Qualia Focus Review: The Science Behind This Nootropic

Qualia Focus Review: The Science Behind This Nootropic
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Qualia Focus

Qualia Focus is the low-cost alternative to the more comprehensive formula of Qualia Mind. While it contains fewer ingredients, Qualia Focus still has all of the essentials intended for improving brain health and mental performance. Learn more about the science behind Qualia Focus, how it may support cognitive function, and how it differs from Qualia Mind.

What is Qualia Focus?

Qualia Focus is a nootropic formula that contains 24 different vitamins, amino acids, and adaptogens claimed to optimize energy levels and cognitive function. It’s a less comprehensive yet more affordable alternative to Neurohacker Collective’s flagship product, Qualia Mind.

The Neurohacker Collective website states that Qualia Focus is designed to:

  • Support focus and concentration
  • Promote memory
  • Boost energy

Remember to talk to your doctor before taking Qualia Focus or any other dietary supplement. Medicinal use of this product has not been approved by the FDA. Qualia Focus should not be used in place of medication prescribed for you by your doctor.

Taking this into account, let’s explore how Qualia Focus may help with cognitive function, the science behind its ingredients, and the key ways in which it differs from Qualia Mind.

Qualia Focus is a more affordable alternative to Qualia Mind that contains many of the same ingredients intended to improve cognitive function.

The Science Behind Qualia Focus

Neurotransmitters are chemical messengers that brain cells (neurons) use to communicate with each other.

Acetylcholine is an important neurotransmitter that plays a key role in attention and alertness, learning, and memory [1].

Qualia Focus contains acetylcholine precursors such as alpha-GPC that supposedly help boost acetylcholine levels in the brain [2, 3].

Other compounds found in Qualia Focus are said to help slow the breakdown of acetylcholine, maintaining higher levels for longer [4, 5].

Another important neurotransmitter is dopamine. It plays a role in motivation, learning, short-term memory, and decision-making [6].

Qualia Focus contains Mucuna pruriens, a source of dopamine precursors such as L-DOPA. It is supposed to provide the nutrients needed to convert these precursors into dopamine. Human studies on how these ingredients impact neurotransmitter levels have yet to be conducted.

Qualia Focus claims to help with memory and learning by optimizing acetylcholine and dopamine levels.

Neurogenesis is the process by which the brain makes new neurons. Previously, it was thought that neurogenesis does not occur in adults. However, new evidence strongly suggests that it does occur in a few areas of the adult brain, where it seems to play a key role in learning and memory [7].

Neuroplasticity is the ability of the brain to change throughout a person’s life by strengthening or weakening connections between neurons and creating new connections [8].

A family of growth factors called neurotrophins, which includes the well-known brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), plays an important role in both neurogenesis and neuroplasticity [9].

Qualia Focus contains several compounds that are claimed to increase the production of BDNF and other neurotrophins.

Other compounds found in the formula are intended to increase levels of a compound called cyclic adenosine monophosphate (cAMP) that is implicated in strengthening connections between neurons and creating new memories [10, 11].

Neurohacker collective states that by increasing levels of cAMP in the brain, Qualia Focus may help improve learning and memory creation.

Qualia Focus also contains alleged antioxidant and anti-inflammatory compounds that purportedly protect neurons from inflammation and oxidative stress (neuroprotection).

Inflammation and oxidative stress can damage neurons and have been linked to decreased cognitive function in some studies [12, 13, 14].

Qualia Focus is intended to work by protecting neurons, strengthening connections between neurons and creating new connections, and stimulating the production of new neurons.

Although it only accounts for about 2% of body weight, the brain consumes around 20% of total energy resources. This makes it especially vulnerable to changes in energy reserves [15, 16].

This suggests optimizing energy levels might be an important aspect of achieving peak mental performance and sustaining focus for long periods of time.

Qualia Focus contains nutrients that appear to be needed by cells to make energy in the form of ATP. These include various B vitamins and compounds that help convert the raw materials in food into ATP, which the brain can use to perform its vital functions [17, 16].

The brain requires a lot of energy to function optimally. Qualia Focus contains vitamins and other ingredients that purportedly help boost cellular energy important to brain function.

