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Giurgea's Ghost

Penfield’s Evolutionary Perspective That Inspired The Nootropic Concept

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This is an excerpt from Wilder Penfield that forms the basis of Corneliu Giurgea’s quote on humans not waiting for evolution (and is also the source of the idea of the “uncommitted cortex.”):


“Man is different from lower mammals. He has a language that is spoken and written, and he is therefore part of an evolving society. He has in his brain more extensive areas of undefined and uncommitted cerebral cortex. The connections of the uncommitted cortex that will function are determined only during childhood. To this extent, one might well say that the brain of man is molded by his mind. At any rate, brain organization alters according to the content of the stream of consciousness early in life. The brain is subject to alteration by the teaching that comes to a child and the personal effort that he makes.

Man has no need to wait for a bigger, better brain to come to him by means of the slow process of evolution. How slow the process is, was pointed out by Teilhard de Chardin, when he claimed there had been no measurable change in man’s brain since the Ice (Pleistocene) Age, although evolution has ‘overflowed its anatomical modalities.’  Evolution of civilized society has been brief, but it is swift and brilliant. This achievement of the mind was made possible when men learned by teaching to mold the human brain. But there is something else that is continuously creative in our society. Men’s thoughts live on and go on breeding other thoughts-beliefs, faiths, slogans, propagandas.”

Speech, Perception and the Uncommitted Cortex – Wilder Penfield (1966)



Setting the record straight on roots of the term nootropic

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The word “nootropic” comes from the Greek word “noos” meaning “mind” and “tropein” meaning “towards” and was coined in 1972 by Corneliu Giurgea to describe a class of compounds that selectively act “towards the mind.”

Unfortunately, for the last 4 years, the definition on Wikipedia has relied on a direct translation from a Russian dictionary and is incorrect in stating that the “-tropic” suffix is derived from the greek word “trepein” and means “to bend or turn”. This definition is clearly incorrect as is demonstrated by the 4 examples cited below, which come directly from Giurgea’s writings. The examples clearly show the definitions and usage in context, which all demonstrate that “-tropic” is actually derived from “tropein” and is defined in the nootropic concept as “towards.” In the context of Giurgea’s writings, “bending or turning the mind” would not apply, and thus clearly, the root of the word “nootroopic” means “towards the mind” and not “to bend the mind.”

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So, to lay the record straight once and for all, here are direct sources with links to the papers and/or images I extracted as proof. This example is from the first paper ever published on nootropics in English, Corneliu Giurgea’s 1973 paper titled, “The ‘nootropic’ approach to the pharmacology of the integrative activity of the brain” [ Pubmed | Full Text | DOI: 10.1007/BF03000311 ], where he states it clear as day:

“A new class if therefore to be considered for which we propose the term Nootropic (from Noos—mind, and tropein—towards).”
nootropic defintionScreen Shot 2016-04-01 at 4.45.20 PMA second direct definition is made in Giurgea and Salama’s 1977 Paper, “Nootropic Drugs”, published in Prog. Neuro-Pharmacology. 1.235-47, which states:

“The term “nootropic” (noos = mind; tropein = towards) was proposed by us…”

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In 1980 in Giurgea used the phrasing in a sentence which goes even further to give an exact meaning within context. In the paper, “A Drug For The Mind” which appeared in CHEMTECH vol 10 June 1980, on pages 360-365, Giurgea states “we coined the term nootropic to describe the class of compounds which selectively acts towards (Gr.:tropein) the mind (Gr.:noos).”

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An additional mention of the true root being “towards” was made in Corneliu Giurgea’s 1982 paper, looking back on the 10 years since his introduction of the nootropic concept. The article, “The nootropic concept and its prospective implications” [Wiley | Full-Text | DOI: 10.1002/ddr.430020505] , appeared in Drug Development Research Volume 2, Issue 5, pages 441–446, 1982. The quote is as follows: “Because drugs along this line “aim” selectively at the noetic functions, we suggest that they should be called nootropics (noos = mind; tropic = towards).” What is different and an even bigger sign of evidence for the root being “towards” and not “to turn or bend” is that here he is referencing the actual word and not the greek words, so it can be considered a direct definition of the component parts of the word “nootropics”, from the creator himself.

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In conclusion, the word “nootropics” should be translated as meaning “towards the mind” and not “to bend or turn the mind”, as demonstrated in four examples above, the word nootropic is derived from the greek words “noos” meaning “mind” and from “tropein” meaning “towards”. There is little room for argument here, as this is straight from the person who invented the word and the grandfather of nootropics, Corneliu Giurgea.


For the productivity-obsessed of Silicon Valley, coffee alone may not cut it anymore – Marketplace

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NPR’s Marketplace interviews Nootroo founder Eric Matzner on the latest trend in Silicon Valley: Nootropics

The desire for increased productivity in Silicon Valley is spawning a new market, for substances under the heading “nootropics.”

Nootropics are marketed as pills that will increase your productivity and boost your brain power. Many in the scientific community question the claims. But in Silicon Valley, nootropics have become part of a subculture that is trying to work as many productive hours a day as possible.

For the full story be sure to listen to the audio:

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Get ahead in Silicon Valley in The Guardian

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With a subtext of the article “Some in Silicon Valley claim that a combination of supplements, over-the-counter medications and other chemicals taken together can improve cognitive function,” this article focuses on what people in Silicon Valley are doing to “get ahead.”  You can correctly guess that nootropics are mentioned in the article, and it also includes a discussion with Nootroo Founder Eric Matzner.

On the definition of nootropics:

“…Dubbed nootropics from the Greek “noos” for “mind” [and Greek “tropein” for “towards”], are intended to safely improve cognitive functioning. They must not be harmful, have significant side-effects or be addictive. That means well-known “smart drugs” such as the prescription-only stimulants Adderall and Ritalin, popular with swotting university students, are out. What’s left under the nootropic umbrella is a dizzying array of over-the-counter supplements, prescription drugs and unclassified research chemicals, some of which are being trialled in older people with fading cognition.”

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Nootropics and the Human Lab Rats of Reddit – Gizmodo

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Gizmodo story on the nootropics and biohacking scene.

On Nootroo founder Eric Matzner:

“Eric Matzner tells me he takes 30 to 40 pills a day. He is 27 and perfectly healthy. Thanks to the pills, he says he hasn’t had a cold in years. More importantly, the regimen is supposed to optimize the hell out of his brain, smoothing right over the ravages of aging, sleep deprivation, and hangovers.

Not that a guy so obsessed with health drinks much anyway.

Matzner is the founder of Nootroo, one of the many companies now purveying nootropics, or brain enhancement drugs. Depending on who you ask, nootropics could include everything from Adderall to caffeine, with an array of unregulated and largely untested chemicals like noopept in between. The idea of nootropics has been around since the 70s, but it’s enjoyed a recent swell of popularity, especially among the Silicon Valley bodyhacking and Soylent-guzzling set.”

The next coffee:

“Nootropics may just be the next iteration of caffeine. If cognitive enhancement is the future, then nootropics users are the ones pushing it forward, DIY-style.”

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