Today I wanted to talk to you about one of the best supplements for neuroplasticity; phosphatidylserine (PS).
First of all, what is neuroplasticity? Why should you care?
Neuroplasticity is the ability to adapt to new learning by creating neural pathways in the brain.
There are a lot of practical advantages to enhancing neuroplasticity; one of them being the prevention of ‘mild cognitive impairments’ (MCI’s) like Alzheimer’s and dementia.
PS is also excellent for improving overall brain health, athletic performance, stress resistance, ADHD symptoms, and sleep patterns.
You might ask yourself, “Why does PS have such a wide range of benefits for our health and well being?”.
In a nutshell, it’s because PS is a raw ingredient needed for the growth of new cells, including brain cells.
Neurons contain a lot of PS, so extra PS in the diet is especially good for cognition.
However, PS is far from being a one-trick pony.
PS as a nootropic provides increased mental energy, improved memory, enhanced focus, better communication skills, and resistance to fatigue, especially due to stress factors.
All of these advantages are the direct result of PS augmenting mental flexibility and vitality. In other words, your neuroplasticity.
But how does PS accomplish all of this? What are the inner workings at play?
Let’s find out…
What is Phosphatidylserine? – How does it Improve Brain Health?
PS is a phospholipid, which is a scientific term for a type of fluid fat.
The cells in our body are basically oil droplets, or vesicles, with several working components that regulate their operation.
In other words, if the membranes of our cells could be compared to a wall, PS would be the bricks and mortar.
It’s the raw material.
PS is used to repair damaged cells, and is also crucial for the creation of new cells.
This might seem like a pretty boring job in terms of duties that need to be carried out in the human body; the equivalent of being a security guard at a mall.
However, the consequences of not having enough PS in our daily diet can be quite severe, especially for brain function.
Phosphatidylserine Benefits – Energy Enhancement & Mental Flexibility
Supplementing with PS can provide very significant advantages to our cognitive capacities.
There are 2 major ways PS achieves these positive effects:
- Increasing Brain Metabolism
- Improving Neuroplasticity
Research has revealed that supplementing with PS encourages accelerated reproduction not just of brain cells, but of mitochondria as well.
Mitochondria are tiny organelles that are found inside the cells of every complex organism in the world.
Humans, tigers, fish, all have mitochondria in their cells.
Mitochondria process energy sources like glucose with the use of enzymes, and provide about 90% of the chemical energy needed for cells to survive.
In terms of energy consumption, the human brain is extremely expensive real estate. Eating up almost 1/3 of our daily caloric needs.
Not surprisingly, brain cells are absolutely stuffed with mitochondria.
A single neuron can contain thousands of them, and when additional PS is provided, energy metabolism in the brain can be increased by over 20%.
That’s pretty exciting stuff if you ask me, but we’re just getting warmed up here.
Now we need to look at how PS improves neuroplasticity, and what that entails.
Phosphatidylserine for the Brain – Rebuilding Neurons!
Phosphatidylserine accounts for about 15% of brain cell membranes. That means PS plays a major role in neuron health, and is used as a building block compound for brain cell:
The presence of additional PS in the brain also increases the density of receptors at the synapses, builds more connections between neurons, and improves membrane fluidity.
When there are more receptors on the surface of the brain cell membranes, neurotransmitters are detected more readily, and nerve impulses are sent faster.
Increased communication between brain cells translates to enhanced thought processing and acuity.
The extra flexibility of the membranes also allows nutrients and oxygen to be exchanged more easily.
At the end of the day, what this translates to is a much improved state of efficiency in the brain.
There’s a lot of synergy created with all of these effects happening at the same time.
Brain Optimization – Einstein would have Loved this Stuff!
The benefits of increasing cellular metabolism and neuroplasticity in the brain are very broad in scope, and can have a huge effect on your day to day life.
PS supplementation can help optimize:
- Energy Levels
- Learning Ability
- Working Memory
- Mental Clarity
- Verbal Communication
- Athletic Performance
There are also gains to be had for the central nervous system when the body has access to more Phosphatidylserine.
The nerves in the body are kind of like insulated wires, only the outside sheath is the conducting material in nerve tissue, instead of the inside.
The outside sheath is myelin.
Myelin is a fiber composed of protein and phospholipids, and it allows electrical impulses to travel faster and more smoothly along the nerves.
When myelin starts to break down, disorders like multiple sclerosis can be the result.
PS supports the maintenance of myelin, thereby ensuring that nerve impulses can travel to their various destinations without interruption.
Vitamin B12 also helps with myelin repair, and is often included in nootropic stacks for this reason.
So we’ve looked at how providing structural support to the nervous system can improve nerve health in general.
Now let’s dig a bit deeper to unveil how PS enhances the vitality of the brain.
Phosphatidylserine – Mechanisms of Action
PS further optimizes brain function by encouraging the production of more Nerve Growth Factor (NGF).
Generally speaking, the presence of more NGF translates to increased neurogenesis, or healthier nerve tissue and brain cells.
Phosphatidylserine also contains Choline, which can be used to produce the neurotransmitter Acetylcholine.
Acetylcholine was the first neurotransmitter ever discovered, and plays a key role in memory, cognition, and mood regulation.
Brain health is further maintained with the removal of dying cells. When a brain cell starts to shut down, it can become toxic to neighboring cells.
PS signals the immune system to dispose of it before that can happen.
Not only does PS trigger the immune response, but it manages to prevent inflammation from occurring in the process.
