In chemistry, concentration refers to the uniform gathering of a particular chemical compound or molecule. For example, a highly concentrated herbal extract removes the non-active compounds of the herb, leaving only the bio-active constituents in a greater, denser abundance. The name of the concentration game: less is more.
- Nootropics for concentration operate under the same principle by strengthening the brain's mental defenses against unnecessary and unproductive distractions, keeping your focus solely on what's important.
Many use synthetic stimulants and cheap caffeine supplements to improve their concentration, yet such substances only offer temporary, potentially harmful boosts on cognition. This is why more and more people are turning to natural nootropics for their highly concentrated brain boosts.
Concentration is Looking, Not Overlooking
In nootropic and work productivity terms, we view concentration as a wholly positive cognitive measurement. To have concentration is to "keep your eye on the prize," so to speak. Workers with high concentration may accomplish a task without intermittently staring at their phone, looking out the window, or aimlessly meandering through random thoughts.
However, clinically speaking, "concentration" is a neutral term. Concentration is only good insomuch that what we're concentrating on is good. Gamers are all too aware of this:
- Difficult video games completely absorb gamers, simplifying their focus on the screen in front of them as they ignore potentially important periphery sounds, such as a phone call or knock at the door. Easy games increase the gamers' susceptibility to distractions.
Depending on your perspective, you may view complete absorption in video games as a distraction from what's truly important or productive. Yet, clinically speaking, this is concentration: the gamer's focus in concentrated on the game.
Concentration is simply the mind's capacity to shun distractions while focusing its attention on a particular point of interest.
A better measurement of concentration isn't the mind's capacity to focus on something but rather its ability to protect its focus against distractions. On the flipside, a mind attuned to everything is attuned to nothing. Concentration helps the mind look so as to prevent overlooking.
Due to the psychological elements involved in concentration, you'll need to first find the motivation to "look" at what's important and meaningful before adjusting your concentration. With that aside, there are two general factors that affect our levels of concentration<1>:
Exogenous Factors of Concentration
The exogenous (or externally occurring) factors of concentration include measurements such as time pressure and intellectual challenge. Procrastinators often claim to work better under time constraints, and there's a valid explanation for this: working closer to a deadline increases concentration on the task at hand, reducing the worker's susceptibility to distractions because it's officially go time! Likewise, an easy-to-perform task not only diminishes concentration, it might remove the desire to complete it altogether. After all, easy tasks often lead to cheap rewards, and cheap rewards aren't worth the concentration. Without exogenous high stakes, what's the point?
Endogenous Factors of Concentration
Here's where nootropics might help: endogenous (or internally occurring) factors involved in concentration include trait capacities for motivation and attentional engagement. Internal designs related to motivation and attention -- for example, the catecholaminergic neurotransmitter pathway -- may play a key role in the mind's ability to concentrate. Poor attention-related neurochemical levels may contribute to affective disorders, such as ADD or hyperactivity, increasing a person's susceptibility to distractions.
Natural Nootropics vs. Synthetic Stimulants
Many prescribed stimulant users carry stories of how their stimulant high resulted in intense concentration on trivial tasks, such as counting the threads in the carpet or reorganizing your desk's pens. Synthetically stimulated cognition supplies plenty of examples of misguided concentration.
Relating to the Catecholamine Hypothesis of attention, stimulants increase catecholamine (e.g., dopamine, norepinephrine) activity, which may help with attention disorders related to catecholamine imbalance. However, the problem with synthetic catecholaminergic stimulation is that:
- A) the effects are temporary;
- B) the effects are so intense that trivial distractions may become points of heavy mental concentration.
The actions of natural nootropics, on the other hand, are subtler and less temporary. As opposed to stimulants, which synthetically enhance the brain's concentration capacity, nootropics naturally boost brainpower, resulting in minimal risk of side effects.
By enhancing the brain's natural structures related to focus, attention, and concentration, nootropics make for a better long-term answer to poor concentration.
