There is an interesting piece on smart drugs and biohacking in CNN Money. The point of the article is that there is intense pressure in Silicon Valley to succeed and entrepreneurs are turning to Smart Drugs better known as nootropics like coffee, pills and even Think Gum. I’ve been in Silicon Valley for over 10 years now at the top institutions in the country earning degrees and doing the entrepreneur thing and I agree it is a growing trend. Not a large trend yet, but people are craving ways to maximize their brain power and are turning to smart drugs like Think Gum. CNN says that taking smart drugs is part of the larger trend of biohacking or more clearly put, people want to optimize how their minds and bodies work. This is nothing new. People have desired fit bodies and more intelligence for centuries. What has changed is there are more and more products offering to help achieve these biological goals. When most people think of biohacking, they are thinking of genetic engineering or electrical devices like Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation, I suppose that smart drugs count too.
While I certainly wouldn’t recommend popping hundreds of pills a day like Dave Asprey. There is certainly data to support the use of some brain enhancing ingredients and technologies. Nootropics are drugs and like all drugs they can have side effects. The ingredients in Think Gum were specifically chosen because they deliver the maximum benefits and based on published peer-reviewed research are overwhelmingly safe. In fact we’ve sold over 2,000,000 pieces of gum without incident. Not only this, but many new ingredients have no data to support they work. Think Gum on the other hand has been extensively tested and in a 2011 study was shown to increase memory by over 25%.
I hope the biohacking and nootropic trends continue. I’d love to make a Think Gum Extra Strength Product at some point if we have safe proven ingredients that deliver.
The NY Times just published an important article by Brook Larmer on test prep schools in China. At one such site in Maotanchang, 20,000 students study around the clock for China’s national college entrance exam called the gaokao. This intense test is the sole criteria used to determine college admissions. If you though the SAT’s were stressful, you had it easy! The focus of the test on on memorization and students consume special supplements called “Clear Mind” and “Six Walnuts” to help them get an edge. It got me thinking, do these students even know about Think Gum and that it has been demonstrated to improve memory? We do ship to China, but I’d like to export Think Gum to these test prep schools in large amounts. If anyone reading this has ties to these prep school and would like to export or import Think Gum, please
As is our tradition, Think Gum will be offering a great Black Friday Sale this year. How good you ask? 10%….could be. 30%…maybe. 90% off….there is only one way to find out? Let’s just say this deal is too good to post on this blog. Use the check out code “THANKS40” on the Think Gum Website to find out starting this Friday. With a deal like this, you’re going to want to stock up.
Modfinil, a drug used by narcoleptics, is sometimes used by college students as a study aid. While the drug certainly helps prevent drowsiness, it does not appear to boost cognitive performance. In fact, a study just published in PLOS ONE showed that health volunteers who completed a sentence completion test had a similar self-reported mood and equal number of errors as the control group. Unexpectedly, the modafinil group was significantly slower than that control group to complete the test. The lead researcher commented “Our research showed that when a task required instant reactions the drug just increased reaction times with no improvement to cognitive performance.”
This research is in contrast to a study published in the Journal of Appetite on Think Gum® that demonstrated that Think Gum® can be used to improve aspects of memory. In this study, students who chewed Think Gum® performed significantly better in multiple types of word recall tests. The magnitude of memory improvement was dramatic. Students in the Think Gum® group remembered over 25% more than either control group. Additionally, those students in the Think Gum® group felt significantly more alert, felt that they could better concentrate and felt they had enhanced performance as compared to the other groups.
While Provigil (Modafinil) might help you stay awake, it certainly won’t help you do better work. So although Modafinil may be useful to keep you awake during your all night study session, it isn’t such a great idea to take it during your math test when both time and accuracy count. For exams where answers matter, you will want to buy some Think Gum.
A small study published in Nature Neuroscience from a group at Columbia University showed that 50-70 year olds who consumed a high cocoa-based Flavanol diet for three-month had a considerable improvement in memory. But just what are flavanols and why should you care? Flavanols are a diverse set of compounds found in fruits and vegetables and can be found in plants like green tea (camellia sinensis) and cocoa (theobroma cacao). It is unclear how flavanols work to improve memory, but it seems increasing blood flow and/or improving vascular health is part the mechanism. However, eating a bar of chocolate won’t give you the same kind of benefit as seen in the study. Participants in this study were taking a special supplement high in flavanols at concentration hundreds, if not thousands, of times higher than what you might find in a bar of chocolate.
Don’t get too excited about the findings just yet. The study was sponsored by Mars Inc. one of the largest chocolate makers in the world and was fairly small. They need to confirm the findings in a larger group. In the meantime, you can drink a some green tea (high in flavanols), exercise daily (this increases blood flow) or chew you Think Gum daily (both the act of chewing gum and many of the supplements within Think Gum have been shown to improve blood flow to the brain).
I am happy to announce that Think Gum is now available in Colombia, South America. Amazingly, our distribution partner in Colombia happens to be involved in the German Formula Three racing circuit. Check out the image of his car with some brand new Think Gum logos. Hopefully, the driver will be powered by Think Gum too and make some laser-focused turns as he steers his car toward victory! Best of luck this season!
A recent post on NYTimes.com by Benedict Carey describes 3 distinct phases of sleep that impact cognitive performance. Everyone understands that being well rested helps you focus. It is less obvious that sleeping actually helps you lean and process information. But how and when during sleep does this unconscious learning take place?
Deep Sleep – This “knocked out cold” sleep at the beginning of the sleep cycle is when our brains consolidate facts, figures and language.
