after administration. This is possibly secondary to its inhibition of the degradation of endogenous opioid peptides. The increase in BDNF may be secondary to the increase in the quantity of endogenous opioids as well.
One of the most rudimentary nootropics, Cerebrolysin actually contains BDNF inside of it, as well as the aforementioned Nerve Growth Factor (NGF). Cerebrolysin is made out of peptides extracted from the brains of pigs. While under-researched in relation to its nootropic effects, Cerebrolysin has been found to be an effective treatment for stroke and dementia. Unlike Semax, Selank, and Curcumin, it does not have anxiolytic or antidepressant effects.
Closely related to the racetams group of nootropics, Noopept is another post-Soviet invention. Noopept is metabolized into the chemical cycloprolylglycine, which is an endogenous peptide with strong anxiolytic effects at the GABA receptor, which is the main site for benzodiazepines and alcohol. Noopept, like Cerebrolysin, increases dendritic proliferation via both BDNF and NGF. It’s the strongest effect, though, is its short-term cognitive enhancement effects by way of AMPA glutamate receptor modulation.