The brain is an incredible organ. It regulates all our involuntary functions like breathing, digestion, and blood circulation. It helps us process emotion, communicate with others, and create new things and ideas.
With a healthy brain, we can meet everyday challenges and stressors with ease. But when the brain is impaired, even a simple task can seem monumental.
The effects of concussion can last for a few days or for the rest of your life. Nootropics for concussion provide neural protection that could help reduce symptoms and boost cognitive function after a head injury.
What Is Concussion?
Concussion is a form of traumatic brain injury (TBI) caused by a bump or blow to the head that disrupts normal brain function. Concussions range in severity from mild to severe.
Most concussions are characterized as mild, but even a “simple” concussion can result in cognitive impairment and white matter disruption that may endure for years.<1>
With a mild concussion, the primary injury is bruising of the brain. In more severe cases brain hemorrhaging can occur.
Among the public, sports injuries, bicycle and vehicle accidents, and falls are the most common causes of concussion.
Although there are common symptoms, every brain injury is different – and so is recovery. Most people with mild concussions fully recover over time. And while some symptoms might only last a few days, others can last for months or years.
Older people and those who have had one or more concussions in the past may take longer to recover. And people who have already sustained one concussion tend to be more susceptible to having another.
Symptoms of Concussion
Even a mild concussion can cause serious damage. If you experience any of the following symptoms you should seek medical attention immediately.
Early symptoms occur within a few minutes to a few hours and include:
- Memory loss
Later symptoms may develop days to weeks later and include:
- Poor attention
- Mood swings
- Personality changes
- Memory impairment
Recognizing the signs of a concussion can help protect your cognitive health and avert a second injury.
Concussion is one of the most common injuries in contact sports. In the past, athletes were expected to play through it. But as research reveals more evidence about the profound and lasting neurological damage caused by concussion, the rules are changing.
New protocols sideline athletes for longer periods of time in order to minimize the risk of repeated and permanent injury. And safer standards could mean the difference between quicker recovery and lasting cognitive problems.
Post Concussion Syndrome
Post Concussion Syndrome (PCS) is the term used to describe the chain of symptoms that may occur after a concussion. But not all symptoms are apparent, and the severity of a concussion isn’t an accurate predictor of PCS development. Risk factors that do seem to contribute to PCS include:
- Multiple concussions
- Mental health issues
- Being over age 40
- Being female
The biomechanics of concussion varies from person to person, but the markers are relatively similar. Scientists place brain changes after head injury into two categories.
Structural malformity causes neurons, tissue, and blood vessels to misfunction. Functional imbalances affect physiological brain functions, including oxygen and blood circulation, brain wave states, and brain chemical levels.
The severity of PCS symptoms varies depending on how structural and functional systems are affected buy may include:
- Migraine (chronic)
- Mood disorders
- Poor focus/concentration
- Sensory sensitivity
Cognition After Concussion
Like all TBI’s, concussion can affect a wide range of cognitive functions, including behavior, memory, attention, motor skills, and learning. Multiple concussions can worsen impaired cognition and lead to permanent damage.
- One study demonstrated how two mild concussions three days apart can cause metabolic abnormalities similar to those caused by one severe TBI. The study showed profound changes in acetyl-CoA, gene expression, neurotransmitters, and mitochondrial metabolism.<2>
But even a single concussion can impair cognitive functioning in specific area.
After a concussion, many people have a hard time concentrating and may become easily distracted and impulsive. They may have difficulty comprehending reading material or following a conversation, which impairs the ability to multitask and impacts learning and memory.
Memory problems are a common early symptom of brain injury. Often, people cannot remember events that happened immediately before, during, or soon after the injury.
A brain injury that causes memory problems usually affects working memory and short-term memory, but sometimes it can impact long-term memory as well.
Memory impairment usually improves over time, but the ability to learn and remember new things may be permanently reduced to some extent.
A concussion may damage brain regions that control emotions and behavior. In some cases a concussion can trigger sudden episodes of uncontrollable laughing or crying without an apparent cause. Minor mood changes often improve within a few months, but more severe concussions can result in permanent personality and behavioral changes.