While vitamin C is most well-known for its effects on the immune system, it also seems to be important for brain health. Besides the adrenal glands, the highest levels are found in the brain [18, 19, 20].

Vitamin C serves as a vital antioxidant in the brain. Scientists think it helps protect neurons from overstimulation by the excitatory neurotransmitter glutamate [19, 18, 21].

The brain also needs vitamin C to help make norepinephrine, a neurotransmitter that plays a part in memory formation and the creation of new connections between neurons [22, 23].

Vitamin D is best known for its classical roles in increasing calcium absorption and improving bone health [24].

However, it’s also likely important for brain health. Emerging evidence of this is that vitamin D receptors are found throughout the brain–including areas involved in memory, learning, and attention–according to some scientists [25].

Vitamin D deficiency is very common. Estimates range from 35% to over 80% of the population, depending on factors such as geographical location and the amount of melanin (the pigment responsible for skin color that blocks vitamin D production) of the population studied [26].

In the brain, vitamin D appears to have both antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects. However, human trials have not explored these brain-related mechanisms [27].

In rats, it increased the release of nerve growth factor (NGF), a neurotrophin that protects neurons and supports their ability to form new connections [27].

Observational studies on vitamin D and cognitive function are mixed, with some showing higher levels are linked to better cognitive performance and others finding no association. Larger, better-designed studies are needed to clarify these findings [28].

One uncontrolled clinical trial found that vitamin D improved cognitive function in elderly patients [29].

However, placebo-controlled trials in otherwise healthy people with vitamin D deficiency are needed to confirm these effects.

Early evidence suggests vitamin D is important for brain health. Well-designed clinical trials to determine the effects of vitamin D on cognitive performance are lacking.

B vitamins play important roles in converting carbohydrates and fats found in food into energy and supporting brain health [17].

Vitamin B5 is used to make a compound called coenzyme A (CoA), which is necessary to produce energy in the brain and serves as a precursor to acetylcholine [30, 31].

Vitamin B6 in Qualia Focus is needed for the conversion of the precursor L-DOPA into dopamine [17].

Vitamin B12 and folate (B9) help build red blood cells that deliver the oxygen neurons need to make energy; folate is also needed in the production of dopamine. Both vitamins are also needed to reduce levels of homocysteine, a compound that may be harmful to the brain and has been linked with dementia in limited studies [32, 17, 17, 33, 34].

B vitamins found in Qualia Focus may be important for producing energy and making neurotransmitters implicated in focus, learning, and memory.

Qualia Focus includes artichoke leaf extract, which might block the activity of phosphodiesterase 4 (PDE4), an enzyme that deactivates cyclic adenosine monophosphate (cAMP). The mechanism was explored in cells, but animal and human studies on the effects of artichoke on this enzyme remain to be carried out [35].

Blocking this enzyme increases cAMP levels and improves memory in mice and rats [36].

Clinical research examining its effects on cognitive function are lacking.

Bacopa monnieri is an herb traditionally used in the Ayurvedic system of medicine to help with intelligence and memory [37].

Several small, randomized trials in healthy people have suggested that Bacopa monnieri extract improves learning and memory. Effects are usually seen within six weeks [38, 39, 40, 41, 42, 43].

However, in other clinical trials, Bacopa monnieri didn’t seem to affect working memory, learning rate, or attention [44].

Thus, the data are mixed. More research is needed to determine its effectiveness for improving cognitive function.

Not all Bacopa monnieri extracts are the same, though. It seems that some may be more effective than others [45, 46].

Clinical research has also found that Bacopa monnieri might reduce anxiety, but more research is needed before we can draw any conclusions. Unhealthy amounts of anxiety have the potential to decrease focus and memory [47, 42, 48].

Some scientists believe that Bacopa monnieri may work by protecting the brain from oxidative stress and increasing acetylcholine activity [49, 50, 51].

Alpha glycerylphosphorylcholine (alpha-GPC) is a choline precursor that is said to help with cognitive function by boosting acetylcholine and dopamine levels in the brain [52, 53, 54].

In rats, alpha-GPC was able to improve learning and memory [55, 56].

Researchers have suggested that it may help slow cognitive decline in people with dementia and memory loss. However, there are no clinical trials examining its effects on cognitive function in healthy people [57].

