Alpha GPC (L-alpha-glycerylphosphorylcholine) has been brought to the attention of the public due to recent studies supporting its ability to improve memory function. It has been demonstrated to improve mental focus, increase awareness and attention. It is also involved with lucid dreaming during REM sleep for enhanced learning during dream states. Choline is known to be important for memory functions as it is a component of the neurotransmitter acetylcholine responsible for short-term memory. Short-term memory allows you to pay attention to what is going on around you at the moment. Without short-term memory, you can’t lay down long-term memory.

Choline and repairing brain cells

Choline in the form of phosphatidylcholine is an important neuronal membrane component responsible for maintaining the structural integrity of the membrane as well as cell signaling and enzyme activation at the plasma membrane. Choline is also used by he body to convert fats into other products and supports the production of good cholesterol (HDL, high density liposomes). Choline has also been shown to enhance the release of growth hormone which is important for repairing brain cells.

Alpha GPC happens to be the natural form of choline found in human cells that is important for making and maintaining brain cells and is involved with memory and learning. Clinical trials have shown that taking Alpha GPC as a supplement benefits both old and young in boosting memory function. It has even been demonstrated to improve memory in Alzheimer’s patients. Supplementation of choline has become common place however, different supplements supply choline in different forms such as chlorine bitartrate, citrate, and chloride. Some supplements offer choline in the form of CDP-Choline or Acetyl L-Carnitine. Other supplements use lecithin as a source of choline which actually is a mix of phosphatidylcholine and phosphatidylinositol and other phospholipids depending on the source. Alpha GPC is actually derived from lecithin in particular from soy and is not a phospholipid. However, it is known that it is well absorbed in the body and crosses the blood-brain-barrier and therefore readily available for use. 

Alpha GPC can be metabolically modified to become part of the brain cell plasma membrane as phosphatidylcholine which interacts with ion channels and local enzymes controlling certain aspects of membrane function allowing for signaling. Alpha GPC can also be modified to make the transmitter acetylcholine. The more Alpha GPC you have around the more acetylcholine transmitter you can make. This means more transmitter can be released into the synaptic cleft and bind to acetylcholine receptors on the neighbouring cell passing on information. This increases attention, focus and concentration improving your memory function. This is all well and fine for short-term memory in the neocortex but acetylcholine has a number of pathways in the brain that modulate overall function.

Information carriers 

Cholinergic neurons (neurons that produce the transmitter acetylcholine) are found throughout the brain and are responsible for regulatory controls over a number of other neuronal systems. These systems carry little specific information but rather modulate over all brain function such as emotional state, motivation, and arousal. This is also true of the neurotransmitters dopamine, norepinephrine and serotonin for example. Generally speaking, there are 8 cholinergic cell groups that generate 8 major pathways to large brain areas that they modulate. In general the cholinergic input to other areas of the brain act as boosters as excitatory input to enhance incoming signals to those areas. This article is concerned about sleep so we need to look at the cholinergic pathway involved with sleep and lucid dreaming. It turns out that the so called 5th pathway comes from the group of cholingergic cells called Ch5 (cholinergic 5). These CH5 cells are situated in the pons which is part of the brain stem and their fibers (axons) innervate the thalamus. CH5 cells of the Pons hyperpolarize GABAnergic neurons in the thalamus by disinhibition which in turn regulates arousal, attention, and sleep. In other words, CH5 cells act as a switch for the firing rate of thalamic neurons during sleep to generate waking states and rapid eye movement (REM) sleep.

Getting back to sleep

Getting back to sleep, there are supplements you can take that can increase how often you dream, the length a dream can be and how vivid it is. Bear in mind the supplements are generally not sufficient in their own right because you will have to practice various techniques to ensure you will experience a REM rebound or a lucid dream. By the way, lucid dreams are dreams that you are aware of and can control enhancing your leaning ability and experiences. You will also remember your dreams after you wake up.

When you go to sleep, you usually go through sleep cycles that last about one to one and half hour intervals. The first couple of cycles are usually non-rapid eye movement sleep (NREM) which is known as deep sleep where dreams are rare. This is a time of rest and repair of body and brain. At the end of NREM comes a period of REM sleep where dreaming occurs. As you continue to sleep going through NREM and REM cycles eventually NREM time decreases and REM increases. Just before you wake you have the longest REM sleep time. Where we’re going here is that we want to increase our REM time to achieve lucid dreaming for dream awareness and dream learning. To do this we need to understand the neurotransmitters involved and the sequence of events.

The first transmitter released when we begin to fall asleep is Serotonin which brings about NREM sleep or deep sleep. After a couple of NREM cycles, the neurotransmitter Acetylcholine kicks in and brings about REM sleep. Other transmitters are also involved with REM sleep such as Dopamine and Norepinephrine to mention a few that are involved with emotion and dream vividness.

To generate lucid dreaming one can take supplements that boost serotonin levels before you go to bed. What this does is inhibit entering REM sleep and hold you in NREM. As the night progresses you will experience a REM rebound where sleep later on will have a high quality REM sleep. To achieve this you need to wake up just before you go into the rebound REM sleep and take supplements that will boost choline levels. Set your alarm for four and a half hours after you fall asleep to achieve this. Keep in mind that this can’t be done every night due to tolerance problems.

Enhance mental focus, attention, memory and quality of sleep 

Supplements that you can take to create lucid dreaming (REM rebound) are Melatonin. Melatonin is naturally produced by the pineal gland and increases the amount of serotonin in the brain and allows you to fall asleep. It actually suppresses REM sleep for the first 4 to 5 hours and creates REM rebound after that.

Alpha GPC which is the a precursor of the neurotransmitter Acetylcholine can be taken in the middle of your sleep period which increases the levels of Acetylcholine which now increases the length of REM you experience and will allow for enhanced lucid dreaming and learning. You’ll need to set an alarm clock to wake up to take your supplements and then go back to sleep. Nevertheless, taking Alpha GPC will not only enhance mental focus, attention, and memory but will improve your quality of sleep and sleep learning if taken as a supplement daily.