The Possible Side Effects of Stimulants
Intense, synthetic concentration has a temporary time limit and is often followed by the infamous cognitive "crash," which may be described as a decrease in concentration and overall brainpower.<2> Even mild stimulants, such as caffeine, may impair cognition over time, if used too frequently and densely. Simply put, stimulants over-stimulate the brain's natural catecholaminergic pathways, threatening to diminish them over time. If unaddressed, excess stimulant usage may contribute to the following side effects:
- Mood swings and disorders
- Apathy and lethargy
- Poor concentration and focus
- Inability to sleep
- Metabolic energy imbalance
How Nootropics Can Boost Concentration
Whereas synthetic stimulants flush the brain with unnatural levels of stimulation, natural nootropics enhance the brain's natural cognitive pathways. For concentration, nootropics may work by:
Supporting Catecholamine Activity
Perhaps the best starting place for improving focus, attention, concentration, etc. is catecholamine neurotransmitters. When catecholamines are off, concentration is off. And nootropics for concentration may help by:
- Supplying bio-active catecholamine precursors
- Improving catecholamine synthesis
- Enhancing catecholamine receptor sensitivity
While the catecholaminergic pathway isn't the only route to better concentration, it's a great starting point, given its relevance to attention disorders. And nootropics outperform stimulants in this arena by actually benefiting catecholamine activity, rather than overworking it to the point of inevitable exhaustion.<3>
Optimizing Brain Energy
Low brain energy contributes to poor cognition across the board. Whether affected by sleep deprivation or metabolic inefficiencies, low brain energy negatively impacts concentration by diminishing the stamina required for high-intensity focus. Nootropics that improve metabolic ATP energy production may benefit concentration while also slowing age-related cognitive decline.
Ongoing high levels of concentration may be mentally taxing on brain energy as is. Under threat of brain burnout and fatigue, concentration may be improved by energizing cognitive enhancers.
Improving Stress Resistance
Related to the catecholamine hypothesis, stress negatively impacts concentration by decreasing catecholamine levels. Under conditions of high stress and activity (e.g., conditions that require high concentration), the brain burns through catecholamines to stay sharp and alert. Adaptogen nootropics, or substances that help the body adapt to stress, may improve the brain and body's resistance to stress, thereby indirectly protecting catecholamines against stress-related depletion.
Bolstering Working Memory
An important aspect of concentration is working memory, the task-related function of short-term memory. While limited in capacity and duration, working memory helps us retain short-term information, such as a new phone number, long enough to accomplish a given task. The overlap between working memory and concentration makes sense: both cognitive processes involve attention on completing or observing a task. Without sufficient working memory, we lack the capacity to concentrate.
Mind Lab Pro® Nootropics for Concentration
L-Theanine (+ Caffeine)
We'll begin our first entry with a compromise: L-theanine + caffeine. For better cognitive energy and concentration, many turn to caffeine, usually by way of their morning coffee. Many nootropic enthusiasts might be turned off to caffeine altogether, given that it's not a true nootropic; yet, it's undeniably the world's favorite stimulant drug, and for good reason: caffeine reliably supplies feel-good mental performance boosts.
At least to a degree.
In reasonable amounts, caffeine may improve energy and focus. Yet, in high amounts and/or for stimulant sensitive users, caffeine actually possesses cognitive impairing effects, reducing the mind's ability to perform.<4>
The adverse effects of caffeine may be offset by L-theanine, a popular nootropic amino with significant anxiolytic properties. By promoting calming alpha brainwave frequencies, L-theanine seems to help relax over-active cognitive pathways while improving focus and concentration.<5> What's more, when paired with caffeine, L-theanine's focus-sharpening benefits seem to only increase, as the amino reduces the jittery side effects of caffeine while sustaining the stimulant's focus benefits.<6>
For better, daily concentration, try adding L-theanine to your morning coffee.
