Longevity Articles

NMN for Cognition: Neuroplasticity, Memory, Attention, and Flow State

NMN for Cognition: Neuroplasticity, Memory, Attention, and Flow State

Just because everyone else forgets why they walked into the kitchen doesn’t mean you have to. We accept that memory loss and decreased cognitive power are normal parts of aging, but what is responsible for this functional loss? “Aging” isn’t a singular event, and to find solutions, we look at what happens over time to see where we can make a meaningful intervention. 

Scientific discoveries have elucidated some of the molecular precursors that support brain health. Nicotinamide mononucleotide (NMN), a compound that plays a central role in cellular energy metabolism, presents a promising way to maintain healthy brain function. 

NMN is involved in the production of nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide (NAD+), a coenzyme essential for a myriad of energy-dependent metabolic processes, including those critical to cognitive abilities. 

Recent studies suggest that NMN supplementation could offer significant benefits for cognitive health, including neuroplasticity, memory, attention, and even facilitating the elusive flow state—a mental state of deep immersion and heightened focus. 

Executive Strategy 

We’re going to cover just how powerful NMN is for focus and attention later in this article, but just in case you don’t have any of that right now, here’s a strategy you can use to protect the integrity and function of your brain: 


  • NMN: NMN boosts NAD+ levels, enhancing energy metabolism, DNA repair, and sirtuin activity, vital for neuronal function. Optimal doses range from 250-500 mg/day, supporting cognitive functions and neuroplasticity in aging adults. 
  • Omega-3 Fatty Acids: Essential for membrane fluidity and neuroinflammation resolution. DHA and EPA, components of Omega-3, support synaptic plasticity and cognitive health. Recommended intake is 250-2000 mg/day, protecting against age-related cognitive decline. 
  • Phosphatidylserine: A phospholipid supporting brain cell membrane integrity and fluidity, facilitating neurotransmitter release and synaptic activity. Dosages of 100-300 mg/day have been shown to support memory and cognitive capacity in older adults. 
  • Choline: Critical for acetylcholine synthesis, a neurotransmitter involved in memory and learning. Adequate choline intake (425-550 mg/day) supports brain health by maintaining cell membrane structure and signaling pathways. Present in egg yolks and citicholine supplements. 
  • Sunlight: Exposure to sunlight promotes vitamin D levels and regulates circadian rhythms, essential for mood and cognitive function. Sunlight also stimulates serotonin production, improving brain function. Daily exposure of at least 15-30 minutes is beneficial, preferably early in the morning. 
  • Sleep: Quality sleep (7-9 hours/night) is necessary for memory consolidation, cognitive function, and clearing brain toxins. It supports neuronal repair and neuroplasticity, reducing the risk of neurodegenerative conditions. 
  • Activity: Physical activity enhances brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) levels, a trigger for neurogenesis and synaptic plasticity. Regular exercise (150 minutes/week of moderate intensity) protects cognitive function and mood, and shields against age-related brain atrophy. 


    • Trans Fats and Fried Foods: Trans fats, found in fried and processed foods, can lead to neuroinflammation and impaired cognitive function by disrupting neuronal membrane integrity. Limiting intake is imperative for maintaining brain health, as these fats are associated with an increased risk of neurodegenerative conditions. 
    • Sedentary Habits: A lack of physical activity reduces blood flow to the brain, limiting oxygen and nutrient supply. This can lead to cognitive decline and increased risk of neurodegeneration. Engaging in regular exercise is essential for promoting neurogenesis and enhancing cognitive functions.
    • Processed Foods (Especially Sugars): High intake of processed foods and sugars can lead to insulin resistance, inflammation, and oxidative stress, negatively impacting brain health. Reducing consumption of these foods supports neuroprotection and cognitive function by minimizing detrimental metabolic effects on the brain. 
    • Excessive Alcohol Consumption: Chronic drinking, even if it’s only one or two drinks a day, can lead to neurodegeneration and cognitive impairments by inducing brain inflammation, disrupting neurotransmitter systems, and causing nutritional deficiencies. Moderation is nice, but abstinence is even better to avoiding alcohol-related brain damage and supporting overall cognitive health. 

      What Is NMN? 

      Nicotinamide Mononucleotide (NMN) is a nucleotide derived from ribose and nicotinamide. As a precursor to nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide (NAD+), NMN participates directly in the biosynthesis of this essential coenzyme. NAD+ is necessary for maintaining youthful cellular functions, including energy metabolism, DNA repair, and gene expression. 

      The connection between NMN and NAD+ is particularly important in the context of aging and cognitive function, as NAD+ levels decline with age, leading to a reduction in these critical cellular activities. 

      Research has shown that supplementing with NMN can effectively increase NAD+ levels in the body, potentially counteracting the natural decline associated with aging. This has profound implications for cellular metabolism broadly, and cognitive health specifically. 

      How Does NMN Work? 

      By boosting NAD+ levels, NMN supports the energy needs of brain cells, optimizing function in all the ways that matter. NAD+ also plays a role in activating sirtuins, a family of proteins associated with longevity and neuroprotection by way of gene repair. These proteins contribute to the maintenance of neural circuits and cognitive function by regulating oxidative stress, inflammation, and DNA repair processes within the brain. 

