[ExI] Which nootropics work best?
anders at aleph.se
Mon Mar 14 12:17:10 UTC 2011
My own list of useful cognition enhancers is topped by sugar, caffeine
Slightly elevated blood sugar levels improve memory and mental function
(and maybe willpower, according to some studies). Maintaining a steady
glucose level through proper diet of course has other benefits, but for
certain mental exertions it might be useful to supplement it temporarily
(the memory enhancement effects appear to happen at a level above the
Caffeine is surprisingly safe and effective if one does not overdo it
and adapt too much to it.
Modafinil is my mainstay for having a productive day or when I really
need to focus on complex reasoning. Definite stimulant effect, but seems
to be good for planning functions. Safety doesn't look too bad, although
I am a bit concerned about blood pressure. I also use it only
intermittently rather than chronically, in order to get minimal adaptation.
The hunger-ghrelin link is interesting. I don't know whether it is
ghrelin that makes me efficient while being peckish or just the
motivating effects of hunger (consider the study mentioned a while ago
about self-control and a full bladder - there are plenty of odd
overspills in our minds). It also seems to be highly individual. This is
of course true for all enhancers: we need to check how well they work
for us individually and in what situations. Fine-tuning and being able
to tell what works for what (ideally be gathering real data) is important.
Aerobic exercise does seem to be a pretty decent enhancer too, both by
preventing health problems and by some neuromodulatory effects. Unlike
the drugs this has an ongoing chronic effect. Getting enough sleep also
works - we want to maximize the integral of useful moments across our
waking lives, and that means that if sleeping a bit more improves their
utility it might be quite worthwhile. Again, this is highly individual,
but especially since older people sleep less it might become an issue
Generally older brains seem to produce less neuromodulators, which might
be a reason to tune up the levels through some enhancers (there is of
course much more literature on them for older people than the young
healthy adults that I have focused on collecting papers about). However,
older brains also tend to have learned plenty of efficient strategies
too - while the thinking might be moment-to-moment be less effective it
can be in practice quite adaptive.
Future of Humanity Institute
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