Phenylalanine is an amino acid that is converted into another amino acid called tyrosine, which is eventually used to make dopamine. The body can’t make phenylalanine, which means that it is an essential amino acid we have to get from food [58, 59, 60, 61].

Qualia Focus claims that, by boosting dopamine levels, it can help optimize focus, motivation, and emotional resilience.

There is no clinical evidence that shows phenylalanine is able to improve any aspect of cognitive function in healthy people.

People with an inborn metabolic disorder called phenylketonuria (PKU) should avoid all foods and supplements high in phenylalanine [62].

Carnitine is an amino acid mainly involved in transporting fats into the mitochondria to be used for energy The body only makes around 25% of its daily carnitine needs and the rest comes from food [63, 64].

Acetyl-L-carnitine (ALCAR) is a form of carnitine that is claimed to cross the blood-brain barrier more easily, where it purportedly acts as an antioxidant that protects neurons against free radicals [65, 66, 67, 68, 69].

Acetyl-L-carnitine is also said to improve cognitive function by increasing levels of acetylcholine in the brain [70, 71].

In mice, acetyl-L-carnitine protects neurons from toxins, including alcohol, and reduces damage due to brain injury. It improves learning and memory in older rats and prevents the degeneration and loss of neurons due to aging [72, 73, 74, 75, 76].

In older people with dementia, acetyl-L-carnitine improves memory and attention [77, 78, 79].

Studies looking at its ability to improve cognitive function in healthy people are lacking.

Qualia Focus contains acetyl-L-carnitine, which improves learning and memory in animals. However, there’s insufficient evidence to support these effects in healthy people.

Tyrosine is an amino acid used to make dopamine and norepinephrine. According to some theories, exceptionally stressful situations can deplete the brain of these neurotransmitters, which may have a negative impact on cognitive function [80].

Clinical trials have found that tyrosine may improve memory and other measures of cognitive performance in people experiencing significant physical and mental stress. Such stress included shift work during a full night without sleep, intense military combat training, and extreme cold [80, 81, 82, 83, 84].

These effects may not be applicable to people who are not experiencing this level of stress.

Tyrosine may help boost cognitive function during times of significant stress but there is no evidence it is effective for people experiencing normal day-to-day stresses.

Uridine is a nucleotide base used that is needed to help make cell membranes in the brain, which are important for neurons to be able to communicate with each other [85, 86].

Limited research in animals shows that uridine helps promote the growth of new connections between neurons, a process that helps facilitate learning and memory [87, 88].

Animal research also suggests that uridine may stimulate dopamine activity which Qualia Focus claims can improve focus and motivation [87].

Clinical research has yet to confirm these findings.

Taurine is a sulfur-based compound found in high levels throughout the body and plays a key role in heart, muscle, and brain health. The body naturally produces it, but it is also found in some foods including meat, seafood, and milk [89, 90].

In rats, taurine reduces anxiety likely by acting as an inhibitory neurotransmitter via glycine receptors [91, 92].

It is often included in energy drinks as an alleged way to counteract some of the negative effects of caffeine, such as increased blood pressure [93].

Limited animal and cellular research suggests that taurine may stimulate the growth of new connections between neurons [94, 95, 96].

Clinical trials are still needed to determine whether taurine is able to improve cognitive function.

L-theanine is an amino acid found in tea (Camellia sinensis) that clinical research shows may increase relaxation, reduce anxiety, and improve focus and attention [97, 98, 99, 100].

Scientists think it is able to cross the blood-brain barrier and that it may exert its effects by increasing levels of the “calming” neurotransmitter GABA. Others suspect it may work by enhancing brainwave patterns associated with a state of relaxation (alpha waves) [101, 102, 103, 97, 104, 105].

Limited clinical research has also found that the combination of L-theanine and caffeine improves focus, memory, and alertness to a greater degree than either compound taken by itself [106, 107, 108, 109].

A few clinical trials show that L-theanine may also help prevent the increase in blood pressure and reduction in blood flow in the brain caused by caffeine [110, 111].

L-theanine found in Qualia Focus may help reduce anxiety and improve focus and attention. Research shows it might have a synergistic effect when paired with caffeine.

Rhodiola rosea is an adaptogenic herb long used by various traditional medicine systems to improve physical and mental performance and reduce stress [112].

