Finding motivation can be difficult. Whether trying to study, go to the gym, or giving yourself the push to start a new career, getting the ball rolling and sticking with it is no easy challenge. If it was, everybody would be doing it.
A lot of talk has been circulating the nootropics community about compounds that can boost this motivation, making it easier to make the changes you want in your life, or stick with a plan for long enough to reach your goals. Is this too good to be true? How can nootropics help with motivation?
Let’s get straight into it…
Where Does Motivation Come From?
Dopamine is one of the main neurotransmitters in the pleasure & reward center of the brain. When we do something that ends up benefiting us, dopamine gives us the sensation of pleasure so that we can become motivated to do it again. It rewards us for performing that beneficial activity.
Some studies have even shown that dopamine is released BEFORE this activity occurs, which is thought to be used as a means to motivate us to perform that activity. Without this system in place, we would have less motivation to seek the things that bring us benefit.
A group of researchers testing the limits of dopamines relationship to motivation found that mice deficient in dopamine would actually starve themselves to death despite having access to enough food.
Although dopamine is a critical aspect of motivation in the brain, simply boosting the levels of this neurotransmitter isn’t enough. There is another important element we need to consider that holds the key to using nootropics for motivation.
The AMPA Receptors
The pleasure-reward response doesn’t rely solely on dopamine. In fact, it actually starts with the glutamate AMPA receptors. These receptors are located deep within the brain in an area known as the raphe nucleus. Once stimulated by the neurotransmitter glutamate, it triggers a release of dopamine in the ventral tegmental area. This is the area where the bulk of the pleasure-reward system is located. It’s effectively the part of the brain that motivates and rewards us.
How To Apply This Information?
Taking all of this into account means that we should focus on nootropics that make this reward system more efficient. This doesn’t necessarily mean that we should directly stimulate dopamine, because as mentioned earlier, this doesn’t directly equal motivation. Instead, we should be optimising the natural production of dopamine by providing the brain with all of the raw materials it needs to achieve this.
Additionally, we want to focus on nootropics that can modulate the glutamate AMPA receptors to make them more effective at controlling the pleasure-reward center, and thus boost our motivation.
What Nootropics To Use For Motivation
The question remains, “which nootropics can modulate our pleasure-reward center, and optimise dopamine production in the brain?”
Here’s a few to get started:
L-DOPA is an amino acid that serves as a precursor to dopamine, norepinephrine, and epinephrine. It’s available in raw form, or from concentrated extracts of a plant known as Mucuna pruriens. By supplementing this amino acid, we provide the body with the raw materials needed to produce dopamine whenever we need it, thus optimising the ability to feel motivation.
Another less direct supplement to address this is the amino acid L-tyrosine, which the body uses to make L-DOPA.
Resveratrol has been shown to inhibit PDE4, which is responsible for the breakdown of an important messenger molecule in the brain known as cAMP. This indirectly increases cAMP activity, which in turn makes the effects of dopamine more effective.
Aniracetam is one of the most popular racetam nootropics available, and for good reason. Aniracetam modulates dopamine receptors (both D2 and D3), as well as AMPA receptors. This means it can modulate both parts of the pleasure-reward system in the brain, and thus makes the process of motivation more efficient.