Concentration and focus have a lot to do with the cholinergic pathways in the brain which use the neurotransmitter acetylcholine. When these pathways are activated, this makes you pay attention to what is going on at the moment and determine whether it is important or not. If it is important, you will stick with it and continue at that task. To support this function, you need good blood flow to these areas to bring in enough oxygen and nutrients to support neuronal functioning for a considerable amount of time. You’re thinking and learning as you go. This is hard work. Its takes a lot of glucose to make the energy required to run metabolic pathways to make and release transmitter so you need an ingredient that promotes the making of ATP. You also need to maintain healthy cell membranes which are made of phospholipids for proper signal transduction.
The components required to maintain concentration and focus are B vitamins, minerals such as potassium, magnesium, calcium and zinc, antioxidants to remove free radicals, a choline source, possibly an acetylcholinesterase inhibitor, blood circulation enhancers and some form of omega-3 fatty acids or their phospholipid forms for membrane function. Having adequate amounts of these components boosts concentration and focus (brain performance) so you can get the job done.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Omega-3 fatty acids are essential fatty acids such as DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) and EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid). You can’t make them to any extent in your body and must take them in through diet. Supplemental sources of omega-3s include oily fishes, flax seed oil, algae and krill. Omega-3s are important components of cell membranes and they must be replaced from time to time to maintain proper function. Most of us don’t get enough of them through our diets so supplementation may become necessary. Clinical testing has demonstrated that supplementation with omega-3s improves memory. The liver processes omega-3s you bring in through diet into phospholipids which includes phosphatidylcholine, phosphatidylserine, phosphatidylethanolamine and phosphatidylinositol. These phospholipids can intercalate into your cell membranes directly and become functional.
This is an important phospholipid that has many functions. Firstly, it can be used by the body/brain directly as a cell membrane component bypassing being processed by the liver. This is a fast way of restoring cell membrane function. But, phosphatidylcholine is much more than just a membrane component. It plays a major role in cell signaling as well as activation of various enzymes. Moreover, it is a source of choline which can be used to make the neurotransmitter acetylcholine that is involved with short-term memory, focus and concentration.
This is another phospholipid that has a number of functions although found in low concentrations in the cell membrane. Just like phosphatidylcholine, it can used by the body/brain directly as a cell membrane component. It is the precursor of another phospholipid known as phosphatidylethanolamine and it also acts as a cofactor on important enzymes involved with signaling pathways. Again, this is a rapid way of replenishing warn membranes since it bypasses the liver and goes directly to cells that need it. Clinically is has been demonstrated to help reverse age-related memory deficits as well as mood changes.
Alpha-GPC (alpha-glycerylphosphorylcholine) is an excellent source of choline. Choline is needed to make the neurotransmitter acetylcholine which is important for memory, learning, attention, focus, concentration and cognition. Clinical trials demonstrate that the oral administration of Alpha-GPC improves memory loss found in Alzheimer’s disease patients.
CoQ10 is found in mitochondria and is involved with aerobic respiration and the generation of the energy molecule ATP. It is also a powerful antioxidant. CoQ10 boosts energy levels. This supports all brain function including focus and concentration.
Some supplements may contain guarana. Guarana is known for its energizing properties which fights off fatigue. This helps you to maintain concentration by keeping you alert and less drowsy. It also enhances physical endurance. Guarana contains a number of fatty acids as well.
Bacopa has many medicinal benefits but what’s of concern here is its antioxidant properties and nootropic effects. Nootropics have to do with smart drugs/supplements that boost memory function. Clinical trials demonstrate that Bacopa extract has the ability to boost short-term memory and enhance retention. Trials also indicate that there is a reduction time in learning a particular task by almost 40 percent. Bacopa improves concentration, focus and overall performance.
Gotu kola contains triterpenoids that are known to create a calming effect staving off anxiety providing for a sense of well being. Keeping calm helps you to concentrate and focus. This botanical improves blood circulation to the brain increasing attention span and memory. Gotu also increases energy levels.
Huperzine-A comes from the Club Moss and is an acetylcholinesterase inhibitor. Acetylcholinesterase is the enzyme that breaks down the neurotransmitter acetylcholine. Huperzine-A inhibits this enzyme which allows for acetylcholine to remain around longer in the synaptic cleft and bind to its receptor more often effectively increasing signal strength. This boosts short-term memory, concentration and focus.
Some supplements may include L-glutamine which is an amino acid and neurotransmitter. It can be converted to glutamate (glutamic acid) and GABA (gamma-amino butyric acid) which are also neurotransmitters. Glutamate is involved with learning and GABA is the major inhibitor transmitter in the brain that keeps the brain from getting overstimulated. L-glutamine will enhance memory and learning while keeping you calm while you do it.
This molecule comes from the periwinkle plant and specifically increases blood flow to the brain bringing more oxygen and nutrients to run active metabolic pathways. It improves memory, focus and concentration.
Ginkgo has many functions but what is of concern here is that it contains coumarin. Coumarin acts as a blood thinner by inhibiting the clotting process thereby increasing blood flow throughout the body. This also boosts memory, concentration and focus.