New Pharmacological Perspectives on Nootropic Drugs

  • B. P. H. Poschel


Nootropic drugs literally mean drugs that act on the mind. The term nootropic derives from the Greek words noos (mind) and tropein (toward), and was coined in about 1972 by Corneliu Giurgea to categorize the new drug piracetam, the pharmacology of which did not fit any of the known groups of psychotropic drugs (Giurgea, 1982). And while complete agreement between pharmacologists has not yet been attained, the vast majority agree that nootropic drugs have at least the following properties in common. They improve some aspect of cognitive performance—usually learning and/or memory in animals. The improved cognitive performance is most readily (although not necessarily) seen under conditions of disturbed neural metabolism (hypoxia, intoxication, aging, trauma). The agents have very minimal or essentially no side effects even at very high doses. The agents must pass the blood-brain barrier. They have no vasoconstrictive or vasodilative actions. Skondia (1979) has proposed a somewhat longer and more mechanistic set of criteria for defining a nootropic agent. However, his mechanistic requirements make his list more controversial.


Firing Rate Cholinergic Neuron Basal Forebrain Therapeutic Window Nucleus Basalis 
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© Plenum Press, New York 1988

Authors and Affiliations

  • B. P. H. Poschel
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of PharmacologyWarner-Lambert/Parke-Davis Pharmaceutical ResearchAnn ArborUSA

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