Cerebrolysin is a nootropic drug that enhances cognitive function, improves memory, and protects the brain. This drug is also used to treat various types of age-related brain diseases like Alzheimer’s and dementia, as well as to enhance recovery after stroke and brain injury. Read more to learn about the effects and uses of this drug and its potential side effects.

What Is Cerebrolysin?

Cerebrolysin is a nootropic (“smart drug”). It is a mixture of amino acids and proteins purified from pig brains, including:

  • Brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) [R]
  • Glial cell line-derived neurotrophic factor (GDNF) [R]
  • Nerve growth factor (NGF) [R]
  • Ciliary neurotrophic factor (CNTF) [R]

Found naturally in the human brain, these proteins help protect and repair brain cells [R].

Although this drug is currently not approved in the US, it has been used for treating stroke, traumatic brain injury, dementia, and Alzheimer’s disease in European and Asian countries [R].

Mechanism of Action

Cerebrolysin works by:

  • Protecting brain cells and preventing their death due to harmful conditions [R, R]
  • Promoting the growth of new brain cells [R]
  • Improving brain cell communication, which enhances learning capacity [R, R, R]
  • Increasing brain energy (by increasing glucose uptake by brain cells) and protein production in cells [R, R]
  • Decreasing brain levels of beta-amyloid deposits, which are linked to Alzheimer’s disease [R]
  • Lowering inflammation in the brain [R]

Cerebrolysin Effects

1) Cerebrolysin Improves Cognitive Function

Cerebrolysin (added to risperidone) improved cognitive function and memory in schizophrenic patients (DB-RCT with 109 subjects) [R].

Another study (DB-RCT) of 54 older adults with memory loss found that a derivative of cerebrolysin, N-PEP-12, improved memory [R].

Healthy elderly people had better memory and attention after a single dose of this drug [R].

2) Cerebrolysin Is Beneficial in Alzheimer’s

A review of 15 clinical trials including 2,446 subjects found that high doses of this drug reduced psychological symptoms and slowed disease progression in patients with Alzheimer’s disease and dementia [R].

Cerebrolysin decreased the formation of beta-amyloid plaques in the brain of mice with Alzheimer’s disease [R, R].

Because of this, cerebrolysin may improve cognitive function in Alzheimer’s patients. In a study of mice with Alzheimer’s disease, this drug improved learning and memory by decreasing these protein fragments in the brain and improving brain cell communication [R].

3) Cerebrolysin Improves Recovery After Stroke and Brain Injuries

Cerebrolysin improved the recovery and outcome of patients after stroke and traumatic brain injury in 6 studies (including two DB-RCTs and over 600 subjects) [R, R, R, R, R, R].

It also improved communication skills in infants after severe brain injury (DB-RCT with 158 patients) [R].

4) Cerebrolysin May Be Beneficial in Parkinson’s

Cerebrolysin nanospheres slowed disease progression in a mouse model of Parkinson’s [R].

Additionally, cerebrolysin promoted the survival of brain cells and improved motor symptoms in rats with Parkinson’s disease [R].

It also reduced oxidative stress, restored brain dopamine levels, and improved behavior in rats with Parkinson’s disease [R].

5) Cerebrolysin May Help with Depression

A combination of cerebrolysin with antidepressants was more effective in improving symptoms in patients with treatment-resistant depression than antidepressants alone (DB-RCT with 20 subjects) [R].

6) Cerebrolysin May Be Beneficial for Autism

In a study of 19 children with childhood autism and 8 with Asperger’s syndrome, cerebrolysin therapy improved cognitive function in all Asperger’s and in 89% of autistic subjects [R].

In another study of 43 children with autism, 27 children (62.8%) showed signs of improvement after receiving the drug [R].

This drug also improved behavior and brain cell communication in rats with autism [R].

7) Cerebrolysin May Improve ADHD

In a study of 60 children with ADHD, cerebrolysin improved symptoms in 70 to 86% of subjects [R].

8) Cerebrolysin May Be Beneficial in Cerebral Palsy

In a study (DB-RCT) of 50 children with cerebral palsy, cerebrolysin improved motor function when added to rehabilitation therapy [R].

9) Cerebrolysin for Rett Syndrome

Rett syndrome is a rare genetic brain disorder characterized by impaired speech, coordination, and movement.