Research in animals suggests that Rhodiola rosea improves learning and memory by increasing acetylcholine activity, improving blood flow, and reducing inflammation and oxidative stress [113].

Clinical trials have found that Rhodiola rosea may improve cognitive function and reduces fatigue in people who are either stressed or tired [114, 115, 116, 117].

However, its ability to improve cognitive function in otherwise healthy people who aren’t experiencing significant stress or fatigue has not been studied.

Rhodiola rosea found in Qualia Focus might improve poor cognitive function caused by fatigue and stress, but more research is needed.

Caffeine is the most widely-used stimulant on the planet and is enjoyed by many the world over for its energizing effects [118].

It works by blocking adenosine receptors, which blocks signals of fatigue and promotes wakefulness and alertness [119].

Caffeine’s effects on cognitive function are mixed.

Clinical research shows that it can reliably improve focus and attention, especially in sleep-deprived individuals. However, in most cases, it has no impact on learning or long-term memory [120, 121, 122, 123].

Caffeine may worsen or enhance short-term memory depending on many different factors including [122, 124, 125, 126]:

  • How well-rested a person is
  • The person’s sex
  • Personality (extrovert vs introvert) and brain chemistry
  • Time of day

The benefits of caffeine must also be weighed against its drawbacks such as anxiety, jitteriness, difficulty sleeping, and the development of tolerance that cancels out any beneficial effects on mental performance [127, 128].

Caffeine may help with focus and attention. However, it has no effect on learning or long-term memory. Its effects on short-term memory are unreliable.

Mucuna pruriens, also known as Velvet Bean, is a bean that has long been used in traditional Ayurvedic medicine. It contains high levels of a compound called L-DOPA, the direct precursor to the neurotransmitter dopamine [129, 130].

Qualia Focus claims that combining L-DOPA found in Mucuna pruriens with two other dopamine precursors (tyrosine and phenylalanine) provides a sustained supply of dopamine and longer-lasting effects on focus and motivation.

Mucuna pruriens reliably increases dopamine levels in rodents; one clinical trial has suggested that this may occur in humans as well. However, more trials are needed to confirm these findings [131, 57, 132, 133].

Theobromine is a compound that is similar to caffeine and found in high levels in cocoa [134].

Similar to caffeine, it works by blocking adenosine receptors, increasing alertness. However, it is much less potent [135].

Theobromine takes longer to be absorbed than caffeine and the effects last longer [135].

Qualia Focus claims that by combining the two, it is able to provide a sustained increase in focus and attention.

However, clinical evidence is lacking to support any improvement in learning or memory from this combination.

Calastrus paniculatus or the “intellect plant” is traditionally used in Ayurvedic medicine to improve memory [136].

Scientists are investigating the seeds for their antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects, which may help boost cognitive function [137, 138, 139].

Research in rodents has found that the seeds improve learning and memory, possibly by increasing acetylcholine, dopamine, and norepinephrine levels in the brain [140, 141, 142, 143].

There are no clinical trials to confirm these effects in humans.

Gingko biloba is a long-lived tree used in traditional Chinese medicine for centuries. People historically took it for a wide variety of health problems, including cognitive difficulties [144].

Multiple clinical trials have found that the herb improves memory and other aspects of cognitive function such as pattern recognition in older people. It may also help slow cognitive decline in dementia patients [145, 146, 147, 148].

However, trials in younger adults (under 30 years old) are mixed, with one study showing improvement in memory and two others failing to show any effects [149, 150, 151].

Research indicates Gingko biloba may improve memory by boosting blood flow in the brain and protecting the brain from oxidative stress and inflammation [152].

Gingko biloba can reliably improve memory and cognitive function in older people but its effects in younger individuals are inconclusive.

Coleus forskohlii is an Ayurvedic herb that contains a compound called forskolin [153].

Forskolin increases cyclic adenosine monophosphate (cAMP) levels. Scientists think that cAMP may increase the ability of the brain to form new connections and improve memory [154, 155, 156, 157].

Animal research suggests that forskolin might improve memory by increasing cAMP levels. Some researchers hypothesize it may work by protecting against inflammation and oxidative stress and increasing acetylcholine levels [158, 159, 160, 161, 162, 163].

