Improving Cognitive Function Through Supplementation

by Kelly Dorfman, MS, LND

Convincing evidence shows that certain substances can improve specific aspects of thinking. Here are three promising supplements to consider for anyone interested in improving cognitive function.

DMAE (Dimethylaminoethanol):  DMAE is a relative of the nutrient choline.  But, unlike choline, DMAE readily crosses the brain-blood barrier.  It thus directly increases the generation of acetylcholine, an important neurotransmitter.

Choline (and DMAE?) is (are?) found in eggs, fish and soybeans. Acetylcholine is abundant in both the cerebral cortex and the cerebellum, and is thus involved in cognitive processes controlled by these parts of the brain, such as memory, problem solving, organization, rational thinking, balance and movement.  Children with motor issues and low arousal may benefit from an increase in acetylcholine availability.

Indications: Best for children whose prevailing problems are spaciness and poor organizational skills.

Precautions: Avoid in children who have high muscle tension, sleep disturbances or agitation rather than distractibility. DMAE can increase muscle tension levels.  As with all supplements, stop immediately if irritability occurs.

Dosing Range: 50 -200 mg in children.

CARNOSINE:  Carnosine is a protein consisting of two amino acids, alanine and histidine, bound together.  Normally made in the body or consumed in meat, carnosine is found at high levels in the brain, lens of the eye and skeletal muscle tissue.

Carnosine protects brain cells against premature aging by slowing down destructive oxidative stress, and has no known toxicity.  It also improves circulation in the brain and reduces heavy metals especially zinc and copper.

Indications: Best for children suspected of having cognitive epilepsy, including those with irregular EEGs, but no frank seizures, who are not responding well to other interventions.  Monitor with an EEG before treatment and after 12 weeks of therapy.

Precautions: Stop if irritability increases or agitation occurs.

Dosing Range: A Chicago-based pediatric neurologist uses the following experimental protocol:

  • One 200mg capsule in a.m. for first five days;
  • One 200 mg capsule in a.m. and one 200 mg capsule in p.m. for next five days
  • Two 200 mg capsules in a.m. and two 200 mg capsules in p.m. for 12 weeks.

PIRACETAM:  Although few chemicals are promoted in this country to improve cognitive ability, Piracetam is a prescription drug that is sold over the counter in Europe and does just that.  Piracetam appears to work by ameliorating oxidative stress, a general measure of destructive processes in the body.

Evidence shows that piracetam also increases membrane (permeability?) fluidity.  As tissues become more rigid with age, the body’s ability to transport substances across membranes decreases.  Piracetam seems to normalize fluid movement without increasing it above optimum.

Oxygen needs to be moved across membranes in the brain.  Piracetam has been studied for decades as an anti-hypoxic agent. Hypoxia occurs when there are low oxygen levels in the tissues and has an adverse effect on cognitive functioning.

Motor planning may also improve with piracetam. The drug seems to help the left and right hemispheres of the brain communicate better across the corpus callosum.

Studies have found that piracetam significantly increased language in children with aphasia and other language delays.  One study also found dramatic increases in motor skills in children taking piracetam.

Several children with agenesis of the corpus callosum (ACC), have responded remarkably well to piracetam.  One 18-month-old girl was able to sit up and use her hands for the first time after one month on piracetam.

Indications: Best for children who have significant motor planning issues, have skills but are slow to respond, and those with low arousal states.   Children with cerebral palsy, ACC and Down syndrome all have a history of good responses to piracetam.

Precautions: Avoid in children with sleep disturbances, irritability, hyperactivity or perseverative behavior.  Always stop if there is an increase in any of these symptoms.

Dosing Range:  30 to 50 mg/kilogram per day as prescribed by your physician. Available from Europe without a prescription through the internet. (Visit the International Antiaging Systems (IAS) website:

These exciting compounds provide promising possibilities for children with special needs.  Let us know about your experiences.

Categories: Nutrition | Symptoms