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Neurohacking - Tutorials
Written by NHA   
Friday, 10 April 2009 16:31
Article Index
Neurohacking Tutorial 2 - N1 & N2 + Self Assessment
New Perspective On Mental Health
Sleep and Food
Epigenetics and Input Control
Summary and Exercices
All Pages

 

 

Neurohacking Tutorial 2

Shaping Up Networks 1 & 2 and Self Assessment

Updated: Jul 2009

 

In this tutorial we’re going to learn about self assessment, particularly Functional Analysis (FA) and how this can be used together with input control to set up your personal NH plan.

We’re also going to explore the first golden rule in depth, learn a bit more about the brain and the first two networks, and take our first look at brain hormones and chemicals.


 

Rabbit

 

Follow the Right Habit

 

In Tutorial 1 we looked the main factors and abilities required for a healthy brain and powerful intelligence. These factors are:

  • Your physical senses and the brain’s physical condition
  • Your attention & orientation
  • Your imagination & association skills
  • Your perception
  • Your memory
  • Your emotional stability
  • Your creativity and ability to use tools
  • Your intellect / IQ
  • Your prediction, planning and strategy skills

 

These are the mental factors that we test for in assessments.

Together, the functions these factors enable provide humans with a full healthy intelligence and a flexible, creative mind, and the type of assessment we use for those functions is called Functional Analysis (FA). FA remained until the advent of fMRI one of the best ways (and is still the least expensive way) to assess brain health. We’ll be doing a full functional analysis after this tutorial; but first there is a need to understand the basic idea.

 

Q: If I don’t have any disorders or personality problems or anything, -doesn’t that mean I’ve already got a perfectly healthy brain and don't need to do a functional analysis? If I don't have any problems, why bother doing this?

A: Very few people would consider themselves 100% fit physically, so why should we assume we are so mentally? Whatever your brain starts out like, a functional analysis will still show up your greatest strengths and weaknesses, and moving from your current level of brain function towards optimal brain function then becomes as simple as ‘getting into shape’.

 

Also remember, some problems may not show symptoms for a long time [although they might]. It’s certainly not going to do you any harm to improve your brain; good maintenance and prevention of degradation is far better than cure! Even if you do start out with a really healthy brain, you can still improve. If we are already fit but working on improving the body, we generally still assess its weak points [too fat, too thin, not muscular enough,] and then find out how to change those things. You have a fairly good idea of what state your body is in, because you can see as well as feel it. But most people still view their brain as a ‘closed box’; they have no idea what might be going on inside, they just know when they’re feeling good and when they’re not!

FA allows us to understand what’s going on inside the brain by looking at our behavior and personality on the outside. We have been able to test for brain functions for much longer than we have known about the nature of neural nets, because functions can be assessed rather easily from habits of thought and behavior–and we now know that types of thought and behavior have corresponding patterns of network use.

How do we know this? It is partly by performing FA's in sync with fMRI that researchers have been able to determine which particular networks in the brain control these functions that correlate with high intelligence. We have also gotten a much clearer idea of how a healthy mind should be functioning overall, and what activities and which networks are necessary for that to take place. Essentially, fMRI together with functional analysis has brought brains out of the ‘black box’ closet and into the light.

This enables us to see which direction our habits are taking us and prevent any degradation we otherwise wouldn't be aware of. It also helps us 'shortcut' to the most advantageous exercises for us personally to bring our 'weakest points' up to the quality of the rest. All functions can be tested like this. Functional Analysis is still done in clinical medicine following accidents or illness that might affect a person's brain function. It is important to test for every function. It is no use a person who's had a bump on the head being considered “better” because they have an undamaged IQ, for example, if they feel too emotionally traumatized to leave the building, or cannot remember where they live or recognize their partner! We need all the functions, for a fully working intelligence.

In neurohacking, FA on its own is used by healthy people in order to assess which are their strongest networks and which ones could do with a little improvement, and that is how we use it in these tutorials.

One of the golden rules for NH success is “Know yourself”. If you want to achieve this, you need to know how well your brain is performing right now. In the next tutorial you can do a full analysis of the state of your brains’ networks for yourself, so that you’ll know where you’re starting out from, and what to work on first. This should enable you to ‘know yourself’ adequately for beginning effective neurohacking. Remember, everything we do moves us in one direction or the other –towards healthy growth and development or towards decay and deterioration. Your analysis is a map to guide you in the right direction, and it can only do that if it’s an accurate one. That’s why we’re having a practice, so we can show you how to achieve that.

