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The Nicotinic Effect: Preconditioning the Brain for Neuroprotection

Yes Nicotine, it is actually good for you although dangerously addictive. There are several examples of neuroscientists that will use nicotine to their advantage and here is how you can.

The Fact:

Backed By History

As you will know we get nicotine from tobacco that is derived from the leaves of the genus Nicotiana, a plant from the nightshade family (potatoes, tomatoes and peppers), indigenous to North and South America.

Archaeological studies date the use of tobacco back to the first century when the people of Central America used tobacco leaves for smoking, in sacred and religious ceremonies. Not much has changed... nicotine is the main psychoactive component in smoking tobacco and humans are still addicted to the stuff.

The people of Central America began migrating between 470 and 630 AD. Gradually, it was then adopted by neighbouring and native tribes (Mishra and Mishra, 2013).

Although CONKA has NOT used nicotine in the formula we have paid close attention to the "nicotinic effect" that other non-addictive herbs resemble. If other botanicals have a "nicotinic effect" it just means they behave in a relatable way. Since nicotine has the ability to prepare the brain for stress and ultimately have a neuroprotective effect (Dong et al., 2020) Dr Chazot at Durham University (Head of CONKA Formula Design) prioritised components that could work on the same biological mechanisms in the brain and body.

Backed by Science

Nicotine causes a boost in the very important neurotransmitter acetylcholine which helps you carry messages across junctions in the brain. This has a positive effect on your performance mentally and physically and even has the potential to increase red blood cells and facilitate the growth of new blood vessels.

For the geek: The boost in acetylcholine arises because nicotine binds to presynaptic nicotinic acetylcholine receptors in the brain. We also notice an increase in dopamine, serotonin, and glutamate which creates a feel-good effect.

Like all nootropics the compound must have the ability to cross the blood-brain barrier, the brain is a well-protected fortress to keep nasties out, but nicotine can rapidly enter the brain within 20 seconds of consumption. It's unique and one of the fastest-acting nootropic compounds that we know about, so it's important that we consider its upside potential.

Before you charge off and suck down another cancer stick acknowledge that there are better ways to get your nicotine, the key with nicotine is to use low doses and only use it occasionally as we build up a tolerance rapidly.

For the geek: Too much nicotine desensitises the "alpha-7 nicotinic acetylcholine receptor". This is why it stops having an effect but your receptors but they do recover quickly if you can give them a break for a week or so.

How Does it Make you Feel?

Dialled in and focused:

The following study showed that nicotine improved attentiveness in normal adult non-smokers. A double-blind study conducted at Duke University Medical Center used a dosage size of 7 mg of nicotine per day via a patch over a 4.5-hour period.

Nicotine significantly decreased the number of omission errors during testing and decreased the variance in “hit reaction time” which is used as a measure of attention (Levin et al., 1998). An accessible and useful hack ahead of a deadline or important pitch or meeting.

Physical Performance:

Nicotine has been tested on cyclists cycling at 65% of peak aerobic power whilst controlling a range of physiological variables like heart rate, room temperature, ventilation, concentrations of blood plasma glucose, lactate and circulating fatty acids.

Although no change in these variables was detected, a 7mg nicotine patch improved endurance time by (17%) compared to the placebo patch (Mündel and Jones, 2006), something you may want to harness for your next endurance-focused bout exercise or ultra-marathon.

So What? The concept of "Preconditioning"

It is thought that the right psychoactive ingredients (those with a nicotinic effect) can improve the brain's tolerance to the damaging effects of restricted blood flow and oxygen. Preconditioning the brain means training the brain to help it adapt to these moments of stress. This can help limit cell death and the neuronal damage that mounts following a period of oxygen and blood flow restriction, like following a head impact (Deryagin et al., 2017).

The herbs in the CONKA formula have a nicotinic effect but are without the negative addictive side effects. This means that by design you take CONKA daily without addiction or a tolerance build-up issue in preparation for stressors meaning that you can maintain a level of readiness. This is important since it's difficult to forecast when head impacts and stressors are coming your way in sport and life so we must prepare and give the brain all the training it needs prior to an stressor event.

The CONKA formula uses Vaccinium Myrtillus (VM) (in the blueberry family). VM has a high concentration of the nootropic compound Resveratrol also present in red wine which has been shown to have a nicotinic effect pre-condition the brain to prevent neuronal damage resulting from blood flow and oxygen-restricted brain injury (Koronowski et al., 2015). VM is a potent antioxidant and a key neuroprotective agent in the CONKA formula helping the brain prep for unavoidable stressor events.

Mishra, S. and Mishra, M. (2013). Tobacco: Its historical, cultural, oral, and periodontal health association. Journal of International Society of Preventive and Community Dentistry, [online] 3(1), p.12. doi:10.4103/2231-0762.115708.

Levin, E.D., Conners, C.K., Silva, D., Hinton, S.C., Meck, W.H., March, J. and Rose, J.E. (1998). Transdermal nicotine effects on attention. Psychopharmacology, 140(2), pp.135–141. doi:10.1007/s002130050750.

Fujii, S., Ji, Z., Morita, N. and Sumikawa, K. (1999). Acute and chronic nicotine exposure differentially facilitate the induction of LTP. Brain Research, 846(1), pp.137–143. doi:10.1016/s0006-8993(99)01982-4.

Stough, C., Mangan, G., Bates, T. and Pellett, O. (1994). Smoking and Raven IQ. Psychopharmacology, [online] 116(3), pp.382–384. doi:10.1007/BF02245346.

Mündel, T. and Jones, D.A. (2006). Effect of transdermal nicotine administration on exercise endurance in men. Experimental Physiology, 91(4), pp.705–713. doi:10.1113/expphysiol.2006.033373.

Dong, Y., Bi, W., Zheng, K., Zhu, E., Wang, S., Xiong, Y., Chang, J., Jiang, J., Liu, B., Lu, Z. and Cheng, Y. (2020). Nicotine Prevents Oxidative Stress-Induced Hippocampal Neuronal Injury Through α7-nAChR/Erk1/2 Signaling Pathway. Frontiers in Molecular Neuroscience, 13. doi:10.3389/fnmol.2020.557647.

Dong, Y., Bi, W., Zheng, K., Zhu, E., Wang, S., Xiong, Y., Chang, J., Jiang, J., Liu, B., Lu, Z. and Cheng, Y. (2020). Nicotine Prevents Oxidative Stress-Induced Hippocampal Neuronal Injury Through α7-nAChR/Erk1/2 Signaling Pathway. Frontiers in Molecular Neuroscience, 13. doi:10.3389/fnmol.2020.557647.