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Phosphatidylserine | Biohacking your brain
20 November 2023 | James Kearslake
Table of Contents
Fun Fact

Phosphatidylserine was first isolated from the brain in 1942 by the scientist Howard A. Schneider. 

Its name is derived from the Greek word ‘phospholipids’ and ‘serine’, the amino acid from which it is made.

What is Phosphatidylserine

Another leading supplement with significant benefits for healthy brain cells and the neural network, enhanced cognitive function, and improved learning and memory, phosphatidylserine is a primary nootropic on the market being widely taken by those in biohacking communities looking to achieve a state of peak performance.

Phosphatidylserine is a phospholipid, an essential component of cell membranes, found in high concentrations in the brain, and contributes to the fluidity and flexibility of the membranes.

The improved membrane fluidity enhances efficiency of cellular processes, including the transmission of signals between nerve cells and leads to faster and more effective communication within the neural network, improving the speed of at which the neural pathways operate.

With an ability to also improve synaptic activity, support the maintenance and repair of brain cells, and rebalance cortisol levels within the body which is a major cause cognitive dysregulation, phosphatidylserine works in several ways to enhance overall cognitive functioning.

Users also report improved mood and physical performance after taking phosphatidylserine, offering all round benefits to help us achieve our desired state of peak performance.

An image of a scan of the brain showing neuronal activity firing, reflecting the increased neuronal fluidity that comes from taking phosphatidylserine

Benefits of Phosphatidylserine Supplements

  1. Improves Cognitive Functioning – Phosphatidylserine is taken for its capability to improve memory, attention, and processing speed, meaning it’s widely taken by those looking to achieve a state of peak performance. Supporting various cellular function within the brain, it has a direct effect in improving memory, concentration, and learning. More below on improving cognitive functioning
  2. Improves Brain Health – It is also a vital component of cell membranes in the brain. By supporting cell structure and function, it contributes to brain health through cellular repair and maintenance, helping reduce the risk of age-related cognitive decline.
  3. Increases Stress Resilience – Because phosphatidylserine supports cortisol regulation, the hormone that accumulates in our bodies during periods of stress and which causes chronic inflammation, an impaired immune system, and cognitive dysregulation, phosphatidylserine is a key supplement for increasing stress resilience. Regulation of cortisol is critical for overall health and wellbeing, and when cortisol is balanced, we experience a greater sense of calm within ourselves, improved mood, and cognitive clarity that helps with better decision making, problem solving, and significantly increases productivity. More below on increasing stress resilience
  4. Regulates Mood – Because it helps balance cortisol levels, phosphatidylserine has a direct impact on mood regulation, improving our overall mood and sense of happiness.  More below on improved mood regulation
  5. Enhances Athletic Performance – Biohackers are also taking the supplement for its ability to reduce exercise-induced stress, improve recovery, and enhance overall physical performance. It is a key supplement to support and expedite the recovery process, increasing performance and endurance on the gym floor. More below on enhanced athletic performance
An image of a sub-section of the brain showing healthy neuronal activity reflecting the increased neuronal fluidity that comes from taking phosphatidylserine

Phosphatidylserine Improves Cognitive Functioning

There are several key pathways by which phosphatidylserine improves cognitive functioning, learning, and memory:

  1. Cell Membrane Fluidity – Phosphatidylserine is a key component in the development and functioning of cell membranes, including those in the brain. It contributes to the fluidity and flexibility of the membranes, optimising their structure and function. The Improved membrane fluidity enhances the efficiency of cellular processes, including the transmission of signals between nerve cells. This leads to faster and more effective communication within the neural network.
  2. Neurotransmitter Release and Reception – Phosphatidylserine is also involved in the release of neurotransmitters, which are chemical messengers that facilitate communication between neurons. Neurotransmitters play a key role in various cognitive functions, including learning and memory. By modulating neurotransmitter release and reception, phosphatidylserine can support synaptic activity, potentially leading to improved cognitive performance. [READ NEXT: Naturally promote norepinephrine neurotransmitters in the brain]
  3. Brain Cell Maintenance and Repair – The brain is continually going through cellular turnover and repair processes. Phosphatidylserine contributes to the maintenance, repair, and integrity of brain cells. This maintenance and repair function supports the overall health of brain tissue and reduces the risk of age-related cognitive decline.
  4. Cortisol Regulation – Cortisol, also known as the stress hormone, floods our system when we enter the stress response, or the fight or flight, and has a direct effect on cognitive function. In the presence of danger or a high risk environment, our fight or flight servers to protect us. However, in the modern world, for those who live with ongoing or chronic stress, long-term elevated cortisol levels significantly impairs cognitive function, memory, and focus. Phosphatidylserine helps regulate cortisol levels by modulating the stress response, mitigating the adverse effects that cortisol has on cognitive functioning.
  5. Anti-Inflammatory Effects – Chronic inflammation is also closely associated with cognitive impairment, cognitive decline, and neurodegenerative diseases. Phosphatidylserine’s anti-inflammatory properties reduce inflammation in the brain, protecting neurons from damage and maintaining an optimal environment for enhanced cognitive function.

Phosphatidylserine Increases Stress Resilience

Phosphatidylserine increases stress resilience through the regulation of cortisol levels.

The regulation of cortisol by phosphatidylserine is an intricate process that involves the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis, a complex system responsible for the body’s response to stress:

  1. Feedback Mechanism
    • The HPA axis operates on a feedback loop involving the hypothalamus, pituitary gland, and adrenal glands. When the body perceives stress, the hypothalamus releases corticotropin-releasing hormone (CRH), signalling the pituitary gland to release adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH).
    • ACTH then stimulates the adrenal glands to produce cortisol. Once cortisol levels rise to a certain point, it signals the hypothalamus and pituitary gland to decrease CRH and ACTH production, creating a feedback loop to regulate cortisol levels.
  2. Phosphatidylserine and Cortisol Binding
    • It is understood that phosphatidylserine binds with cortisol. When it does, it forms molecular complexes, being the binding of two molecules, which regulates cortisol levels in the body.
    • This binding action is believed to occur in the adrenal glands, where cortisol synthesis takes place. When cortisol levels are elevated, phosphatidylserine facilitates the removal of excess cortisol, preventing prolonged exposure and maintaining a more balanced cortisol profile.
  3. Impact on Stress Response
    • Chronic stress also dysregulates the HPA axis, leading to prolonged elevation of cortisol levels. This prolonged exposure can have detrimental effects on various physiological systems, including the immune system and brain.
    • Phosphatidylserine supplementation is understood to modulate the stress response by influencing cortisol levels. Studies showed that individuals taking Phosphatidylserine exhibited a lessened cortisol response when stressful situations, than had previously demonstrated before taking phosphatidylserine. This indicates phosphatidylserine has a potential ability to regulate the stress response as it happens.
  4. Enhanced Sensitivity of Cortisol Receptors
    • It is also thought that phosphatidylserine enhances the sensitivity of cortisol receptors, meaning that, when faced with a stressful situation that triggers the fight or flight response, the body is able to respond more effectively to lower levels of cortisol. This means that the body does not require an excessively high level of cortisol, improving our stress resilience, and reducing the levels of cortisol accumulating in the body over time.
    • By optimising receptor sensitivity, phosphatidylserine creates a more efficient stress response, preventing unnecessary cortisol release and promoting a quicker return to baseline levels after entering a stress response.