Concussions can cause temporary or lasting vision and hearing problems.
Vision problems may include:
- Blurred vision
- Light sensitivity
- Eye tracking problems
- Double vision
- Pressure or aching in the eyes
- Visual Field Loss
Head trauma can damage the auditory pathway at any point between the outer ear and the auditory cortex, potentially causing temporary or permanent hearing problems including:
- Difficulty hearing conversations over background noise
- Problems with sound location and direction
- Hyperacusis (sensitivity to sound)
- Conductive or sensorineural hearing loss
Concussion and the Brain
Brain trauma is linked to earlier onset of age-related cognitive decline and dementia. In a study of 100 active and retired NFL players, researchers found reduced brain blood flow and a higher rate of depression, memory and attention problems compared to non-athletes.<3>
A blow to the head triggers a cascade of events in the brain that may include neural depolarization, release of excitatory neurotransmitters, reduced cerebral blood flow, insufficient glucose metabolism, and impaired brain cell communication.
Brain injuries can cause neural membranes to collapse, exposing neurons inside to excessive amounts of potassium and triggering the release of toxic amounts of excitatory neurotransmitters like glutamate.<4>
Other neural mechanisms step in to minimize the damage, leading to widespread neuronal suppression as sodium and potassium pumps attempt to restore ionic balance. These pumps require high levels of glucose for metabolism, and over-activation causes brain cell energy stores to become depleted.
This metabolic increase begins immediately upon injury and can last from 30 minutes to 4 hours.
NMDA (glutamate receptor) channels support long-term potentiation (LTP), a lasting increase in neuronal communication triggered by repeated chemical stimulation. LTP is linked to learning and long-term memory formation.
Concussion activates NMDA channels, boosting Ca++ (calcium ions) levels which accumulate in mitochondria, leading to glucose oxidative dysfunction.
This oxidation is normally mitigated by antioxidants which block free radical damage to brain cells. But after a concussion, normal antioxidant levels are insufficient to protect brain cells from damage and even death.
Animal studies have shown that levels of creatine (Cr), NAA, and phosphatidylcholine (PC) are reduced after TBI. And these findings were later confirmed in athletes with concussion.
This chain reaction can impair long-term potentiation. Problems with LTP usually become noticeable within 2 days of injury and often resolve within two weeks, but LTP impairment can last up to 8 weeks after TBI.<5>
Immediately after a concussion, cerebral blood flow decreases. But for the next three days blood flow in the brain increases too much. Then, for up to two weeks following TBI, blood vessels constrict, obstructing blood flow and hindering brain cell repair and maintenance.<6>
Axons are long, slender nerve fibers that connect neurons, paving the way for brain cell communication. Neurofilaments are a major component of neuron cytoskeletons and provide structural support for axons. Concussion can cause axonal stretching and neurofilament compaction, resulting in axonal swelling and breakage.
Neurofilament compaction can occur as soon as five minutes after a head injury and continue for up to six hours. Axon damage can advance for up to six weeks after injury and can impair cognitive function for eight months to three years after concussion.<7>
Self Care After Concussion
There are some important steps you can take in order to improve recovery and minimize cognitive damage.
Forget the popular belief that sleeping is dangerous after a concussion. The brain actively repairs damages and shores up defenses during deep sleep when outside stimuli is lowest. Getting enough sleep is crucial because it helps the brain to heal. Unless your doctor advises otherwise, get plenty of sleep at night and rest throughout the day.
Avoid Strenuous Activity
Strenuous activity can use up precious brain energy stores and prolong recovery time. Avoid intense workout sessions, heavy lifting, running, heavy housecleaning, and other intense physical exertion.
Limit Electronic Exposure
Electronic devices – TV, computer, phone, tablet, etc. – can overstimulate sensory brain mechanisms after a concussion, stressing the brain and using valuable brain resources that could be directed at brain repair. It’s best to limit your use of electronics early in the recovery process.