 

On Your Side in Doing Your FA is (a very good habit to learn) - An Objective Attitude

The ability to see clearly which brain networks are not very good yet is the very thing that will help you to improve faster. Here is your first chance to deliberately practice a healthy habit –clear, objective self-assessment. To develop and keep an objective attitude, do your assessments in a calm, light-hearted way and be as clear as you can in your answers to the questions. A good approach to FA is to pretend you’re a scientist trying to get the most accurate results with no prejudice or personal interest. If you like the computer analogy, think of yourself as the observer-programmer looking at the brain; the hardware your mind needs to run on, and giving it a thorough diagnostic in preparation for an upgrade.

If you want to get physically fit and shapely, your weight and size must be accurately measured when beginning so you know what to improve and can check your rate of progress, and it’s just the same with brain fitness. So be as accurate about selecting the right descriptions of behavior as you possibly can. Under-rating yourself a little is safer than over-rating yourself. We’ll show you a self assessment that was done by another student (below), because it’s a good example of how to be straightforward, keep it simple and achieve a clear result.

 

Working Against You in Doing Your FA is Public Enemy Number 1 – Anxiety

Many people find it hard to do an accurate assessment of their own behavior at first because they are in the habit of ‘presenting’ themselves as they would ideally like to be, as they would like others to think of them, or sometimes as whatever they imagine is “average” or “normal”. Instead of a real assessment, it becomes a guessing game about what you think 'judges' think are the 'best answers'.

This is a bad habit often caused by schooling or work in which we unconsciously expect judgment, with ‘rewards’ for being ‘good’ and punishments for being ‘bad’ at things. If some of their abilities seem particularly low, some people will even feel ashamed or guilty or somehow ‘to blame’ for not looking after themselves. This is an anxiety based habit and it will slow you down and hold you back. Don’t rob yourself of an accurate assessment because anxiety said so! In any assessment, the only 'correct' answers are true ones.

Also remember, nobody is 'to blame' if our potential hasn't been developed due to lack of knowing how. Nobody knew how to develop a brain optimally until very recently, so it shouldn't be any surprise that most of us haven't! That's exactly why we're here, as some of the first people doing this! The really exciting news is about something we don't know -we don't yet know the limits to human intelligence.

 

Brain, Mind and Behavior 

Another common fear is that if you assess yourself accurately you’ll find out things about yourself you don’t like. This is nonsense, because we are looking here at brain ('hardware'), not mind ('software'). You can tell the difference because the brain and body sometimes pursue behaviors that the mind didn't really want or isn't even aware of, and the mind sometimes wants to pursue behaviors the brain and body cannot. This also happens with computers

Behavior is not always prompted by intelligence, and some behavior damages intelligence, so you should get used to the idea that YOU are NOT your behavior. If you have any doubt of this, consider that a dead frog can still jump if you stick electrodes up its bum. That's not behavior prompted by the frog's intelligence!

What you are really assessing in FA is what networks you use the most effectively (because you can use these to improve the others), and what kind of things may be getting in your way and how to stop them doing so. You are giving yourself the information you need in order to upgrade and remove obstacles, because every good hacker has a useful bag of tricks.

We don’t want to see any of your assessments or functional analyses, by the way (they are for you; we have our own!) Our objective is to enable you to use these tools yourself; not to use them for you. 

First, do this ‘quickie’:

 

 Ratty

DO IT NOW - Self Assessment Practice

 

Given a list of the factors that make up your intelligence, which areas do you think are your greatest strengths and weaknesses? Give it a try; in your Captain's Log, mark your abilities in the factors given below,fon a scale of one to ten (where 10/10 is best) by your own judgement right now. Beside each grade, write some notes about why you’ve given yourself the scores you have. (To help you, below the list is an example of another student’s first assessment. You might want to read the example first if you are not sure what to do).

  • Your physical senses and the brain's physical condition
  • Your attention & orientation
  • Your imagination & association skills
  • Your perception
  • Your memory
  • Your emotional stability
  • Your creativity and ability to use tools
  • Your intellect / IQ
  • Your prediction, planning and strategy skills 

 

Example

Your physical senses and physical condition 7/10 -My eyesight is crap, but all my other physical senses are in pretty good nick. I’m a pretty healthy person because I eat a good diet. I probably don’t get enough sleep.

Your attention and orientation 6/10 -I do get distracted when I’m trying to concentrate if noisy or interesting things are going on, so only 6 out of ten here.