Clinical research is needed to support these findings.

Huperzia serrata is an herb long used as a medicine in China. It contains a compound called huperzine-A that blocks the enzyme responsible for destroying the neurotransmitter acetylcholine. Theoretically, this leads to higher acetylcholine levels [164, 165].

Increasing acetylcholine levels may help with learning and memory. In rodents, huperzine-A improves learning and memory deficits [166, 167, 168, 169, 170].

Research on lab animals suggests huperzine-A may also work by increasing the growth of new neurons in the memory center of the brain (hippocampus) and protecting the brain from toxic insults. A couple of small trials on people with Alzheimer’s disease point to its potential to improve cognition [171, 172].

There have been no clinical trials to assess the effects huperzine-A on learning and memory in healthy people.

While some of the ingredients listed have some clinical evidence to support their use in improving cognitive function in humans, many are only supported by limited animal research. Although many of the ingredients were safe in clinical trials used alone, negative effects due to potential interactions between them are possible.

What’s the Difference Between Qualia Focus and Qualia Mind?

Qualia Focus is a more affordable but less comprehensive version of Qualia Mind. Qualia Focus contains fewer ingredients, different dosages for certain ingredients, and fewer capsules (100 vs. 154), at exactly half the price of Qualia Mind.

The four ingredients found in Qualia Mind that are not found in Qualia Focus are:

  • Phosphatidylserine: a type of fatty compound that is found in cell membranes that is said to help reduce cortisol [175, 176]
  • DHA: an omega-3 fat found in high concentrations in the brain that is used in cell membranes and might help reduce inflammation [177, 178]
  • CDP Choline: a precursor to the neurotransmitter acetylcholine that is used in cell membranes [179]

In terms of dosage, Qualia Mind contains higher amounts of acetyl-L-carnitine (500 mg vs 250 mg), artichoke leaf extract (500 mg vs 300 mg), and Rhodiola rosea extract (300 mg vs 150 mg) per serving.

On the other hand, Qualia Focus contains higher amounts of alpha-GPC (300 mg vs 200 mg) per serving.

Another difference is that there is a caffeine-free version for Qualia Mind, whereas no such alternative is available for Qualia Focus. This may be a drawback for those who don’t want extra caffeine in addition to their daily coffee or tea, as well as people who don’t respond well to caffeine or choose not to consume it for other reasons.

Qualia Focus might have been designed as a better option for people who want to experiment with nootropics but don’t want to break the bank doing so.

Remember, however, to speak to your doctor before experimenting with Qualia Focus or any other supplements.

Qualia Focus contains fewer ingredients and capsules, but costs less than Qualia Mind, which is geared more towards improving mitochondrial and cell membrane health.

The opinions expressed in this section are solely those of the users who may or may not have medical or scientific training. Their reviews do not represent the opinions of SelfHacked. SelfHacked does not endorse any specific product, service, or treatment.

Do not consider user experiences as medical advice. Never delay or disregard seeking professional medical advice from your doctor or another qualified healthcare provider because of something you have read on SelfHacked. We understand that reading individual, real-life experiences can be a helpful resource, but it is never a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment from a qualified healthcare provider.

Many users report improvements in focus, energy, and motivation. Some users report a sense of calmness and mental clarity.

Other users didn’t experience any effects at all. A small percentage experienced negative effects with the most common being tiredness, nausea, and headaches.

The wide range of reported effects is not surprising given that each person’s brain chemistry is unique and there are numerous variables that affect cognitive function and the occurrence of side effects.

Read our review of Neurohacker Collective’s first product, Qualia Mind, a nootropic supplement that claims to help boost cognitive function and improve brain health.

Also, go here to check out our review of Eternus, an anti-aging formula from Neurohacker Collective.

Qualia Focus is a more affordable version of Qualia Mind, the original nootropic supplement from Neurohacker Collective.

Although it contains fewer ingredients than Qualia Mind, Qualia Focus is supposed to have the essentials for improving focus and memory.

The formulation claims to accomplish this by optimizing neurotransmitter levels, increasing the growth of new neurons, and facilitating the formation of new connections between neurons.

Though some ingredients in Qualia Focus are backed by clinical evidence, many of them require more research to determine their effectiveness in humans.

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