Eliminate Alcohol and Tobacco
Alcohol is a neurotoxin that raises cortisol levels, disrupts the blood-brain barrier, and increases inflammation and oxidative stress. Tobacco constricts blood vessels, and so can a concussion. Try not to double the damage by smoking tobacco or drinking alcohol until your brain has healed most of the damage from the head injury.
Music can help your brain adapt and perform better after a concussion.
Recovery after brain injury depends on many things. One of the most important is plasticity - the brain's ability to create new neural pathways and connections.
Music can enhance neural plasticity by engaging both left and right brain hemispheres and activating many different brain regions simultaneously. Some of the same nootropics that work for musicians can help with brain injury, especially when combined with music therapies.
Mind Lab Pro® Nootropics for Concussion
Concussion can cause problems with neurotransmitter activation, brain cell communication, brain cell energy metabolism, and cerebral blood circulation. Some supplements can help speed recovery and improve cognitive deficits caused by head injury.
Nootropics for concussion could help reduce some of the lasting impacts of head trauma by repairing cell damage, stimulating the growth of new cells, directing more oxygen to the brain, improving mood and more.
Coping with a brain injury can be difficult, and recovery can be a complex process. These nootropic supplements have been found safe and effective for improving cognitive function and accelerating brain repair after a concussion.
A concussion can decrease the integrity of cell membranes and cause brain cell death. Citicoline can stimulate new brain cell growth and help regenerate damaged cells, improving memory and focus - two common cognitive problems after concussion.
Citicoline boosts brain cell energy and optimizes the neural impulses that power cognitive function. Citicoline also helps synthesize phosphatidylcholine (PC), a phospholipid that forms brain cell membranes. Citicoline combines brain energy support with phospholipid synthesis making it distinctly qualified for intensive brain cell repair and regeneration.
Plus, Citicoline supports neurotransmitters, including acetylcholine, and contributes to neuroprotective antioxidant activity.
- Studies have shown that Cognizin® Citicoline can boost brain cell membrane formation up to twenty six percent and brain energy by over thirteen percent.<8>
Phosphatidylserine is a fat-soluble amino acid and phospholipid compound that makes up 15 percent of the brain’s cell membrane fats and promotes the release of neurotransmitters like dopamine and acetylcholine.
As a vital part of brain cell membrane structure, PS plays a key role in brain protection and regeneration. During concussive brain injury Phosphatidylserine levels are at risk of oxidative damage, leaving brain cells more vulnerable to injury and destruction.
Boosting PS can help repair brain cells more quickly by enhancing glucose metabolism, which improves brain cell energy production. It may promote brain cell regeneration and enhance neural connectivity by improving nerve growth factor (NGF). And PS helps the immune system dispose of damaged brain cells, making room for healthy ones..
For PCS, Phosphatidylserine (PS) promotes the release of neurotransmitters that help restore cognitive functions like memory, information processing, reasoning, and overall mental performance. It also supports better sleep – so the brain can perform its natural repairs.
Maritime Pine Bark
The aftereffects of concussion often include free radical damage and inflammation. Both can further injure neurons and continue to exacerbate cell damage for days. Maritime pine bark’s bioactivities combine multiple approaches to support multi-pathway brain regeneration and protect brain cells after a traumatic brain injury.
Animal research indicates that Pycnogenol® Maritime Pine Bark Extract “shows significant potential as a therapeutic intervention following TBI.”
Proanthocyanidins in the bark possess powerful anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties that can help neutralize cell damage caused by toxic free radical concentrations in the brain.<9>
Proanthocyanidins work to reduce concussion symptoms by:
- Reducing neuroinflammation
- Protecting brain cell membranes from toxic free radicals
- Protecting DNA from damage caused by oxidation
- Reducing oxidative stress
- Boosting cerebral circulation
Pine bark also stimulates the release of nitric oxide (NO), which relaxes constricted blood vessels and increases cerebral blood flow. Better blood flow delivers more cell-energizing oxygen and glucose to the brain.