Your imagination & association skills 8/10 -I have a vivid imagination, in fact its one of the things that distracts me sometimes. I love listening to stories because I can imagine the scenes really well, like a movie.

Your perception 8/10 -I’m not really sure what ‘perception’ means yet but I think it means how much do you notice. I think I’m more observant than most people so I’ve given myself an 8.

Your memory 5/10 -I can remember facts but I have a real problem with faces, and recognising landmarks in navigation, etc. My memory of how to do things or operate machines also fades over time if it’s not some thing I’m doing all the time. So I would like to improve my memory.

Your emotional stability 3/10 -I’m a very moody person and I find it hard to get into things when I’m not in the mood, it can even make me feel depressed. I don’t really have depression but I get pretty down sometimes. My worst mood problem is I get too impatient with people; I interrupt in conversations a lot and I’m rude to people, or I ignore them, which isn’t good for relationships, y’know? I think this is my weakest point because I often smoke and drink when in company in order to try to chill out a bit and not get so impatient.

Your creativity and ability to use tools 7/10 -I can use tools like computers okay but I do have trouble with manual media in art, for example, I probably couldn’t paint with a brush. I don’t really know how good I’d be with stuff like bushcraft or DIY or sculpture or mechanics because I’ve never done them. My creativity is pretty good though; I have lots of ideas and I design software.

Your intellect / IQ 9/10 -This is probably my strong point, I have a high IQ and I find it easy to think logically. I can get a bit too pedantic at times, when I start taking myself too seriously I might even get arrogant.

Your prediction, planning and strategy skills 5/10 -I’m great at making plans but can’t seem to keep to them; something always happens to change things that I hadn’t prepared for. My plans never seem to work out for my own life despite the fact I’m smart. I’m crap with deadlines and always end up trying to do everything at the last minute. I’m not a very organised person and I don’t always think of the most expedient ways to do things.

 

This is the kind of thing that NH students put on their first assessment, and it’s fine. The student in this example managed a pretty good insight into their own strengths and weaknesses, even though they didn’t know that much about the functions themselves yet. Having an overall practical, light-hearted look at yourself through this sort of calm, private introspection is a good first step towards ‘knowing yourself’.

Keep a copy of your own first assesment in your Captain's log and compare it to the adjusted versions you make later.

 

Q – In the student’s example above, which was their strongest network? 

A – They gave themselves the highest mark for intellect, and if you look back at the list at the top of this tutorial, you’ll find that’s mainly handled by network 5. They also gave themselves high marks for perception and imagination, so networks 1, 2 and 3 are also pretty active (although they did note that they weren’t yet sure what ‘perception’ actually means). As we learn more, we will review our scores to get them more accurate.

 

 

Brain

Starship Brain

 

Let’s consider a useful mnemonic aid -analogy for the overall brain and the networks themselves:

Think of your brain, for a moment, as a starship.

It’s lifetime mission: to thrive, explore the unknown, communicate, do experiments, discover, learn, interact, make friends, play with stuff, and have adventures.

It’s prime directive: to enable intelligence.

The cells of your brain form the ‘crew’ working in various 'sections' (networks) of the ship at their various 'stations' (processes) such as sensor arrays, life support, maintenance, engineering, navigation, security, communication, research, leisure, command & control, etc. All these various stations are packed into the six sections that working together run the whole brain ‘starship’ for you optimally.

'Optimally' only happens of course if all the departments have enough crew, are getting the resources and input they need, and are doing the right tasks with it!

YOU are the captain of your own ship. Having a good Captain is vital. Ships with poor maintenance and poor commanders do poorly and eventually fall apart, Captains who run a well-maintained ship and are competent do well.

YOU are conscious, some sections of your crew are not. To communicate your orders and make changes, you need to know how to communicate with those little aliens in the rear sections who can only feel or hear or think in pictures and code, as well as those more humanoid staff up front who can think in words.

Your job is to get all the sections fully functional and working together without conflict or confusion, and then to improve their performance together even more. Objectively speaking, this is really not fair on you.

I mean, here you are, left in charge inside this incredible, intricate, marvelous machine and nobody ever told you how it works, what it can do or how to fly it. Nobody even taught you the basics of what fuel to put in it or how to maintain it and prevent it falling apart.

