Fasoracetam is a nootropic substance that is rapidly gaining in popularity in the biohacking world. While nowhere near as well-known and widely-used as piracetam or the other top nootropics, it is causing a lot of chatter in the nootropics world, and the number of people taking fasoracetam is quickly growing.

As a relatively new research chemical, there isn’t a great deal of clinical literature available on fasoracetam. An awful lot more research needs to be done on fasoracetam before we start referring to it as a likely nootropic (never mind before we start calling it an ADHD medication as some people are already doing). But as it stands, fasoracetam looks like a really exciting new nootropic. Studies have so far indicated that it is ineffective for treating dementia, but it looks much ore promising as a treatment for ADHD and other attentional problems. Animal studies have shown it to be effective for improving cognitive functions too.

It’s little wonder then that so many people are interested in using this racetam to promote various cognitive functions; from ADHD patients to healthy people wanting to improve their learning ability, a diverse range of biohackers are experimenting with fasoracetam to find out how to get the most out of this new racetam nootropic.

But does fasoracetam even do anything? What is it and how does it work? What are the effects of fasoracetam? Is fasoracetam safe? What is the correct fasoracetam dosage to be using? Should you risk using fasoracetam, or would a natural nootropic stack be better? In this article, I answer all of these questions and more.

What is fasoracetam?

Currently classed as a research chemical, fasoracetam is a part of a the racetam family, which also includes aniracetam, piracetam, and pramiracetam. Simply put, racetams are drugs which share a pyrrolidone nucleus; they are not all structurally similar in a meaningful way, although some certainly are (e.g. oxiracetam and piracetam are almost identical in structure).

Fasoracetam was first developed by Nippon Shinyaku, a Japanese pharmaceutical company. The researchers who discovered it originally studied it in the context of dementia. However, clinical trials found that it was ineffective at treating vascular dementia, so no further clinical trials were done on this investigational new drug and its effects on dementia.

However, since 2016, various parties have been investigation fasoracetam’s potential use as an ADHD treatment. Human clinical trials are currently underway to explore the efficacy of fasoracetam as a treatment for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, as well as an effective way to ameliorate memory problems, improve memory recall, and improve focus.

Is fasoracetam likely to do these things? Is it an effective nootropic?

To answer that question, we need to look at how fasoracetam works, what effects it has on the brain, and more.

How fasoracetam works

Like all racetams, fasoracetam is a glutamate receptor agonist. This is how all racetams – piracetam, aniracetam, pramiracetam -work; by agonizing the glutamate receptors in the brain. Those of you who have experimented with the pharmaceutical-grade nootropics like piracetam and aniracetam will know that these are very powerful drugs.

Why does agonizing glutamate receptors have such a powerful effect on the brain?

Put simply, the glutamate system is one of the most important in the human body; it is particularly abundant in the nervous system, and especially in the brain. Glutamate is the most abundant neurotransmitter, the primary excitatory neurotransmitter, and also the precursor to GABA, the primary inhibitory neurotransmitter in the central nervous system (CNS).

How fasoracetam works

Glutamate receptors are responsible for postsynaptic excitation. A postsynaptic neuron is the neuron which receives a neurotransmitter from another neuron via its synapse. Glutamate-mediated postsynaptic excitation is central to many cognitive functions, including learning, memory, and verbal communication.

So in short, glutamate is arguably the most important brain chemical in the human body, and it is central in the regulation of cognitive function, neuron excitability, and even muscle tone.

Racetams work by agonizing glutamate receptors, which effectively “tricks” the body into thinking there is more glutamate activity than there really is; this has the effect of increasing neural excitation and enhancing various cognitive functions.

So how does fasoracetam work specifically?

Fasoracetam appears to be a strong agonist of all three metabotropic glutamate receptors, or rather your metabotropic glutmate receptor groups (mGluRs). The mGluRs perform a range of functions in both the central and peripheral nervous systems; they regulate attention, focus, information processing, learning, memory function, muscle tone, and the experience of pain. It is also thought that mGluRs may increase or decrease synaptic plasticity (the ability of synapses to strengthen and become more effective over time).

Some studies have also found that fasoracetam may act as a kind of cholinergic. A 1999 study published in Pharmacology, Biochemistry and Behavior[1] found that fasoracetam increased the release of acetylcholine, which is the main executive neurotransmitter in the human brain (and among the most abundant):

“Furthermore, effects of NS-105 on in vivo release of acetylcholine (ACh) in the cerebral cortex, high-affinity choline uptake (HACU) of the cerebral cortex in rats with lesion of NBM, HACU of the hippocampus in rats treated with pentobarbital and activity of choline acetyltransferase (ChAT) of the cerebral cortex in rats with lesion of NBM were examined. NS-105 showed antiamnestic actions in a variety of animal models of cholinergic dysfunction employed in this study. Aniracetam improved memory disruption caused by scopolamine, but bifemelane, idebenone, and indeloxazine did not. NS-105 (10 mg/kg) showed the increase of ACh release from the cerebral cortex and the enhancement of HACU both in the cerebral cortex and hippocampus”.

