Effect of Piracetam on Muscle Memory

 

Evan Sandsmark and Derek Sarchet

 

CU Boulder, Fall 2006

 

First synthesized in 1964, the nootropic (cognitive enhancer) supplement Piracetam has been the focus of countless studies, yielding optimistic results for pathways associated with the central nervous system. Studies have indicated that the cholinergic agent within the supplement produces positive benefits for brain cell metabolism and energy levels, increases vigilance, improves concentration, and enhances memory. In addition, Piracetam has been shown to enhance frontal lobe functions and creativity. All of these benefits can be attributed to the supplement’s ability to facilitate acetylcholine pathways as well as increase the body’s sensitivity to acetylcholine. It is unclear, however, if these improvements will be seen in cholinergic pathways in the peripheral nervous system. Since muscle memory chiefly concerns the pathways controlled by acetylcholine, we hypothesize that this neurotransmitter pathway will be improved by the consumption of Piracetam.

         In order to test this hypothesis we conducted a single-blind, placebo-controlled, study over a 5 day period.  6 healthy subjects, ages 18-20, were split into two groups: the testing group (n=3) and placebo (n=3). The subjects were pre-tested in free-throw shooting to establish a baseline and practiced free-throw shooting three times during the testing period. At the end of the 5 days, the subjects were then tested again to determine effects of Piracetam.  Improvements were measured in terms of increase in percentage of free-throws made in post-test over free-throws made in pre-test (this is what the t-test tested).

         Participant 4, 5, and 6 had percent increases of 45.45, 6.06, and 66.67, respectively, which resulted in a standard deviation of 30.75 with a mean increase of 39.39%.  The placebo standard deviation is 7.9, with a mean decrease of 9.14%. When the average percent increase of the test group is compared to the placebo on a graph, the standard deviations excessively overlap, rendering the results statistically insignificant. The t-test results indicated that the p-value (.059) exceeds .05.   

Because the results came up statistically insignificant, we must reject the alternative hypothesis and accept the null: Piracetam has no positive effect on muscle memory. As a result of the limited resources available, three test subjects proved to be too few because the percentage improvement for each member of the test group, although all positive increases, varied too greatly, thus creating a large standard deviation.

         Another possible fault in our experiment was the rudimentary test (free-throw shooting) used to demonstrate the progression of muscle memory. It was impossible to measure how close the ball was to the hoop. Consequently, someone would have shown better muscle memory improvement by, for example, making 11 shots and completely missing every other shot than someone who made 10 shots, but hardly missed the hoop on every attempt. A much better test would be to measure electrical and neurotransmitter activity in muscle cells while subjects attempt a task associated with muscle memory. Further research with these two improvements could potentially show with near certainty whether or not Piracetam has a positive effect on muscle memory.