Imagine if some aliens just gave you a spaceship and left. …Right. Apart from obvious concerns like where do you put the fucker (and this is not a problem with the brain), you have had no training, seen no examples of what it can do and how to get it to do it, there is an instruction manual in the ship's own computer somewhere but you don’t know how to access the file and anyway its written in alien; there is a crew of nanomachines and thinking entities waiting for instructions, and if you don’t take command the ship will just take off and bump about in the wind with you on board making all sorts of potentially dangerous goofers. Basically a leaderless crew will fly you constantly into trouble if they get no guidance (or worse; big trouble under the direction of somebody else!) If you don't know how to fly your own ship, plenty of unscrupulous others can divert it for their own purposes!

This is very like many people's current experience of life.

 

Biology expects our elders and parents to show us how the starships work, give us examples of how to fly them well and succeed at missions.

Biology doesn’t expect whole generations and societies full of people who don’t know any of this. It doesn’t expect us to have to dodge bullets, because if we were ready, we wouldn’t have to. With optimal nurturing and input, we'd have been flying since before birth. Without it, our intelligence is limited by every bit that's missing.

But relax. At last, neuroscience has discovered and is translating the manual, and we think things are going to be just fine. What we are doing here in this program is going through the instruction manual with you, and showing you how to read it yourself.

Obviously, if you're going to be Captain Competent, you need a strategy. So first of all, when you come here to read this manual, you’ll give everyone on board some time out. You’ll start taking the pressure off them first with anxiety reduction and input control, give them some rest & relaxation. Whenever you read these tutorials, think of it as a short 'holiday' or shore leave for your crew.

Take the decision not to worry about anything or try to think through any problems during this time, and if you get distracted, gently remind yourself of to the here and now. Remove distractions such as mobile phones and turn off TVs and radios. Even a short time improving your brain by giving it a break can solve a lot more problems than the same time spent worrying about them; that's the simple logic of it.

During the tutorials, you will get to know the ship itself, the crew you are working with and what happens in each department. That’s why we study each network; it’s like taking a tour of each section of your ship. We'll visit the sections first that you need to understand most.

 

Networks 1 & 2 

In this tutorial we’re looking at sections (networks) 1 and 2. (If you want more technical details about brain anatomy before going on, read: ‘Anatomy, physiology and brain networks: the basics’, in the Basics section of the library. This is a simple version.)

 

cerebellum_and_hypothalamus

Where are they? In the bottom back part of your ship –the brain stem and what is called the ‘old’ mammalian brain. They are marked here in red and orange, and contain two (labeled) particularly interesting bits -the cerebellum and the hypothalamus.

What do they do? Networks 1 & 2 share some tasks, for example sensory processing and locomotion.

Network 1 is responsible for processing information from your short-range senses (touch, heat, pressure, taste, texture), processing data about material (physical) things, and storing long term sensorimotor (‘muscle’) memories. It plays a main part in attention, self-care, and perception.

Network 2 is responsible for processing information from long-range senses such as sight and sound, motion, neurokinetics (awareness of where your body is), balance, locomotion, the basics of timing, coordination and rhythm, poise, most automatic body functions, spatial memory and behaviors. It plays a main part in alertness, observation, orientation, navigation and perception.

The Cerebellum plays an important role in much of N2’s processing. Our ability to learn sensorimotor tasks such as walking, swimming, dancing, mating, hunting and self defense relies on this area. It also provides the basics of timing and pitch to help us understand language and music. The cerebellum contains sensory ‘maps’; as it receives data on the position of various body parts in space it can anticipate the future position of a body part during the course of a movement, in a "feed forward" manner. The cerebellum implements the proper timing and modulates the force given to every motor command.

 

The hypothalamus, a tiny little cluster of pea-like things that dangles down from the bottom of the brain, is responsible for the ‘brain/body link’. Seen closer up, it’s quite stunningly pretty, but because it’s so very small [it weighs just one three-hundredth of the total brain mass] it’s hard to do it justice here. We’ve colorized some bits in the pic below so that you can see its complexity more easily:

 

 

This tiny little thing is responsible for the brain/body link that gives the feedback to and from your memory and perception about what your body is doing and what you want it to do. It signals your body to distribute the hormones that you need to match your body state and behavior to your mind state; to keep your heart beating at the correct rate, adjusts your breathing, temperature and alertness levels.

The Hypothalamus doesn’t strictly speaking ‘belong’ to' any particular network; it's an interface. It's a chemical factory and delivery system, in close connection with all three rear networks and the pituitary gland, functions as an interface between brain and body and helps maintain energy homeostasis [using hormones to regulate our heart rate, temperature etc] as well as releasing the relevant brain chemicals to make our body state and moods appropriate for our activities.

