Oxiracetam, a nootropic drug labeled to be more active than piracetam in improving memory and learning  was initially developed by an Italian drug company. It was later introduced in the Italian market in 1988 and was further distributed on European markets throughout the subsequent years. Oxiracetam also reached the Japanese market after it was licensed by Ciba-Geigy. Although its distribution has increased, the US FDA has not yet approved the use of this drug supplement.
This nootropic agent is unlike other racetams as it is not as widely prescribed by healthcare practitioners in treating mental disorders. Nevertheless, early animal trials showed that it has potential effects for improving cognitive decline and brain health. Even human studies conducted for evaluating oxiracetam use revealed that it may help treat organic solvent abuse, Alzheimer’s disease as well as dementia. As such, public concern on nootropic agents like oxiracetam has grown significantly because of an increase in interest towards improving brain function amongst the elderlies as well as young individuals who seek medical aids in improving academic performance.
Oxiracetam has similar chemical structure to its parent compound, piracetam . It contains a hydroxyl group located on its 4 carbon as seen on its structural skeleton. It is a known water soluble synthetic racetam primarily used to improve memory and cognitive functioning. Oxiracetam serves as a GABA analogue supporting phospholipid metabolism, AMPA receptor modulator and neurotransmitter release, thus, it is considered to be more potent than piracetam.
[msgbox]Chemical name/IUPAC: 4-hydroxy-2-oxo-1-pyrrolidineacetamide
Chemical formula: C6H10N2O3
Chemical property: White crystalline powder
Usage: Nootropic agent[/msgbox]
Mechanism of action
Even with numerous researches regarding the use of oxiracetam, its exact mechanism remains to be unknown. However, many experts suggest that it exerts its functions through interfering with the production if neurotransmitters particularly acetylcholine and glutamate. Glutamate, an amino acid has a major role to play in maintaining neuron transmissions, learning as well as memory formation. On the other hand, acetylcholine helps in sustaining attention on the central nervous system whilst activates peripheral nervous system muscles. It also serves as a neuromodulator which affects short term memory and one’s ability to learn.
Memory and learning enhancement mechanism
Similar to aniracetam, oxiracetam has the ability to augment long term potentiation on the hippocampus slices. It helps in improving signaling efficiency which leads to increased glutamate release. As such, AMPA receptors are stimulated. Upon activation of these receptors, there is influx of calcium subsequently leading to the activation of protein kinase C (PKC), a major intermediate for memory formation. Additionally, it potentiates the release of acetylcholine in the brain.
Considering its memory and learning enhancement mechanism, it appears that oxiracetam is able to modulate glutaminergic neurotransmission (through enhancing AMPA receptors signaling) and cholinergic neurotransmission (through augmenting acetylcholine release and acetylcholine signaling efficiency) , .
Oxiracetam is thought to have psychostimulatory mechanisms related to its cholinergic properties . It has the ability to stimulate arousal and attention hypothesized to lead to memory enhancement. This in turn results to difficulty falling asleep amongst oxiracetam users.
Another mechanism associated with oxiracetam is its anti-amnesiac properties. It does not directly influence dopamine release, however, it is thought tho prevent the amnesiac properties if dopamine antagonists .
Similar to piracetam, oxiracetam is thought to have neuroprotective mechanisms. It has the ability to decrease the toxicity of elements that impair the formation of memory. However, it is critical to note that oxiracetam only exerts this particular mechanism with pre-treatment.
Oxiracetam is used primarily as a memory and cognition enhancer and as a study aid. Individuals who use it report memory improvement, enhanced memory capacity, increased concentration and improved mood. The benefits are proven with numerous clinical trials involving healthy as well as individuals diagnosed with cognitive problems.
Oxiracetam is known to possess anti-amnesiac properties, as such, a double cling trial involving 12 health volunteers were done to prove this hypothesis. Researchers used the “scopolamine model of amnesia” to evaluate this purported beneficial effect. The volunteers underwent a series of neuropsychological examinations, after which they received scopolamine. Administration of scopolamine leads to decrease in attention, verbal episodic memory and semantic memory. Nevertheless, the volunteers who were given a dose of oxiracetam showed significant improvement on overall cognitive performance .
In another study, the behavioral and cognitive effects of long term oxiracetam use on demented patients were measured. Elderly individuals diagnosed with mild to moderate multi-infarct dementia and dementia of Alzheimer’s type received 1600 mg of oxiracetam daily for 6 months. After the study period, both the oxiracetam and control groups were evaluated using different neuropsychological tests.
Results revealed that the oxiracetam group had markedly improved scores on most neuropsychological tests as compared to the control group. This study shows that prolonged controlled oxiracetam use can help in treating mild to moderate dementia .
A more recent study further proved the efficacy of oxiracetam in treating dementia. Individuals diagnosed with mixed, multi-infarct and degenerative dementia were given oxiracetam for 12 weeks. Comparison of neurological test results between oxiracetam and control group indicated that quality of life is significantly improved amongst the oxiracetam group . This confirms that oxiracetam is effective not only in treating mild to moderate dementia but also in improving quality of life.
Memory perhaps is perhaps the most celebrated beneficial effect if oxiracetam. This was substantiated by a double blind, controlled trial wherein elderly individuals with organic mental disorders were given oxiracetam and control drug. Results indicated that memory was significantly improved amongst the oxiracetam group . Other studies regarding the therapeutic effects of this nootropic compound on memory indicates that it can help facilitate long term memory formation  as well as spontaneous memory .
Other than the above mentioned benefits, an early research revealed that oxiracetam can help in improving logical performance, attention and overall cognitive functions. Additionally, it helps in enhancing functional abilities and behavioral parameters . This novel nootropic compound can positively help individuals with dementia, cognitive problems and memory disorders. Nevertheless, caution is still needed prior to use.