Fasoracetam is highly bioavailable. Consuming fasoracetam should therefore efficiently and quickly agonize your glutamate receptors and produce all of the effects mentioned above.

So what can fasoracetam users expect in terms of actual benefits? What does taking fasoracetam feel like?

Fasoracetam benefits and positive effects

Given that fasoracetam is an agonist of all three mGluRs and potentially a trigger for greater choline uptake/acetylcholine release, it isn’t difficult to guess what the beneficial effects of taking fasoracetam might be.

Please be aware that since there aren’t a great deal of human studies available – or clinical data of any kind – all of the benefits associated with fasoracetam use are still conjecture.

The benefits thought to be associated with the use of fasoracetam include:

  1. Heightened focus
  2. Increased alertness
  3. Improved memory function
  4. Enhanced learning capacity
  5. Reduced anxiety
  6. Reduced symptoms of depression

As stated above, there is insufficient clinical evidence to conclusively say whether or not fasoracetam is capable of delivering any of these cognitive benefits. Most of the early clinical studies focused on things like vascular dementia, Alzheimer’s Disease and other memory disorders.

Fasoracetam benefits

However, more recently there has been much more research looking at the effects of fasoracetam in regards to more general cognitive performance: concentration, brain fog, information processing, memory, and its ability to reduce the symptoms of ADHD.

Fasoracetam for memory

Fasoracetam has been found to be ineffective for combating pathological memory impairment resulting from conditions such as dementia or Alzheimer’s Disease. More generally, fasoracetam seems to be ineffective for slowing age-related cognitive decline and for ameliorating any kind of vascular-related cognitive impairment.

That said, animal studies suggest that fasoracetam may be effective for promoting memory function. In the already-cited study – see reference [1] – researchers found that fasoracetam administration was able to reverse memory impairment induced by GABA receptor agonists. This study was performed on rodents, but the same mechanism exists in humans; it makes sense that reducing GABA receptor activity (or reversing GABA receptors agnoists) would improve memory function.

So fasoracetam may improve memory function, but its effectiveness in this context has not been proven by hard science. We have no detailed information on effective dosages, no meta-analysis showing the reliability of the effect, and no mechanistic experiments showing this effect occurring in humans. As such, I cannot say that fasoracetam increases memory with any degree of validity or accuracy.

Fasoracetam for ADHD

This is the one benefit of fasoracetam that has some robust clinical backing, although the scientific evidence here is still far from conclusive.

Fasoracetam appears to be likely effective for the treatment of ADHD. Preliminary research appears to suggest that this racetam is effective for improving focus and learning in adolescents with ADHD. A study published in a 2018 edition of Nature Communications [2] found that administration of 400mg of fasoracetam per day for several weeks resulted in significant improvements in focus and behavior among adolescents (aged 12-17) with diagnosed ADHD.

Fasoracetam for ADHD

Perhaps the most interesting thing about this study is that the participants all had mutations in their mGluR network genes, leaving them with diminished mGluR activity. It therefore makes perfect sense that fasoracetam would help enhance their cognitive performance, and it implicitly supports the hypothesis that fasoracetam works by agonizing glutamate receptors.

Fasoracetam for anxiety

There is some strong evidence that fasoracetam use helps alleviate symptoms of stress, anxiety, and depression.

Because fasoracetam acts on the glutamate system, it can act to increase neuron excitability and to suppress central nervous system excitability at the same time. Specifically, fasoracetam seems to help regulate GABA levels in the brain. GABA – or gamma aminobutyric acid – is the body’s primary inhibitory neurotransmitter; it is GABA which is responsible for suppressing activity in the CNS, soothing the body, relaxing the muscles, and reducing anxiety.

While some sources suggest that fasoracetam acts as a GABA receptor agonist, this claim is not supported by the available clinical literature. Instead, it seems much more likely that fasoracetam indirectly increases glutamate availability by binding to metabotropic glutamate receptors. Higher glutamate levels means more free glutamate for the synthesis of GABA.

Fasoracetam for anxiety

Low GABA levels is a known cause of anxiety and depression-like symptoms. While fasoracetam is likely effective for modulating GABA levels – and by extension helping regulate stress and anxiety – it has not been properly studied in this context. Human studies are needed before I recommend fasoracetam for anxiety!

GABA is actually implicated in a wide range of psychiatric, neurological, and nerve system conditions, such as schizophrenia and epilepsy. But this is not something we need to discuss in a fasoracetam review!

Fasoracetam side effects

Now we come to the most important part of this article: the fasoracetam side effect risks.

I cannot make this clear enough: fasoracetam use is associated with severe health and safety risks.