Pine bark extract is more potent than Vitamin E for neutralizing free radical damage, and it helps recycle and prolong the benefits of Vitamins C and E.
Lion’s Mane Mushroom
Concussion can severely damage and even destroy nerve cells. To regain full cognitive functioning, those nerve cells have to be mended or replaced.
Lion’s mane is an exeptional brain re-builder. Animal research suggests lion’s mane supplementation appears to enhance neural regeneration and improve formation and repair of cell membranes by fueling nerve growth factor.<10>
Nerve growth factor is a neuropeptide that supports neuroprotective activities including brain cell regeneration and development of myelin sheaths around nerves. This activity can help the brain recover faster and more fully from brain injury.
Lion’s mane contains hericenones and erinacines that promote nerve growth factor (NGF) activity to speed up brain cell regeneration and rebuild brain cell connections for whole brain health.
Some of the most common cognitive problems after concussion include inability to concentrate and poor mood. One study found that four weeks of supplementation with lion’s mane seemed to improve concentration ability and reduced feelings of anxiety and depression.
B Complex Vitamins
Any nootropic stack used for concussion recovery should include high quality, absorbable B vitamins. Here's why.
Vitamin B6 (Pyridoxine)
For concussion, B6 controls nerve cell inflammation caused by high homocysteine levels. It also helps to synthesize mood-boosting dopamine, serotonin, and GABA and brain energizing epinephrine and norepinephrine.
Vitamin B6 directly boosts the immune system, improves gene transcription and expression, and helps regulate glucose levels for better brain metabolism.
Vitamin B9 (Folate)
B9 contributes to DNA and RNA synthesis, aids gene expression, helps with amino acid production, and boosts metabolism. Folate contributes to the repair and regeneration of cell-protecting myelin sheaths, and it is required for the production of dopamine, serotonin, and epinephrine.
Vitamin B12 (Methylcobalamin)
B12 helps minimize axon swelling by regulating inflammatory homocysteine production. And methylcobalamin can help lessen pain and fatigue after a concussion while boosting mood by assisting dopamine, serotonin, GABA, and norepinephrine synthesis.
Together as BioGenesis™ vitamins B6, B9, and B12 can promote mood balance, boost mental energy, assist information storage for better memory and support long-term brain health.
Although there are currently no human studies that directly explore the benefits of l-theanine for traumatic brain injury, its cognitive benefits are so extensive, it must be included on the list of the best nootropics for concussion.
L-Theanine can enhance memory and attention and promote alpha brain wave activity to generate a mental state of relaxed alertness – major benefits for anyone dealing with a concussion.<11>
To Caffeine or Not to Caffeine
Green tea has been used for thousands of years for its mood-boosting, cognition-enhancing properties. Green tea contains both l-Theanine and caffeine, and the combination can increase metabolism, regulate glucose levels, protect blood vessel linings, and improve brain function.
Some health professionals caution against the high caffeine content in green tea, but some studies show that caffeine has neuroprotective properties of its own.
Caffeine and l-Theanine alone each provide some brain benefits, but pairing them could protect brain function by reducing brain swelling, deterring brain cell death, and protecting nerve cells from inflammation.<12>
Mind Lab Pro® nootropics for concussion help boost brain cell communication, cerebral blood flow and brain oxygen to protect overall brain health and minimize damage to brain cells and pathways.
Researchers used to believe that the brain could not heal itself, but we now know it can. New insight into neuroplasticity shows the brain can rewire itself after injury as brain cells and pathways adapt, change, and grow.
- Mind Lab Pro® is a universal nootropic that contains several brain repairing and regenerating ingredients to protect brain mechanisms and help your brain recover faster after concussion.
The multiple symptoms that can follow a concussion can be frustrating to say the least, and the cognitive deficits can last for a long time if left unchecked. Mind Lab Pro®'s whole-brain approach promotes 100% Brainpower™ to boost brain recovery and regeneration after an injury, helping you get back to your old self more quickly.