      Furthermore, NMN influences the activity of key enzymes involved in the synthesis of neurotransmitters, thereby affecting learning, memory, and mood. The enhancement of neuroplasticity—brain cells' ability to form new connections—is another critical aspect of NMN's action, facilitating learning and memory consolidation. 

      NMN and Brain Aging 

      As the human brain ages, it undergoes significant changes that can impact cognitive functions, including memory, attention, and problem-solving abilities. A critical factor contributing to these age-related cognitive declines is the decrease in the levels of NAD+. This coenzyme is foundational for the brain's metabolic and energy-regulating pathways which sustain neuronal function and integrity. 

      Research has shown that NAD+ levels decline with age, leading to metabolic and mitochondrial dysfunctions that contribute to the pathogenesis of neurodegenerative conditions. This decline in NAD+ disrupts the activity of sirtuins, a family of NAD+-dependent enzymes that are key regulators of mitochondrial biogenesis, inflammation, and cellular stress resistance. Sirtuins, particularly SIRT1, are involved in the modulation of neuroplasticity and cognitive function, and their activity is directly linked to the availability of NAD+. Therefore, the age-related decrease in NAD+ impairs sirtuin function, affecting the brain's ability to adapt to stress and maintain cognitive capabilities. 

      Moreover, the reduction in NAD+ affects the brain's capacity for DNA repair, making neurons more susceptible to damage and death. This vulnerability contributes to the accumulation of DNA damage over time, a hallmark of aging and neurodegeneration. 

      Additionally, NAD+ decline impacts mitochondrial function, leading to decreased energy production and increased oxidative stress. Mitochondria are essential for neuronal health, and their dysfunction is a critical factor in cognitive decline and the development of age-related neurodegenerative disorders. 

      Addressing NAD+ decline through supplementation with NAD+ precursors, such as NMN, is a viable strategy to mitigate age-related changes in the brain. Enhancing NAD+ production with NMN supports mitochondrial function, enhances sirtuin activity, and ultimately preserves cognitive health during aging. 

      NMN and Neuroplasticity 

      Neuroplasticity, the brain's ability to reorganize itself by forming new neural connections throughout life, is fundamental to learning, memory, and recovery from brain injury. This dynamic process allows neurons to compensate for injury, adjust to new situations, and respond to changes in the environment. If you get irritated at unexpected changes and resist change that might even make your life better, decreasing NAD+ may be to blame. NMN's role in enhancing neuroplasticity primarily revolves around its capacity to increase NAD+ levels, thereby energizing and protecting neurons. 

      Studies suggest that NMN can stimulate the production of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), a protein that plays a key role in neuroplasticity. BDNF supports the survival of existing neurons and encourages the growth and differentiation of new neurons and synapses. (Yes, you really can grow new brain cells as an adult.) Enhanced BDNF levels, facilitated by NMN supplementation, have been linked to improved learning and memory in experimental models. Furthermore, NMN's ability to reduce oxidative stress and inflammation within the brain contributes to an environment conducive to neural growth and connectivity, reinforcing the processes underpinning neuroplasticity. 

      Make More Memories With NMN 

      Memory formation and recall are significantly influenced by the health and plasticity of neurons. NMN's impact on memory is closely tied to its neuroprotective effects and its role in maintaining cellular energy levels. By enhancing NAD+ availability, NMN ensures that neurons have the requisite energy for synaptic plasticity, a process essential for memory consolidation and learning. 

      Empirical evidence supports the efficacy of NMN in improving memory functions. Animal studies have shown that NMN supplementation leads to marked improvements in spatial memory and cognitive function, likely through mechanisms that include enhanced mitochondrial function and neuronal protection. In addition, it supports healthy neurovascular function, helping to deliver nutrients and carry away cerebral waste products for more efficient cellular function. 

      These findings provide a promising basis for the potential memory-enhancing effects of NMN in humans, suggesting that NMN could be a powerful ally in protecting against cognitive decline associated with aging and neurodegeneration. 

      Attention and Cognitive Processing 

      The ability to maintain attention and efficiently process cognitive tasks is obviously necessary for daily functioning and overall mental health. NMN's contribution to cognitive processing and attention span relates to its capacity to support mitochondrial function and neuronal integrity. Enhanced energy production within neurons facilitates faster processing speeds and greater neuronal activity, leading to improved cognitive performance. Research findings indicate that NMN supplementation may improve attention and cognitive processing, eliminating the “static” that can cause distraction and faulty memory formation. 

      Flow State and Cognitive Performance 

      The flow state, characterized by a sense of task immersion and focused attention in activities, is associated with optimal cognitive performance. Achieving and maintaining this state can be influenced by the brain's energy levels and neuroplasticity, areas where NMN supplementation has shown beneficial effects. By supporting neuronal energy demands and promoting neuroplasticity, NMN may facilitate the conditions necessary for entering a flow state. 