Under conditions of heavy stress and activity, the brain burns natural L-tyrosine reserves to maintain sufficient catecholamine activity. Once L-tyrosine dries up, mental performance drops off. Supplementing N-Acetyl L-Tyrosine may help maintain cognitive performance and concentration by converting to catecholamine neurotransmitters, such as dopamine, norepinephrine, and epinephrine.
Stress-induced catecholamine depletion may disrupt concentration, rendering the mind susceptible to distractions and apathy.
Particularly when a task requires split concentration, or multitasking, stress may significantly diminish mental performance in ways that may be avoided by N-Acetyl L-Tyrosine. Research suggests that L-tyrosine supplementation may improve cognition<7-9>:
- Task-related performance for intense multi-tasking activities.
- Focus and concentration affected by loud, audible distractions.
- Mental and mood stability affected by sleep deprivation.
In other words, N-Acetyl L-Tyrosine works as a "clutch" mental performance enhancer by sustaining concentration under high stress, high activity, low energy conditions. A great nootropic for competitive thinkers and athletes.
For better results stack NALT with B vitamins. As co-factors in the catecholaminergic conversion processes, B vitamins are necessary for sufficient dopamine, norepinephrine, epinephrine, etc. activity. Adequate B vitamin levels may help improve NALT's conversion rates to active catecholamine levels.
Citicoline (CDP Choline)
Other cholinergic nootropics work by simply by supplying choline, a precursor for neurotransmitter acetylcholine. Citicoline (or CDP Choline) outperforms other cholinergics by supplying both:
- Choline - a compound required for the syntheses of phosphatidylcholine (cell membrane phospholipid) and acetylcholine, a brain chemical associated with memory and learning.
- Cytidine - a compound required for the synthesis of RNA nucleotide uridine, a nootropic with significant cellular repair and energy production benefits.
Combined, citicoline's compounds seem to improve cognition by promoting acetylcholine activity and synaptic plasticity (neuronal growth and connectivity). By enhancing these pathways, citicoline not only benefits neuroregeneration but cell-to-cell communication, or neurotransmissions. As animal research indicates, the choline + uridine combination seems to improve "selective attention and spatial learning in
For healthy human subjects, research found the Cognizin® brand of citicoline effective at improving attention, motor speed, and focus-related performance under healthy cognitive conditions.<11-12> In other words, citicoline has the potential to improve concentration under both healthy and impaired cognitive conditions.
Bacopa monnieri is a hugely popular adaptogenic herb and a staple of the Ayurvedic healing tradition. As one of the best herbal nootropics for short-term memory and information processing, Bacopa seems to work by:
- Modulating dopamine and serotonin levels
- Enhancing cell-to-cell communication
Long-term Bacopa supplementation seems to assist with neuronal synaptic plasticity, increasing the growth of neuron dendrites which improves information processing. As one placebo-controlled study shows<13>:
- Bacopa administration to healthy subjects aged 20 to 60 improved working memory and precision during rapid identification tests, as compared to placebo.
Relating to the working memory function of concentration, Bacopa seems to benefit mental performance by improving the mind's capability to process task-related information. Look for a standardized Bacopa extract with a high concentration of bio-active bacosides for best results.
Speaking of concentration: Mind Lab Pro® Bacopa monnieri outperforms other standard forms of this herbal adaptogen by supplying a potent, standardized, "full spectrum" extract of 9 bio-active Bacopa constituents.
Maritime Pine Bark Extract
As a nootropic newcomer, Maritime Pine Bark Extract (Pinus pinaster) supplies a surprisingly rich complex of antioxidant flavonoids called proanthocyanidins, or oligomeric proanthocyanidin complexes (OPC). While these compounds seem to naturally protect the tree against harsh coastal climates, they also provide significant neuroprotective advantages to the human brain.
- Maritime pine bark extract’s OPCs have become a popular source of life-extending antioxidants, possessing an antioxidant capacity that is 20x greater than that of vitamin E and 50x greater than that of vitamin C.<14>
Whether related to maritime pine bark extract's antioxidant activity or not, the herb's nootropic benefits seem to extend to promoting attention and cognitive performance for users with attention deficit disorders. As one study suggests, maritime pine bark extract may help improve attention and visual -motoric coordianation and concentration.<15>
What's more, the subjects in the study demonstrated a relapse in poor cognitive performance and concentration following one month of terminated maritime pine bark extract supplementation, demonstrating the lasting effects of OPC's bio-benefits.
