Aniracetam: A Review

Aniracetam is a racetam that is believed to be therapeutically useful for enhancing cognition, alleviating anxiety, and treating various neurodegenerative conditions with minor side effects and virtual lack of toxicity . Physiologically, aniracetam enhances both glutamatergic neurotransmission and long-term potentiation , even though its exact method of action is not yet well understood. While previous studies of aniracetam -mainly from the 90s – have demonstrated the cognition-restoring effects of acute administration in different models of disease, no previous studies have explored the effects of aniracetam in healthy subjects.

In this 2006 study , aniracetam was found to be an effective treatment for cognitive impairment induced by traumatic brain injury, even when the treatment was delayed for a period of days following the accident. Furthermore, antidepressant-like effects of aniracetam and various classes of compounds including different antidepressants were examined in a forced swim test with young and aged rats . Aniracetam acted more effective when the forced swim stress-induced immobility is accompanied with brain dysfunction that occurs with aging, suggesting its potential therapeutic use on these cases. The antidepressant-like activity of aniracetam, which is probably due to the combined effects of 2-pyrrolidinone and N-anisoyl-GABA, may be mediated by mainly facilitating dopaminergic transmission (dopamine release and dopamine D2 receptor activation) through nicotinic acetylcholine receptor stimulation.

Nevertheless, the last aniracetam review from 2014 is apparently disappointing. Researchers investigated whether daily 50 mg/kg oral administration improves cognitive mice in a variety of aspects of cognitive behavior. They measured spatial, motor & associative learning, and locomotion and anxiety levels as well. No significant differences between the naive, placebo, and experimental groups across all measures were detected. “Despite several studies demonstrating efficacy in impaired subjects, our findings suggest that aniracetam does not alter behavior in normal healthy mice. This study is timely in light of the growing community of healthy humans self-administering nootropic drugs”. Furthermore, this specific study suggests that enhanced glutamate activity at AMPA receptors may be key in facilitating alcohol consumption and seeking behavior, which could ultimately contribute to the development of alcohol abuse disorders. Thus, individuals with problems related to alcohol consumption should take this evidence into account.

In conclusion, at present, there is no convincing evidence that promising effects of aniracetam in the animal models will guarantee its clinical efficacy. It is conceivable, however, that clinical trials will demonstrate beneficial effects of aniracetam particularly in neurodegenerative diseases in the future.