A pilot study of 9 girls with RETT syndrome found that cerebrolysin improved behavior in 78%, attention in 89%, physical skills in 56% of the subjects, and nonverbal social communication in all participants. It also restored high-level brain functions (measured by EEG) [R].

This drug also reduced brain damage and improved movement in a mouse model of Rett syndrome [R].

10) Cerebrolysin May Prevent Diabetes-Related Nerve Damage

Cerebrolysin significantly relieved the symptoms of painful diabetic neuropathy (nerve damage caused by diabetes) in 20 type 2 diabetes patients. A 10-day therapy led to improvements that lasted at least 6 weeks [R].

It also improved sciatic nerve function in a dose-dependent manner in mice with type 2 diabetes [R].

Finally, it reversed brain damage (in the hippocampus), in a mouse model of type 1 diabetes [R].

11) Cerebrolysin May Help with Anxiety

Cerebrolysin reduced anxiety in rats [R].

Limitations and Caveats

Although cerebrolysin has shown benefits in diseased individuals, research is limited on how this drug impacts healthy individuals.

Dosage

Because proteins are usually broken down in the gut without reaching the brain, cerebrolysin should be injected into the muscle or vein [R].

The dosage depends on the condition and age of the patient. In a clinical study of patients with Alzheimer’s disease, doses of 30 ml/day, injected in the vein for 4 weeks showed positive results [R].

After injection, cerebrolysin crosses the blood-brain barrier in sufficient concentrations to produce effects [R, R].

Cerebrolysin is also available as a nasal spray. This route may be a faster and more effective way of getting the drug to the brain because it bypasses the liver and blood-brain barrier [R, R].

Cerebrolysin Risks and Side Effects

Cerebrolysin is generally safe and well-tolerated by patients [R].

Side effects are usually mild and temporary and may include [R, R]:

Contraindications

Epileptic patients should avoid this drug because it can increase seizure frequency [R].

This is a protein-based drug and patients with kidney failure should not take it because it can worsen their symptoms [R, R].

Drug Interactions

Lithium increases the neuroprotective effects of cerebrolysin [R].

Cerebrolysin may enhance the action of antidepressants [R].

Gene Interactions

Carriers of a gene variant that increases the risk of Alzheimer’s disease, APOE-ε4 (rs7412-C, rs429358-C), may have a decreased response to cerebrolysin. In one study, Alzheimer’s patients without this variant were three times more likely to respond to treatment [R].

However, in another study, cerebrolysin was more effective in raising levels of BDNF, a protein that enhances brain cell growth and survival, in APOE-ε4 carriers [R].

Cerebrolysin-Like Nootropics

P21

P21 (Peptide 021) is a derivative of cerebrolysin. It enhances learning and short-term and spatial memory in mice [R].

It also increases BDNF and neurogenesis in aged rats [R].

However, because it is a new drug, research is currently limited. Reviews of the drug revealed that it has similar effects to cerebrolysin and improves memory, learning, mood, and motivation.

However, some users report that P21 is more effective than cerebrolysin and has fewer side effects.

Cortexin

Cortexin, a protein-based nootropic drug, is also similar to cerebrolysin. However, it differs in composition (more proteins). A study comparing the behavioral effects of cortexin and cerebrolysin in rats revealed that cortexin had a more pronounced psychological effect (e.g., reduced anxiety) [R].

User Reviews and Experiences

Cerebrolysin improves memory, learning, mood, and productivity:

  • “My memory is better”
  • “Memory and logical reasoning improved significantly”
  • “It improved my short-term memory, spatial perception, and verbal intelligence”
  • “This stuff has a significant antidepressant effect. You feel like you are back in the happiest times of your childhood”
  • “It’s addictive because of its antidepressant effects”
  • “This stuff makes you drift through life effortlessly, almost like “hacking the matrix”
  • “I was a … MACHINE, just working away”

However, it can also cause aggression, headaches, sleep problems, and flu-like symptoms:

  • “I got more irritated and angry at friends and family”
  • “I got localized headaches”
  • “It gave me a slight headache
  • “I’m having a lot of trouble sleeping on the days that I take it”
  • “ I had a mild feverish feeling”

FDA Compliance

The information on this website has not been evaluated by the Food & Drug Administration or any other medical body. We do not aim to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any illness or disease. Information is shared for educational purposes only. You must consult your doctor before acting on any content on this website, especially if you are pregnant, nursing, taking medication, or have a medical condition.

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  • Christopher Buchanan Shay

    great!

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