Phosphatidylserine Improves Mood Regulation

Phosphatidylserine directly influences mood regulation, creating an overall improved mood and sense of wellbeing. It does this in several ways:

  1. Neurotransmitter Regulation – Phosphatidylserine is an essential component of cell membranes, including those in the brain. It plays a role in maintaining the structure and function of nerve cells. By supporting the integrity of cell membranes, phosphatidylserine contributes to optimal neurotransmitter release and reception. Neurotransmitters, such as serotonin and dopamine, play key roles in mood regulation, happiness, and overall wellbeing. By modulating their activity, phosphatidylserine positively influences mood and levels of joy.
  2. Cortisol Modulation – Chronic stress and elevated cortisol levels can be a contributing factor to mood disorders, including anxiety and depression. Because phosphatidylserine can regulate cortisol levels and limit the cortisol response when the stress response is activated, it helps create a more balanced stress response, reducing the build-up of cortisol in our system. As a result, by reducing the physiological effects of chronic stress, we experience a more positive mood and outlook.
  3. Anti-Inflammatory Effects – Inflammation in the brain is also linked to mood disorders. Phosphatidylserine’s anti-inflammatory properties help maintain an optimal environment in the brain, improving our mood and overall brain health.
  4. Cellular Health in the Brain – Phosphatidylserine is also involved in maintaining the health and function of brain cells. This includes supporting cell membrane fluidity, which is crucial for efficient signalling between neurons. A well-functioning and healthy brain is better equipped to regulate mood, as disruptions in cellular health can contribute to a lower mood, and mood related disorders.
  5. Impact on Cognitive Function – Cognitive function and mood are closely interconnected. Phosphatidylserine’s positive effects on cognitive performance, including memory and attention, may also indirectly influence mood by promoting mental clarity and overall cognitive wellbeing.

Phosphatidylserine Enhances Athletic Performance

Research is ongoing to understand the exact mechanisms by which phosphatidylserine enhances overall athletic performance and endurance. However, current research indicates several factors contributing to improved athletic performance:

  1. Reduction in Exercise-Induced Stress – High-intensity exercise induces physical stress on the body. Phosphatidylserine, by regulating cortisol and reducing the stress response during exercise, may contribute to a more balanced physiological state during and after exercise. This reduction in exercise-induced stress can result in improved recovery, reduced muscle soreness, and enhanced overall well-being for individuals engaged in regular physical activity.
  2. Cortisol Regulation – Intense physical activity also leads to an increase in cortisol levels, the hormone associated with stress. Elevated cortisol levels, when prolonged, contribute to muscle breakdown and hinder recovery. Because phosphatidylserine modulates cortisol levels and reduces the cortisol response when activated, phosphatidylserine helps mitigate the catabolic effects of cortisol, supporting muscle preservation and recovery.
  3. Improved Recovery – Exercise-induced muscle damage is a common occurrence, especially after intense workouts. Phosphatidylserine’s potential role in reducing inflammation and supporting cellular repair processes might contribute to faster recovery. An expedited recovery process allows individuals to train more frequently and with higher intensity, leading to greater gains in strength and endurance over time.
  4. Potential Impact on Endurance – While research is ongoing, studies are indicating that phosphatidylserine directly benefits endurance levels. It is thought this is attributed to its influence on factors such as cortisol regulation, energy metabolism, and overall stress response. More research is needed to understand this process in depth.
  5. Enhanced Cognitive Function – Exercise performance is not solely dependent on physical factors; cognitive function also plays a crucial role. Phosphatidylserine’s positive effects on cognitive function, including memory and attention, may contribute to improved focus, cognitive clarity, and decision-making during sports, training, and workouts. Athletes who can maintain mental clarity and focus throughout their training sessions are more likely to experience enhanced performance and better training outcomes.

Natural Sources of Phosphatidylserine

It is always important to include natural sources of micronutrients to reap the benefits of a diverse diet. Natural sources include:

  1. Fatty Fish – Rich in omega-3 fatty acids, fish like salmon and mackerel support brain health and cognitive function.
  2. Organ Meat – Liver is a natural source of phospholipids, including phosphatidylserine.
  3. Soy Lecithin – Derived from soybeans, lecithin contains phospholipids similar to those in Phosphatidylserine.

