CILTEP: What is it and Do I need it?
By Alex Hilton-Johnson | 4 Comments
CILTEP stands for Chemically Induced Long-term Potentiation. Essentially what that means is that certain chemicals (in the form of nutritional supplements) are incorporated into a nootropic stack with the aim of increasing synaptogenesis and therefore enhancing the ‘readiness to learn’ of cerebral neurones.
What is synaptogenesis? Each neurone communicates with other elements in the CNS through chemical relays called synapses. The more synapses you have (and the more efficient each synapse is), the better the ‘networking ability’ of your neurones. Each neurone has roughly 10,000 synapse connections with the surrounding neurones, BTW. That is a LOT of connections, so do we really need more?
Well, as nootravellers, i.e. nootropic experimenters, looking for an edge, YES, we do. You see as children, our brains have even more synapses than they do as adult brains, because they are in a state of learning. However as we age, we lose a huge number of synapses in order to ‘firm up’ our valued/essential synaptic pathways and eliminate ‘useless’ or non-essential pathways that have been deemed a ‘distraction.’
Put another way: the mature adult brain is a lot less flexible and ready to learn than the child’s brain.
So by increasing the number of synaptic connections in the adult brain (synaptogenesis), we can create much more of a ‘learning climate’ or ‘potentiation’ if you will.
However, CILTEP is far from unique in its ability to foster synaptic strength. Many other nootropics have been shown to enhance synaptogenesis and even the formation of new dendrites (dendrites are the ‘wires’ that grow out from the body of the neuron towards other neurones. Synapses form on dendrites). Dendritic formation is kind of like the granddaddy of synaptogenesis. If you really want to enhance your brains networking potential then you first need to grow new wires into previously unconnected territory. Only then can you create new synaptic connections within this new territory, leading to brand new synaptic pathways, rather than simply strengthening old pathways.
Don’t get me wrong; there is huge benefit in strengthening existing synaptic pathways, but there is even more benefit in creating new pathways in new brain nuclei.
Neuroplasticity is the innate ability of the Human brain to physically change its ‘wiring patterns’ as a natural physiological response to environmental stimuli.
Whilst a sudden shocking lesson (like brushing against a new poisonous plant we’ve never seen before) can cause a memory/behavioural pattern to be stored in our brain, leading to a ‘learned response’, if we were to find ourselves hunting and gathering in an area filled with all sorts of potentially toxic new plants, our brain would undergo plastic changes that would make us more able to quickly and accurately locate and identify the plants around us.
A modern-day example might be this: You take receipt of a new mobile phone number for your business. It takes you a few days to accurately remember the whole number without making errors when you tell your business clients what that number is.
However if you were in the kind of job that involved memorising strings of numbers, then you would likely only have to see your new phone number once or twice before your brain stored it with 100% accuracy. It’s kind of the reverse of how, before mobile phones came along, we could remember many of our friends and family’s numbers and even addresses in our heads. I don’t know about you, but with disuse, I have ‘lost’ that ability. Not that it matters, because my phone stores all that information now!
So we can see that if we want to become a ‘knowledge sponge’, then we need our brains to change their wiring patterns permanently. This only happens due to neuroplastic changes and neuroplastic changes ONLY happen as a result of long-term repetition, i.e ‘living’ the new memory lifestyle you want to attain. So if you want to become a knowledge sponge, you must constantly feed your brain with new and interesting knowledge for a long period, until your brain has adapted to the increased style and amount of neural input. This in my opinion is the ‘real’ long-term potentiation – the lasting uptick in mental performance and (especially) memory retention, due to a fundamental restructuring of the brain tissue neural pathways.
Certainly there are nootropic products that will help this metamorphosis. In fact almost any nootropic, if it helps you learn in the short term, will contribute to the neuroplastic process, just as an ergogenic aid in the gym will help your workout intensity and therefore contribute to the long-term increase in cardiovascular fitness. Just as there is no point taking ergogenic aids for just a few workouts and expecting it to increase your long-term fitness levels, so there is no reasonable way to expect that infrequent or intermittent nootropic (or even CILTEP) use will significantly contribute to true long-term potentiation (neuroplastic changes). You MUST combine daily study with nootropic usage in order to attain the best results.
Now whilst CILTEP might look like the ideal product to help facilitate long-term potentiation, I would disagree. I don’t think it is a bad product or unsafe, I just don’t think it fulfils the design spec properly.
As I say, almost any nootropic will help the neuroplastic process, but the ideal product would likely be a good ‘all round’ nootropic stack, i.e. something that contains a racetam, a good choline source and probably a cerebral vaso-dilator, rather than something which focuses solely on increasing cAMP.
Increasing cAMP is a good idea, but not if it as the expense of including more ‘well-rounded’ cognitive improving agents.
In this authors’ opinion, the ‘best’ form of long term potentiaton is that which comes naturally (neuroplastic changes) and causes life-long improvements in cognition and memory.
I have personally experienced these neuroplastic changes first hand. It took many years of university level study combined with a racetam, choline source and Vinpocetine and huperzine A, before my brain changed permanently.
My brain now is nothing like it was before. The level of information retention and recall is massively higher than it was. I was 30 when I went back to university and began making these changes, so I know it is not the youth (or lack of it) of my brain which helped these changes, but rather the application of nootropics on top of dedicated study.