Boston Brain Science is a supplement brand which manufactures a popular nootropic product called Cerebra. The product claims to support memory, and improve focus and clarity.
In this article we’ll review the formulation of Cerebra based on medical research to determine whether the product is likely to be effective, as well as offer some alternatives we believe may be superior for nootropic function.
Cerebra only has three active ingredients, which makes it relatively easy to assess for efficacy.
The first active ingredient is a patented form of citicoline at a dose of 500 milligrams (mg). The brand misspells this ingredient as “citicholine.”
This is a naturally-occurring compound in human cells, and is thought to potentially aid brain function by increasing dopamine receptor density, based on early research.
While a medical review of the compound found that it has promise for slowing the progress of neurological disorders, there is less research suggesting its effectiveness for healthy subjects.
One clinical trial found that citicoline improved memory in healthy elderly patients and found promising results, but the dosages used were 1000 mg/day or 2000 mg/day (2x and 4x as much as in Cerebra).
A more recent medical study found that citicoline at the dosage in Cerebra was effective for improving memory in elderly adults with age-associated memory impairment (AAMI).
We were only able to locate one study suggesting that citicoline improves some aspects of memory in healthy older adults at the dosage in Cerebra.
Overall, there is a significant amount of medical evidence for citicoline in the treatment of disorders, but in our opinion not enough to suggest that this ingredient at the dose in Cerebra is effective for improving memory in healthy adults.
The second ingredient in this product is Bacopa monnieri extract at a dosage of 300 mg. This is a well-studied nootropic compound used in other popular memory products such as Prevagen.
300 mg appears to be an effective dose based on medical research. The linked study found that bacopa caused significant cognitive benefits in a healthy, young population after only 6 weeks of treatment at a 300 mg dose. There are other studies showing a similar effect.
We conclude that this is an effective nootropic ingredient.
The final active ingredient in Cerebra is a patented compound providing 100 mg of phosphatidylserine. This is an effective ingredient for brain health but appears to be underdosed.
An extremely extensive medical review of phosphatidylserine for brain health analyzed 127 individual medical studies on the topic, and concluded that the compound “supports cognitive functions” and “reverses biochemical alterations and structural deterioration in nerve cells”, but the effective dose range was listed as 300-800 mg/day (3-8x what you find in Cerebra).
We could not locate a medical study suggesting 100 mg of phosphatidylserine alone was effective for improving any cognitive functions in healthy adults.
It’s worth noting that Cerebra only contains two inactive ingredients, and both are extremely safe, so there is no risk of harm from filler ingredients as in some supplements we’ve reviewed.
Overall we find Cerebra to be a supplement with effective ingredients at generally ineffective doses.
Lack of Published Research or Testing
We generally recommend that consumers be wary of proprietary supplements without any published medical studies backing their effectiveness. Just because a supplement company puts together a blend of ingredients which may be effective, doesn’t necessarily mean the finished product will be effective for any specific health goal.
There are no published medical studies on the Cerebra supplement.
The brand also publishes no test results, independent or otherwise, proving the label accuracy or purity of their products. Supplement mislabeling and contamination is a huge issue in the U.S. market, which is why we recommend consumers only purchase supplements which are third-party tested.
Nootropics With More Data
There are nootropic compounds with significantly more data backing their efficacy than Cerebra.
Rhodiola Rosea Extract
Rhodiola is an adaptogenic herb that’s been studied extensively for its benefit to cognitive function.
A meta-review published in the Frontiers in Pharmacology journal analyzed 36 different studies on the topic, and concluded that rhodiola improved memory in a statistically significant manner.
A recent clinical trial found that 400 mg daily of a patented rhodiola extract improved attention and executive cognitive functions, as well as improved mental speed. This was a human trial, whereas the previously-linked meta-study covered mostly animal trials.
Ginkgo Biloba Extract
Ginkgo is probably the herbal compound with the most research backing its effectiveness for improving cognition. There is extensive human research suggesting that ginkgo can improve cognitive function and reduce age-related mental deterioration.
One highly-cited clinical trial tested whether ginkgo could induce positive neuropsychological changes in healthy adults. The researchers found benefits in three different categories when comparing the group taking ginkgo to controls: speed of information processing, working memory, and executive processing.
Another review published in the PLOS One journal found that healthy elderly human subjects taking ginkgo experienced significantly less cognitive decline than a control group not taking the supplement. The effect was particularly impressive, given that the same benefit was not seen with another popular nootropic compound called piracetam.