Potential Risks of Phosphatidylserine Supplements

  1. Gastrointestinal Distress – Some individuals may experience mild gastrointestinal issues such as bloating, gas, or stomach discomfort when taking Phosphatidylserine supplements. Adjusting the dosage or taking the supplement with food may help alleviate these symptoms.
  2. Interactions with Medications – Phosphatidylserine may interact with certain medications, including anticoagulants (blood thinners) and antiplatelet drugs. Consultation with a healthcare professional is crucial, especially for individuals taking medications, to avoid potential interactions.
  3. Allergic Reactions – While rare, allergic reactions to Phosphatidylserine supplements can occur. Individuals with known allergies to soy or other ingredients in the supplement should exercise caution and, if necessary, choose an alternative source.
  4. Insomnia or Sleep Disturbances – In some cases, Phosphatidylserine supplementation has been associated with changes in sleep patterns, including difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep. If sleep disturbances occur, adjusting the timing of supplementation or dosage may be considered.
  5. Hormonal Effects – Phosphatidylserine may influence certain hormone levels, although the extent and significance of these effects are still being studied. Individuals with hormonal imbalances or those undergoing hormone therapy should consult with a healthcare provider before using Phosphatidylserine supplements.
  6. Pregnancy and Breastfeeding – The safety of Phosphatidylserine supplements during pregnancy and breastfeeding is not well-established. Pregnant or breastfeeding individuals should consult with their healthcare provider before using these supplements.
  7. Individual Variability – Responses to supplements can vary among individuals. While many people tolerate Phosphatidylserine well, some may be more sensitive to its effects. Monitoring for any unexpected reactions or changes in health is advisable.

Final Thoughts

As someone who lived with chronic anxiety and depressive episodes for nearly seventeen years, I’d spent that time unaware of the direct link between the body’s cortisol response and mood disorders. Only by educating myself on the ability to manage our stress response did I learn that I’m able to control my response to periods of anxiety and depression.

I have, finally, given anxiety and depression the boot.

However, I live with an inherently overactive stress response system which I am aware is too easily triggered. Using a combination of positive lifestyle factors, adaptogenics, mental health self-awareness, and calming practices like yoga, meditation, and journaling, I have significantly improved my stress resilience and naturally reduced the levels of cortisol in my system.

Unfortunately, all this has taken years of practice, failed efforts, and 17 years lost to anxiety and depression.

Had I known of phosphatidylserine much earlier, I may have achieved my state of peak performance much earlier in life, and not lost the countless years to debilitating mental health difficulties.

Phosphatidylserine is now a staple in my supplements cupboard and helps me maintain a more balanced stress response, and reduced accumulation of cortisol levels in my body. A major cause of the chronic stress I felt for many years.

In the modern world, we are all battling continued stressors with work, social media, internet dating, and the geopolitical, economic, and climate challenges that we have faced since exiting the COVID pandemic. How we manage our stress response as we adapt to this new era we are in is what will set you out against your peers.

During the most difficult period most of us have ever lived through, phosphatidylserine offers us an opportunity to limit our stress response, and help us achieve our state of peak performance much sooner. And those of us who operate from a peak performance in the coming years, are those of us who are going to excel, while many others face adversity from the challenging economic environment we all have ahead of us.

Who is James Kearslake?

Having been biohacking my mind and body long before it became fashionable, I’ve always lived by the benefits of nature’s resources to improve cognitive and physiological performance. Using my years of experience, products, and wellness practices, I’m now helping others elevate their cognitive performance to help build the life they want. I save you the time I’ve spent learning, so you can focus your time on building.

Proudly AI Supported

I proudly use AI to support development of my articles. As a heavily dyslexic person, writing can be a time consuming process with words often jumbled up and sentences the wrong way round. AI has become my crutch; allowing me to share the immense interest in my mind, while making content creation quicker and more accurate. AI is my benefit.

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