Please remember that I am not a medical doctor and this is not medical advice. It is important that you do your own research on fasoracetam. It is vital that you talk to your regular physician before using any nootropics, particularly synthetic, medicinal grade nootropics like fasoracetam. All side effects and health risks are correlated with numerous factors, such as dose used, weight, bioavailability, half life, and so on.

For starters, there’s the fact that fasoracetam has not been properly studied in large-scale clinical trials. Nor has it been studied in pharmaceutical-grade trials on human subjects lasting longer than a couple of weeks. I therefore have no reliable information regarding neurotoxicity, lasting effects on neurological conditions, effects on the kidneys, or anything else that may come out in longer studies larger in scope.

This is a big problem in itself.

But even if we assume fasoracetam has similar side effect risks, toxicity levels and long-term health effects as other racetams, we are still left with significant side effect concerns.

Any drug that significantly alters glutamate levels or glutamate receptor activity is going to have a tremendous effect on almost every aspect of cognitive function, not to mention nerve function more generally.

Fasoracetam side effects

Side effects associated with the use of any racetam – e.g. fasoracetam – include:

  • Headaches
  • Loss of motivation
  • Loss of balance
  • Memory loss
  • Nervousness
  • Drowsiness
  • Disorientation
  • Sedation
  • Fatigue
  • Anxiety attacks/panic attacks
  • Worsening of ADHD symptoms
  • Worsening of depression symptoms

Basically, if it is affected by your glutamate receptors, then it can be negatively affected by fasoracetam use.

In addition, there is the drastically increased risk of seizures and epileptic fits which come with the use of any racetam. Phenylpiracetam, coluracetam, aniracetam; they all significantly increase the risk of seizures. This is because they can quickly suppress GABA levels/GABA b receptor activity, which allows your CNS activity to increase to the point of “overload”.

Anyone with a history of seizures should avoid racetams completely.

Then there are the other three main health and safety risks associated with the use of racetams: the addiction, the withdrawal, and the long-term health effects.

Study drug or natural nootropic: Which should you use?

Should you use fasoracetam?

Are the potential benefits worth the risks?

Does it enhance cognition or help with ADHD?

In my opinion, despite fasoracetam’s potential use as a treatment for childhood ADHD, healthy people with no diagnosed mental disorders or learning difficulties should not be using this nootropic under any circumstances.

All cognitive benefits are inferred from animal testing; no good, long-term, large-scale clinical trials have proven that fasoracetam is an effective nootropic safe for frequent human use. Use of this drug poses long-term and potentially permanent health risks related to glutamate receptor and synapse health.

Substances which augment the glutamate system should not be used lightly, as this is one of the most important neurological systems in the brain.

That’s why I recommend people use natural nootropics which have been thoroughly tested and found to be effective in otherwise healthy people; natural substances with known mechanisms and low side effect risks.

There is a wide range of nootropic substances out there capable of enhancing focus, learning, concentration, mood, and memory function.

These substances do not have the same risk profile as fasoracetam, they have substantially more scientific proof backing them up, and they can increase raw brain power just as quickly as any racetam.

Alternative to fasoracetam?

There is one good natural fasoracetam alternative currently available for everyday use: Bacopa monnieri.

Studies have shown that Bacopa monnieri extract can positively influence glutamate receptor activity in the presynapse. Specifically, researchers found that Bacopa monnieri supplementation can:

“upregulate expression of a certain type of presynaptic glutamate receptor, mGluR 8, which are thought to protect neurons from excitotoxicity, and their downregulation is concurrent with hyperexcitation”[3].

This makes Bacopa monnieri an excellent candidate for treating ADHD and a range of memory disorders related to glutamate receptor damage or genetic deficiencies.

My current top rated nootropic, Mind Lab Pro, is unique in that it provides 150mg of highly potent Bacopa monnieri extract, standardized to deliver only the 9 bioactive bacosides (those responsible for increasing memory function via dendrite branching). 

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[1] Ogasawara T, Itoh Y, Tamura M, et al. Involvement of cholinergic and GABAergic systems in the reversal of memory disruption by NS-105, a cognition enhancer. Pharmacol Biochem Behav. 1999;64(1):41-52. doi:10.1016/s0091-3057(99)00108-2

[2] Elia, J., Ungal, G., Kao, C. et al. Fasoracetam in adolescents with ADHD and glutamatergic gene network variants disrupting mGluR neurotransmitter signaling. Nat Commun 9, 4 (2018).

[3] Foran E, Trotti D. Glutamate transporters and the excitotoxic path to motor neuron degeneration in amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. Antioxid Redox Signal. 2009;11(7):1587-1602. doi:10.1089/ars.2009.2444

About the Author P. Tardner

Paul Tardner is the Head Writer at IJEST.org. Paul is a former academic and research scientist. He now dedicates his time to his own research into nootropics, with a particular focus on cognitive enhancement in old age. You can learn more about Paul from his profile page.