This protects the surrounding cells from being damaged by metabolic waste, or a severe immune system response.
Which brings us to our next topic of discussion.
Phosphatidylserine for Stress
Studies have also found evidence that PS may have some neuroprotective properties.
PS appears to have the ability to modulate the release of the stress hormone Cortisol.
Eliminating stress factors during times of intense concentration prevents distraction, and provides better focus. It can also improve mood, and reduce mental fatigue.
The ability to suppress the negative effects of Cortisol can also augment physical endurance.
As a result, PS has been the subject of many studies looking at its’ potential as a performance enhancer for athletes.
Taken into account as a whole, I think these effects do a good job of explaining how PS can improve not just working memory, but long-term memory and learning capacity all at the same time.
In fact, PS has been found to be very effective in treating ADHD symptoms.
Phosphatidylserine for ADHD – Is it Safe for Kids?
In one randomized double blind clinical study, 36 children age 4-14 years were given either 200 mg of PS, or a placebo for 2 months.
The children were tested for auditory memory and working memory, as well as attention control and impulsivity.
Significant improvements were seen in concentration, learning ability, and social behaviors. The placebo group showed no changes.
PS was also very well tolerated by all of the test subjects (which was expected since it’s naturally occurring in the human body), and no adverse reactions were noted.
The researchers concluded that phosphatidylserine is an excellent treatment for ADHD symptoms in children because of it’s effectiveness and safety.
Very exciting stuff for parents with kids that have ADHD or ADD!
Last but not least, I wanted to talk about how phosphatidylserine can benefit sleep patterns and sleep quality.
Phosphatidylserine for Sleep – Does it Help?
The risk of sleep issues actually goes back to Alzheimer’s disease, Cortisol regulation, depression, and diet.
The onset of Alzheimer’s disease is closely associated with the buildup of proteins in the brain called amyloid plaques.
Essentially, these globs of protein gum up your brain, and prevent it from working properly.
It has been recently discovered that the human brain has a network of fluid channels called the glymphatic system that keep the brain clean and deliver nutrients.
However, the glymphatic system only works while we’re asleep. It’s now believed this is the reason we feel ‘refreshed’ after a good nights’ sleep.
Waste has been flushed out of the brain and essential compounds like glucose have been delivered to the cells that need it.
Alzheimer’s disease can also manifest itself as a result of poor nutrition. Diets high in refined sugars, salt, and animal fats can increase AD risk.
This is because these foods can disturb the circadian rythm, and the normal regulation of Cortisol in the body. This of course can lead to sleep deprivation, and ultimately depression.
Fortunately, researchers have found that eating more fruits and vegetables, and taking PS either on its’ own or with an omega-3 supplement can counteract all of these negative effects.
This is of course due to the structural support PS provides to the nervous system, and all of the positive effects that naturally result.
So now that we have established just how useful PS is to brain health, what are our options for using it as a nootropic supplement?
Phosphatidylserine Dosage – Recommendations for Best Results
Phosphatidylserine is available either as a tablet or in capsule form.
The ideal recommended dosage is 100 mg taken 3 times per day initially, and this amount can be reduced to only 100 mg/day later on once extra PS has built up in your system.
Athletes can safely take up to 800 mg/day to boost physical endurance and stay mentally sharp.
PS was originally extracted from cow brains back in the day, but is now derived from plant sources like soybeans, or sunflower lecithin.
Mad Cow disease made animal sourcing of PS unpopular.
Side effects from PS are extremely rare, and when they do occur it is usually at dosages higher than the recommended intakes.
Symptoms are typically mild stomach upset, insomnia, and gas.
Safe levels for pregnant or breastfeeding mothers have not yet been established, so it is generally recommended to abstain from PS supplementation during these times just to be cautious.
Medications used for glaucoma or Alzheimer’s disease may also raise Acetylcholine levels, so taking PS at the same time can increase the chances of experiencing negative side effects.
You can reference specific medications that can potentially interact with PS using this link.
Finally, PS may thin the blood slightly, so if you are taking blood thinners, please consult with your doctor before supplementing with PS.
Phosphatidylserine – Final Recommendations
Phosphatidylserine is commonly found in foods like soy, egg yolks, and organ meats, but it is poorly absorbed from these sources.
PS levels in the brain also tend to decrease as we age.
Supplementing with plant sources of PS is therefore recommended for improvements in neuroplasticity, general mental health, athletic performance, and mood.
PS has been found to be effective at improving memory in elderly patients suffering from Alzheimer’s and other Mild Cognitive Impairments(MCI’s).
However, PS supplementation isn’t just for seniors, or people dealing with MCI’s. Anyone that wants to improve their brain health can benefit from PS.
It’s important to note that PS is recognized as being very safe to use, and that’s why it’s been given the green light for use with ADHD kids.
In fact, it’s was approved by the FDA for the treatment of MCI’s in elderly patients in May of 2003.
And as of this writing, The Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) authority is also about to follow suit.
This would allow food producers in Australia and New Zealand to include PS in food grade products for the improvement of brain health and cognition.
So who can supplement with PS? Pretty much anybody.
PS truly is one of the best supplements for neuroplasticity we know of today.
Last but not least, phosphatidylserine is very useful as a natural sleep aid.
I would say that it’s an essential addition to any good stack.
Thanks for reading, and if you think of any questions about PS, please post a comment below.
In my next article, I will be looking at one of my favorite herbal nootropics, Ginseng!
Until next time,