      It isn’t just about setting a timer for a task, or eliminating distractions. Creating an internal environment that supports sustained and attentive focus is the first step to finding your flow. If your brain isn’t physiologically supported by the right nutrients and fueled for its heightened energy demands, the state of flow will remain elusive. 

      While direct evidence linking NMN supplementation to the flow state in humans is sparse, the compound's effects on enhancing cognitive functions suggest a conducive role. Enhanced neuroplasticity and improved cognitive processing capabilities, supported by NMN, can create an optimal neural environment for achieving flow states, potentially leading to improved performance in complex tasks and creative endeavors. 

      Future Directions and Research 

      The exploration of NMN as a way to enhance brain function has opened promising avenues for understanding and combating age-related cognitive decline. While current research provides a solid foundation for NMN's potential benefits, several areas require further investigation to fully harness its capabilities for cognitive health, especially in terms of longer clinical human trials. 

      One of the critical areas for future research is a deeper understanding of the molecular mechanisms through which NMN exerts its cognitive effects. While it's established that NMN enhances NAD+ levels, contributing to improved cellular metabolism and reduced oxidative stress, the precise pathways influencing cognitive functions like memory, attention, and neuroplasticity remain to be fully understood. Research will, hopefully sooner than later, dissect these mechanisms, potentially uncovering specific targets for enhancing cognitive health and avoiding neurodegenerative conditions. 

      Exploring Synergistic Effects 

      Another promising research direction involves exploring the synergistic effects of NMN with other compounds known to support cognitive health and enhance cellular energy and repair. Combining NMN with other supplements, such as resveratrol, citicholine, omega-3 fatty acids, or phosphatidylserine, could potentially amplify its cognitive benefits. Investigating these combinations could lead to more effective strategies for cognitive enhancement and the prevention of cognitive decline. Many people already take resveratrol with NMN since they work so well together, and exploring more combinations can have even more impactful effects. 

      What Have We Learned? 

      We've learned that NMN, through its essential role in boosting NAD+ levels, supports cellular energy metabolism, DNA repair, and the activity of sirtuins, all of which are essential for maintaining cognitive functions such as memory, attention, and the capacity to achieve a flow state. The evidence presented underscores the importance of addressing NAD+ decline as a strategic approach to mitigating age-related cognitive decline and enhancing neuroplasticity. 

      NMN can be incorporated into a comprehensive brain health protocol that includes omega-3 fatty acids, phosphatidylserine, choline, adequate sunlight exposure, quality sleep, and regular physical activity. These measures collectively support brain health and cognitive function. Conversely, avoid the consumption of trans fats, sedentary habits, processed foods, and excessive alcohol, all of which can impair cognitive performance and contribute to neurodegeneration. 

      As we learn more about maintaining all of our cognitive faculties (and even improving them) into later adulthood, NMN and its contributions to cognitive health hold the potential for innovative interventions for longevity and neuroprotection. Understanding and leveraging NMN's full capabilities is just beginning, with the prospect of significantly improving quality of life and cognitive function no matter how many times you’ve spun around the sun. 


      1. Yoshino J, Baur JA, Imai S ichiro. NAD+ intermediates: The biology and therapeutic potential of NMN and NR. Cell Metab. 2018;27(3):513-528. doi:10.1016/j.cmet.2017.11.002
      2. Nadeeshani H, Li J, Ying T, Zhang B, Lu J. Nicotinamide mononucleotide (Nmn) as an anti-aging health product – Promises and safety concerns. Journal of Advanced Research. 2022;37:267-278. doi:10.1016/j.jare.2021.08.003
      3. Ramanathan C, Lackie T, Williams DH, Simone PS, Zhang Y, Bloomer RJ. Oral administration of nicotinamide mononucleotide increases nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide level in an animal brain. Nutrients. 2022;14(2):300. doi:10.3390/nu14020300
      4. Li Z, Liu H, Han W, Zhu S, Liu C. Nmn alleviates np-induced learning and memory impairment through sirt1 pathway in pc-12 cell. Mol Neurobiol. 2023;60(5):2871-2883. doi:10.1007/s12035-023-03251-9
      5. Zhao N, Zhu X, Xie L, et al. The combination of citicoline and nicotinamide mononucleotide induces neurite outgrowth and mitigates vascular cognitive impairment via sirt1/creb pathway. Cell Mol Neurobiol. 2023;43(8):4261-4277. doi:10.1007/s10571-023-01416-7
      6. Kiss T, Nyúl-Tóth Á, Balasubramanian P, et al. Nicotinamide mononucleotide (Nmn) supplementation promotes neurovascular rejuvenation in aged mice: transcriptional footprint of SIRT1 activation, mitochondrial protection, anti-inflammatory, and anti-apoptotic effects. GeroScience. 2020;42(2):527-546. doi:10.1007/s11357-020-00165-5
      7. Wahl D, Anderson RM, Le Couteur DG. Antiaging therapies, cognitive impairment, and dementia. De Cabo R, ed. The Journals of Gerontology: Series A. 2020;75(9):1643-1652. doi:10.1093/gerona/glz135

      Older post Newer post