- Spain A., Daumas S., Lifshitz J., Rhodes J., Andrews P.J., Horsburgh K., Fowler J.H. Mild fluid percussion injury in mice produces evolving selective axonal pathology and cognitive deficits relevant to human brain injury. Journal of Neurotrauma. 2010 Aug;27(8):1429-38. doi: 10.1089/neu.2010.1288
- Vagnozzi R., Tavazzi B., Signoretti S., Amorini A.M., Belli A., Cimatti M., Delfini R., Di Pietro V., Finocchiaro A., Lazzarino G. Temporal window of metabolic brain vulnerability to concussions: mitochondrial-related impairment--part I. Neurosurgery. 2007 Aug;61(2):379-88.
- Amen DG, et al. Impact of Playing American Professional Football on Long-Term Brain Function. JNCN. Vol 23, Issue 1. Winter 2011.
- Katayama Y., Becker D.P., Tamura T., Hovda D.A. Massive increases in extracellular potassium and the indiscriminate release of glutamate following concussive brain injury. Journal of Neurosurgery. 1990 Dec;73(6):889-900. doi: 10.3171/jns.1990.73.6.0889
- Sanders M.J., Sick T.J., Perez-Pinzon M.A., Dietrich W.D., Green E.J. Chronic failure in the maintenance of long-term potentiation following fluid percussion injury in the rat. Brain Research. 2000 Apr 7;861(1):69-76.
- Martin, N.A., Patwardhan, R.V., Alexander, M.J., Africk C.Z., Lee J.H., Shalmon E., Hovda D.A., Becker D.P. Characterization of cerebral hemodynamic phases following severe head trauma: hypoperfusion, hyperemia, and vasospasm. Journal of Neurosurgery. 1997; 87: 9–19. doi: 10.3171/jns.1997.87.1.0009
- Lipton M.L., Gellella E., Lo C., Gold T., Ardekani B.A., Shifteh K., Bello J.A., Branch C.A. Multifocal white matter ultrastructural abnormalities in mild traumatic brain injury with cognitive disability: a voxel-wise analysis of diffusion tensor imaging. Journal of Neurotrauma. 2008 Nov;25(11):1335-42. doi: 10.1089/neu.2008.0547
- Silveri MM et al. Citicoline enhances frontal lobe bioenergetics as measured by phosphorus magnetic resonance spectroscopy. NMR Biomed. 2008; 21(10):1066-75.
- Cho K.J., Yun C.H., Yoon D.Y., Cho Y.S, Rimbach G.., Packer L., Chung A.S. Effect of bioflavonoids extracted from the bark of Pinus maritima on proinflammatory cytokine interleukin-1 production in lipopolysaccharide-stimulated RAW 264.7. Toxicology and Applied Pharmacology. 2000 Oct 1;168(1):64-71. doi: 10.1006/taap.2000.9001
- Wong KH, Naidu M, David RP, Bakar R, Sabaratnam V. Neuroregenerative potential of lion's mane mushroom, Hericium erinaceus (Bull.: Fr.) Pers. (higher Basidiomycetes), in the treatment of peripheral nerve injury (review). Int J Med Mushrooms. 2012;14(5):427-46.
- Park S.K., Jung I.C., Lee W.K., Lee Y.S., Park H.K., Go H.J., Kim K., Lim N.K., Hong J.T, Ly S.Y., Rho S.S. A combination of green tea extract and l-theanine improves memory and attention in subjects with mild cognitive impairment: a double-blind placebo-controlled study. Journal of Medicinal Food. 2011 Apr; 14(4):334-43. doi: 10.1089/jmf.2009.1374
- Sachse K.T., Jackson E.K., Wisniewski S.R., Gillespie D.G., Puccio A.M, Clark R..S., Dixon C.E., Kochanek P.M. Increases in cerebrospinal fluid caffeine concentration are associated with favorable outcome after severe traumatic brain injury in humans. Journal of Cerebral Blood Flow and Metabolism. 2008 Feb; 28(2):395-401. doi: 10.1038/sj.jcbfm.9600539