Neurotransmitters are the chemical messengers that our nervous systems use to communicate within itself and with other parts of the body. Low levels of certain neurotransmitters have been linked to depression, anxiety, and a variety of other conditions.

using precursors to boost cognitive performancePrecursors are the building blocks necessary to create neurotransmitters. By consuming the right precursors, we can increase the level of specific neurotransmitters in the body and brain, resulting in improved mood, reduced anxiety, increased cognitive ability, and much more.

All of the precursors listed below are amino acids. Some of them are essential amino acids and others non-essential. By taking these amino acids, we can give our bodies the building blocks they need to create the neurotransmitters involved in cognitive performance.


Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that most people have heard of. For a long time, it was thought that depression was the result of low serotonin levels. We now know that it’s much more complicated than that. But, serotonin is one of the major neurotransmitters that affect mood, appetite, sleep and other important functions of the brain and body.

5-HTP (5-hydroxytryptophan) is a direct precursor to serotonin. It’s a naturally occurring amino acid that converts to serotonin in the body. Supplementing with 5-HTP can improve mood, sleep, appetite and more by naturally increasing serotonin levels.

buy 5-htpBenefits of 5-HTP

  • Improved Mood
  • Better Appetite Control
  • Reduced Anxiety
  • Reduced Stress
  • More Restful Sleep
  • Increased Sense of Well-Being
  • Increased Serotonin


This is another well-known neurotransmitter that plays a role in motivation, pleasure, energy, focus, and libido. Taking a dopamine precursor can boost your body’s own production of this important neurotransmitter, resulting in an increase in motivation, focus, and energy. There are two dopamine precursors that are commonly used for their nootropic benefits.

L-tyrosine is an amino acid that the body uses to create dopamine. It is first converted into l-dopa, which is then converted into dopamine. Supplementing with tyrosine can improve mood, focus, motivation, and other aspects of cognitive function.

buy tyrosineBenefits of L-Tyrosine

  • Increased Focus
  • Improved Mood
  • Increased Motivation
  • Improved Overall Cognitive Performance
  • Increased Dopamine

L-dopa (levodopa) is another amino acid that the body uses to make dopamine. It is a direct precursor, meaning it converts directly into dopamine with no steps in between. L-dopa is only available with a prescription, but the adaptogenic nootropic mucuna pruriens contains l-dopa and is sold as a dietary supplement.

Supplementing with mucuna pruriens has been shown to provide most (if not all) of the same benefits of l-dopa, but without some of the nasty side effects that l-dopa can cause. Mucuna pruriens has a variety of nootropic and physical benefits.

buy mucuna pruriensBenefits of Mucuna Pruriens

  • Improved Mood
  • Increased Sense of Well-Being
  • Decreased Anxiety
  • Increased Motivation
  • Increased Testosterone (in men) and HGH
  • Increased Dopamine

GABA (gamma aminobutyric acid)

GABA is the main inhibitory neurotransmitter in the human body. It reduces neuronal excitability throughout the entire nervous system. GABA is known to play a role in anxiety, sleep, relaxation, muscle control, and other functions of the body and brain.

Glutamine is another amino acid and a precursor to GABA. Increasing GABA levels can improve sleep, reduce anxiety, and promote overall well-being. GABA supplements are readily available and, while they do increase GABA levels in the body, they do not seem to increase GABA levels in the brain. Supplementing with glutamine should help your own body to create more GABA, resulting in higher levels in both the body and brain.

buy glutamineBenefits of Glutamine

  • Reduced Anxiety
  • Improved Sleep
  • Improved Muscle Performance
  • Aids in Weight Management
  • Increased GABA


This is another important neurotransmitter that has a number of functions in the body and brain. Low acetylcholine levels have been associated with brain fog, difficulty learning, and poor memory. Supplementing with acetylcholine precursors can help your body to increase its levels naturally.

There are a number of acetylcholine precursors available. They all work a little differently and have slightly different benefits. Below are two of the most popular and powerful acetylcholine precursors.

Alpha-GPC is a cholinergic nootropic that is generally considered to be the most powerful acetylcholine precursor. It is able to rapidly cross the blood-brain barrier, increasing acetylcholine levels.

buy alpha gpcBenefits of Alpha-GPC

  • Improved Learning
  • Increased Motivation
  • Improved Memory
  • Improved Physical Performance
  • Increased Growth Hormone (HGH) Levels
  • Faster Reaction Time
  • Increased Acetylcholine

CDP-Choline (citicoline) is another popular acetylcholine precursor that is widely available. Some people prefer CDP-choline to alpha-GPC because it has slightly different benefits. Supplementing with either of them will increase acetylcholine levels in the brain.

buy CDP-CholineBenefits of CDP-Choline

  • Improved Memory
  • Improved Learning
  • Increased Attention
  • Decreased Appetite
  • Increased Motivation
  • Increased Acetylcholine


By increasing levels of certain chemicals in the body, we can help our bodies to create more of the neurotransmitters that play a role in cognitive performance. There are two main reasons that this is desirable.

First, increasing certain neurotransmitter levels in the brain will, in and of itself, help to improve cognitive performance. And second, having adequate neurotransmitter levels will make most nootropics work better.

To learn more about neurotransmitters, check out this post. And, if you haven’t already, make sure to get The Ultimate Nootropics Quick Reference Guide for free when you sign up for the Nootropics Zone newsletter.

Using Precursors To Boost Cognitive Performance
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