All who are reading this have encountered some of the following problems: lack of energy, lack of verbal fluency, brain fog, forgetfulness, or a simple slow feeling in their brain. It's not our fault. Our brains developed to survive in a slower-moving, less developed world. However, I've spent the last few months looking into the best methods for mitigating these problems and boosting current brain power. After some thinking, here are the methods that have been most powerful, starting with the easiest. If you want to learn faster, retain information, speak more fluently, or even just learn about the new industry of brain tech, this is a good place to start.
Diet and Exercise
It is often surprising how many, including me, overlook the power of diet and exercise on the brain. Despite being a runner, I've never committed much attention to diet until these experiments. The results were surprising, to say the least. One at a time, I tried three different health choices suggested to me by a friend and local professor: Vitamin D3, Nuts and Seeds, and increased cardio. These were my results.
Vitamin D3: Vitamin D is one of the most common deficiencies in the world. Many of us are deficient without even knowing. Vitamin D is most commonly made by our own bodies with sun exposure. I can say that after 2 weeks of taking 2000 IU daily, I was starting to notice positive changes in fatigue levels. By the last day, I had a significantly easier time motivating myself to start working. Sources of Vitamin D3 are daily vitamins, oranges, milk, fish, fortified cereal.
Nuts and Seeds: My initial reaction to this was skepticism. However, I thought back to my neuroscience research and remembered an important fact. Myelination, the all-important process of developing a fatty layer around the axons in the brain, relies on an intake of healthy fats. I let go of my skepticism and increased my intake of foods high in Omega-3 fatty acids and healthy fats. This included cashews, pistachios, walnuts, and chia seeds. This caused a noticeable improvement in cognitive energy within the first day. The minor (and tasty) change caused a surprising increase in cognitive endurance.
Cardio: I know. I'm a runner and I still hate cardio. However, many sources have shown a link between aerobic activity and neurogenesis, or creation of new neurons. These new neurons can replace those lost to unhealthy behavior, or simply increase computational power in your brain. As a bonus, occasional cardio is great for weight loss.
When I've shared this information with friends, they always found this the most exciting. Why? It is simple and easy. Neuroplasticity is our brain's ability to change its connections, functions, and cognitive ability. When learning a skill, your brain changes the behavior and function of small areas to adapt to a new, important skill. So, what if we used this to "learn" to think faster? A friend of mine, an undergraduate at UC Berkeley's computer science program, told me to use this Chrome extension to slowly speed up all videos I watch. Because I often watch free lectures on YouTube, I found many opportunities. I started at 1.5x with no trouble, slowly ramping up higher and higher. Over the month that I worked on this skill, my brain's auditory system was competing for "brain real-estate", as Norman Doidge often calls it. After about a month, my ability reached what seems to be a plateau, but I am happy to say I can now watch 120-minute lectures in less than 40 minutes, and an 8-hour audiobook in less than 150 minutes. Imagine if you could listen to all the books you wanted without the worry of using precious time. That is the power of neuroplasticity. Your brain can develop many skills which are seen as unrealistic simply because we don't exercise them. This is one of many great TED talks on neuroplasticity and how to take advantage of its countless possibilities.
This is my personal favorite. The nootropics industry is the growing area of brain-boosting drugs. Believe it or not, caffeine is considered a nootropic for its ability to increase alertness. Nootropics go far beyond alertness. Many companies have created nootropic "stacks" which increase cognitive ability, memory consolidation, alertness, cognitive energy, motivation, verbal fluency, and reduce the infamous brain fog. Companies like TruBrain have shown that real neuroscience researchers are starting to bring their expertise into the field. TruBrain is a company founded by Ph.D. neuroscientist Dr. Andrew Hill and a team of neuroscientists from UCLA. Their stack comes in 3 different forms: capsules, drinks, and energy bars. This is just one of many brands out there, but I reference it because it is the one I happened to choose. (Here is my referral for any who are interested, as it will provide us both with 20% off) Other notable brands are Nootrostax and Omnit. Although it is crucial to weed out less trustworthy brains, my experience in the past few months has been incredible. The best way to explain, which I think many will be able to relate to, is putting on glasses for the first time. There is a cognitive clarity which I didn't expect was possible. After about 2 weeks, I noticed words rolled off the tongue smoothly, I could maintain long periods of concentration more easily, and I felt more my newly clear mind made it easy to motivate myself. Many companies, like TruBrain, have created stacks which are non-addictive and cannot create tolerance, unlike caffeine. The price is reasonable, especially if you educate yourself enough to buy the substances yourself. Although it takes a great deal of research, the prices of buying in bulk are incredibly low. For those who prefer less researching and just want a trusted brain, the 3 mentioned above are worth considering. Again, this is a growing industry, which will eventually replace the caffeine we've all grown to rely on.
This one isn't part of the "guide", but more for the techies and futurists who are curious about future technology in the realm of neuroscience. The most exciting possibility is brain implants. Although it seems a bit unnerving for many, as science and medicine advances, we may see these sooner than we think. In fact, some scientists have developed implants for improving memory. This could be used for patients with dementia and eventually all of us. Even Elon Musk, the driving force of PayPal, Tesla, and SpaceX has ventured into the world of BCIs (Brain-Computer Interfaces) with his company, Neuralink This could eventually lead to seamless connectivity between our brains and technology. These technologies look promising, and we can only imagine what time will bring.
Your brain isn't stuck how it is. Every one of us can improve our cognitive ability with these methods. Many of these are simple and easy to implement. I give you my promise that one of these methods will produce some benefits. You don't have to settle with brain fog, and you don't have to settle with constant caffeine intake. Try some of these tips out, and boost your brain.