Mind Lab Pro® supplies some of the best nootropics for concentration in highly concentrated, natural forms, without the use of synthetic, risky stimulants.
Mind Lab Pro® opts for clean cognitive enhancement over the usual, cheap path towards so-called "better concentration." The truth is: "better concentration" requires a more subtle, natural approach to sustain for long, productive periods of time, and Mind Lab Pro®'s comprehensive Universal Nootropic™ design accomplishes this and more.
- By enhancing the brain's natural pathways to better concentration and intensity, Mind Lab Pro® achieves 100% Brainpower™ for the short- and long-term.
Boosting concentration via substances is a risky game to play, given the high count of risky substances on the market. Yet, in 2019, we're looking to play a new, healthier, and (ultimately) more effective game with natural nootropics for concentration. No fluff or trivial stuff -- Mind Lab Pro® concentrates its focus only on what works.
- Sörqvist P, Marsh JE. How Concentration Shields Against Distraction. Curr Dir Psychol Sci. 2015 Aug; 24(4): 267-72.
- Steinkellner T et al. The ugly side of amphetamines: short- and long-term toxicity of 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA, ‘Ecstasy’), methamphetamine and d-amphetamine. Biol Chem. 2011 Jan; 392(0): 103-115.
- Berman SM et al. Potential Adverse Effects of Amphetamine Treatment on Brain and Behavior: A Review. Mol Psychiatry. 2009 Feb; 14(2): 123-142.
- Nehlig A. Is caffeine a cognitive enhancer? J Alzheimers Dis. 2010; 20 Suppl 1: S85-94.
- Nobre AC et al. L-theanine, a natural constituent in tea, and its effect on mental state. Asia Pac J Clin Nutr. 2008; 17 Suppl 1: 167-8.
- Owen GN et al. The combined effects of L-theanine and caffeine on cognitive performance and mood. Nutr Neurosci. 2008 Aug; 11(4): 193-8.
- Thomas JR, et al.Tyrosine improves working memory in a multitasking environment.Pharmacol Biochem Behav. 1999 Nov;64(3):495-500.
- Deijen JB1, Orlebeke JF.Effect of tyrosine on cognitive function and blood pressure under stress. Brain Res Bull. 1994;33(3):319-23
- Neri DF, et al.The effects of tyrosine on cognitive performance during extended wakefulness.Aviat Space Environ Med. 1995 Apr;66(4):313-9.
- De Bruin NM et al. Combined uridine and choline administration improves cognitive deficits in spontaneously hypertensive rats. Neurobiol Learn Mem. 2003 Jul; 80(1): 63-79.
- McGlade E. et al., Improved Attentional Performance Following Citicoline Administration in Healthy Adult Women. Food and Nutrition Sciences. 2012;3:769-773
- McGlade E, et al. The Effect of Citicoline Supplementation on Motor Speed and Attention in Adolescent Males. J Atten Disord. 2015 Jul 15.
- Stough C, et al. Examining the nootropic effects of a special extract of Bacopa monniera on human cognitive functioning: 90 day double-blind placebo-controlled randomized trial. Phytother Res. 2008 Dec;22(12):1629-34. doi: 10.1002/ptr.2537
- Shi J et al. Polyphenolics in grape seeds-biochemistry and functionality. J Med Food. 2003 Winter; 6(4): 291-9.
- Trebatická J et al. Treatment of ADHD with French maritime pine bark extract, Pycnogenol. Eur Child Adolesc Psychiatry. 2006 Sep; 15(6): 329-35.*
* Please note that many Pine Bark Extract studies include data and citations which are specific to Pycnogenol®, which is not an ingredient of Mind Lab Pro®.