The central tenet of the intelligence quotient is that of permanence (ie: intelligence is immutable and unwavering). However, substantial advances in neuroplasticity and neuroscience have cut back on this basic premise. Moreover, we often subjectively experience a range of cognitive variability throughout our days. Have we not all felt super smart and hyper-productive after a delicious cup of coffee? Additionally, have we not all felt lazy, tired, and mentally fatigued after a hard night of drinking? In this article I will discuss how to get smarter! Get ready for some awesome cognitive/brain hacks!
1. Fuel For The Brain
A healthy diet is undoubtedly a necessary component to optimal cognitive performance. Many essential fatty acids (in particular omega-3 fatty acids) are not produced by the body and therefore must be consumed through food. Omega-3 fatty acids build healthy high-functioning cells to improve and maintain brain function and there is some evidence that they even help to lower the risk of heart disease. Foods such as salmon, tuna, walnuts, and chia seeds are all high in omega-3 fatty acids and have been repeatedly linked to heightened cognitive performance as well as neuro-protection.
2. Sleep & Deprivation
(A) The Adverse Effects of Sleep Deprivation
Adequate sleep is like food for the brain. In the neurological study The Impact of Inadequate Sleep on Children's Daytime Cognitive Function, published through Seminars in Pediatric Neurology, neurology experts concluded that sleep deprivation leads to a decreased ability to focus, mood changes including frustration and irritability, and degradation in prefontal cortex function. In essence, the study found that inadequate sleep created andectodal feelings of tiredness but also a diminished capacity for executive function and weakened ability to problem solve.
Even more alarming is that even ostensibly innocuous levels of sleep deprivation can have profound and deleterious effects. A 2003 University of Pennsylvania medical study concluded that chronic restriction of sleep to only six hours of sleep per night produced cognitive performance deficits equivalent of up to two nights of total sleep deprivation and that even moderate losses in sleep can very palpably decrease neurobehavioral functions.
To further exacerbate these claims, the report also noted that according to subjective sleepiness ratings, subjects were largely unaware of pervasive cognitive deficits, which might be a logical explanation for the assumption that minor but chronic sleep deprivation is relatively benign. This is another way of saying that we seldom perceive our decline in mental performance during bouts of sleep deprivation.
(B) Sleep Tricks/Hacks
Restorative sleep is clearly correlated to higher level cognitive function. For this reason, getting a sufficient quantity of sleep is of critical importance. Supplementation with melatonin will regulate body temperature, which in turn signals the body that it is time for sleep. Furthermore, eating a 200-400 calorie pre-bed snack (almond butter of peanut butter is recommended) can prevent marked blood sugar drops throughout the night, in turn resulting in more restful sleep. Finally, acetylcholinesterase inhibitors such as Huperzine A can increase acetylcholine levels in the brain thus resulting in heightened levels of REM sleep (but be careful because over-supplementation can have adverse effects).
3. Nootropic Supplementation
We have all heard of nootropic supplements promising to make people "smarter". Each individual should research potential "smart drugs" that might improve cognitive performance. One such drug that I have found particularly useful is phenylpiractam. Phenylpiracetam is a derivative of the well-known "smart drug" piracetam and has been shown to improve cognition in persons with organic cognitive decline. There have been many anecdotal accounts of phenylpiracetam having a slightly stimulatory effect while increasing mental energy. Although its taste is markedly bitter, the author can personally vouch for its effectiveness. The purest (and consequently most effective) form of phenylpiracetam can be purchased on amazon and is produced by the manufacturer liftmode.
It is important to recognize that mental performance is highly variable. Therefore, in order to "get smarter", throw out the antiquated notion that IQ is static and continue to try and improve cognition.
DISCLAIMER: Many claims in this article are based on the author's personal experience. Some of the proposed methods are supported by scientific studies. The advice offered is not meant to replace the recommendations and advice of a physician. Nursing mothers, pregnant women, and people whoa re taking medication or have chronic medical condition should consult their physician or a qualified health care professional before trying any of the lifestyle changes described in this article.