Project Type

URC Presentation

College or School


Class Year



Biological Sciences


Biological Sciences

Faculty Research Advisor

Sarah Prescott

Second Faculty Research Advisor

Stephen Pugh


The term nootropic has overshot its scientific origin and become trendy for dietary supplements. The labels make extraordinary claims: better memory, more focus, improved mood! Is it marketing fluff or is there a scientific basis for these claims? The purpose of this independent study was to examine the origin of the nootropic concept and review the research with a focus on substance abuse. The concept followed the synthesis of Piracetam in the late 1960s. Researchers concluded that Piracetam was novel enough to warrant a new category of psychotropic drug. Piracetam does improve memory, learning, and it can prevent age-related memory loss. In the context of substance abuse, studies show that Piracetam can reduce the symptoms of acute alcohol withdrawal and restore cognitive function lost to long-term alcohol abuse. Studies of Modafinil have provided evidence for a reduction in stimulant dependency and improvement of cognitive function. More recent study has shown that Modafinil can reduce opiate-seeking in those addicted to opioids. The science behind cognitive supplements warrants careful consideration. Marketing seeks to co-opt scientific jargon for sales which overshadows the significance of this research. Nootropics are in dire need of further research and a more clinical approach that eschews consumer trends.