Stage 2 Sleep – During the second half of sleep our brains consolidate motor memory. This helps with physical skills that are important to playing sports or mastering musical instruments.
REM Sleep – This part of sleep where you actively dream helps with memory and comprehension. It is critical in deciphering patterns and solving complex problems. It is useful for memory in general and for skills that require problem solving like math and science.
Naps help too as they typically contain all phases of sleep.
If you read the previous blog post on TDCS, then you will quickly understand the basics of Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS). A group led by Joel Voss at Northwestern just published a small study (16 people) in the Journal Science showing that after intensive fMRI brain mapping and five 20-minute TMS sessions, participants improved memory performance by 30%. This is quite amazing and in line with other studies. The key to this study is that the researchers first mapped the brain determining which regions of the brain synched closely with hippocampal neural networks. While a 30% improvement in memory is amazing, the work and cost involved make this technique unsuitable for the average person. However, there are easier ways to improve memory!
A couple of years ago, I published a slightly larger study (62 Stanford students) in the Journal of Appetite showing that chewing Think Gum improved memory by over 25%. The great thing about Think Gum is that it requires no brain mapping, no fMRI, no team of neuroscientists and no TMS device. All you need is $2.49 and a mouth.
1. Get Organized – Use a calendar to organize assignments, test dates and projects. Do this as soon as you get a syllabus. You might use a daily planner or even iCal on your phone. Start major projects way ahead of time, this will give you a buffer and time to put some real thought into them.
2. Don’t Fall Behind – It is much more difficult to catch up in a subject than it is to stay up to date. Especially in classes like science and math one lesson will teach concepts critical to the next lesson. If you don’t stay up to date, you might at well not attend. I’ve found it helpful to spend 5-10 minutes reviewing the syllabus before class and the last lesson to make sure I can review any key concepts.
3. Go to Class – This is very straightforward, but in the days of webcast classes it is easy to watch from home or get the notes from a friend. Sit close enough that you would feel bad if you fell asleep in front of your teacher and take notes. Taking notes really does help the concepts sink in.
4. Set a Schedule – It is very helpful to set a time for work and a time for fun. I always went to the library and worked until 6pm or until my work was done. That way I could have fun in the evening. There are many methods that can work, but in general take a 5-minute break every half-hour to stretch your legs, get a snack or chat with a friend.
5. Don’t Stress – Make sure to find time for something you enjoy every day. Know that there will always be that kid who studies 24-7. You don’t want to be that kid. You won’t be happy and in all likelihood you won’t preform any better by studying 3-times more. Get your work done on time, study until you feel good and then have some fun.
6. Exercise and Sleep – Find time for both exercise and a full night of sleep. Students often complain that there isn’t even enough time for homework. This is just not true. Be diligent. A 20-minute run will give you energy and clear your mind allowing you to actually focus on what matters. Same goes for sleeping. Avoid late night cramming at all costs. Sleeping improves memory and attention.
7. Chew Think Gum – Think Gum is a lightly caffeinated gum that has been shown to help improve memory and concentration. Don’t expect to skip numbers 1-6 and do well in school. But chewing Think Gum can help give you the boost you need to out compete your peers. It will help you make better use of your precious time. Use the code Back2School to save 25% off your online orders.
I’ve been hearing whispers about TDCS or Transcranial Direct Current Stimulation and related TMS Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation for a while now, but only recently decided to do some digging. The premise is that a small amount of electrical or magnetic stimulation can enhance or reduce the ability of neurons to fire (depending on the polarity). The premise seems plausible as neurons fire in response to tiny changes in the potential across neuronal membranes. There is no shortage of press on the subject. Some good ones include this article in Nature and another one in Wired. Amazingly, peer-reviewed papers back up the fact that TDCS can have a biological effect on people. A fantastic and highly entertaining introduction to TDCS can be heard on the podcast RadioLab.
The technology is almost stupidly simple and this might be its greatest strength and weakness. Basically a TDCS device consists of a 9-volt battery, a variable resistor and some electrodes. People connect the electrodes to various parts of the scalp, face or body and and get a small zap (~1m amp) for about 20 minutes. Users know the machine is on due to a tingling sensation and sometimes a metallic taste in their mouths. Supposedly, depending on the placement of the electrodes different neuronal clusters can be stimulated or repressed. What is really interesting is that people feel a bit different even after stopping TDCS and this might be due to a increase in certain neuronal receptors (like the same ones that respond to drugs like PCP and ketamine). Anecdotal evidence suggests that TDCS is relatively safe with skin irritation and seeing a flash of light depending on where the electrode is placed, being reported, but no long-terms studies have been done.
Because the technology is so accessible almost anyone can build or buy a machine. However this leads to many different machines, protocols voltages, electrode types and placements. This means it is quite difficult for one person to compare data with another.
There are claims that the technology can help people with chronic pain, depression and even improve memory, but more on that later. TDCS it is far from a proven technology. Proving that something like this works in conditions that are highly susceptible to the placebo effect can be challenging, but results are promising and I know of at least 1 start-up attempting clinical trials with this kind of technology.
It will be amazing if this technology is proven to work as there is some evidence that it can improve reaction speed, reading ability and even creativity. I may try to build a simple machine and will share my results on the blog if I do. Of course for those people who are hesitant to use an unproven technology especially when it includes electrically altering your brain there is always Think Gum. As you know, a peer-reviewed study demonstrated that Think Gum improved memory by over 25%. We’ll have to see how TDCS stacks up.