One of the most important functions of the hypothalamus is to link the brain and nervous system to the endocrine (hormone) system via the pituitary gland. The hypothalamus regulates body temperature, hunger, thirst, fatigue, and circadian cycles, gastric reflexes, birthing behavior, blood pressure, feeding, and immune responses. The hypothalamus is responsive to all sorts of input: Light (daylength and photoperiod for regulating circadian and seasonal rhythms); olfactory stimuli, including pheromones; steroids; transmitted information from the heart, stomach, and reproductive tract; blood chemistry; anxiety; invading microorganisms (responds by increasing body temperature, resetting the body's thermostat upward.)

 

Security Department & Counter-Terrorist Unit 

Your 'starship' has good protection and various security measures against pollution or invasion and you should know about them.

The front line of protection is your intelligence. Strategy, forward planning and preparedness, as well as attention and awareness. If you are unaware of dangers it is hardly possible to avoid them! All networks have ‘security crew’ whose job is to watch out for any input that may signify a problem. The brain is capable of several camouflage, stealth and evasive action techniques that you will learn more about as we go along. These protect you from dangerous input should you detect any.

The next line of defense is mechanical and material: ‘hull integrity’. Your skin and skeletal system protect you from injury and infection. You have an emergency supply of antiseptic in your saliva, filter hairs in your nose and ears, an emergency cortisol reducer and foreign body ejectors (tears, sneezing & coughing), and anti-fungal agents (in your urine). When you’re born, you also have automatic hard wired reflexes that prevent you inhaling water, allow you to grasp firmly, and successfully dock onto a nutritious nipple of the mothership that starts downloading all its own immunities and antivirus protection to the new little system that’s going online. What more does a little starship need? Not a lot.

And your third line of defense lies with this protection and the immune cells in your bloodstream. Your spleen and your appendix are part of this system; your spleen helps to manufacture new antibodies and your appendix runs a kind of ‘customs & border control’ that sorts everything coming through into ‘compatible with my system’ and ‘not compatible with my system’. (If you don’t have an appendix you need to be especially careful about food hygiene, because dangerous microorganisms in food may not be detected so easily or responded to so rapidly.)

On the fourth line there are various internal firewalls that filter out toxins and protect you from harmful substances; the lungs filter particles out of the air, the liver filters toxins from the blood and turns them into less harmful chemicals, the kidneys filter out waste, and so on.

So stuff has to breach four lines of defense to get as far as the master firewall; the blood brain barrier. The hypothalamus is bounded in part by specialized brain regions that lack an effective blood-brain barrier; and this makes it a prime target for hacking (the blood-brain barrier is like a firewall to keep viruses and dangerous stuff out, but we can sometimes hack it to get good stuff in). The important point here is not learning anatomy though, it is understanding that you can increase the efficiency of all these defense lines through input control. We include techniques to do this in the hacks & exercises at the end.

While the security of the brain is very very good, the security of the mind is hopeless. We have incredibly gullible minds. We are designed to look for patterns and to copy and to fit in with expected behaviors, and we want to believe. We begin life, as we are meant to be, open-minded. Current society is not, as a healthy culture is meant to be, honestly informative. As we progress you will gain a much clearer idea of how to tell truth from falsehood, and protect your mind as efficiently as your biology protects your brain.

 

Rabbit

Don't Leave Space Dock Without a Tractor Beam

 

To summarize: Networks 1 & 2 are most involved in dealing with sensory input; they remember patterns of behavior, and they learn best by practising movements or by moving about.

The cerebellum controls a lot of hardware robotics (moving your body around).

The hypothalamus makes and delivers software applications (chemicals that make little subroutines run).

On your ‘starship’, sections 1 and 2 would include life support, repairs & maintenance systems, mechanics, robotics, sensor arrays & interpreters, safety & security, communications, one memory database each and logistics (maps of how to get around the ship, where resources are and what needs to be sent where when). These are all the systems that would have to be put in place first if you were building a real starship! The basics are built before the details when our brains are first growing too. And when we’re developing intelligence, we follow the same order. There is no point trying to get the crew to perform well if life support is sub-optimal or they don't have the resources they need.

As a general rule to help you remember, network 1 deals with physical, solid, material things, like trees, people, insects, our limbs, and network 2 deals with how those things move about in spatial ways –their motion and behavior in relation to each other. For example, network 1 notices the pile of horse poop, recognizes it and thinks 'yuk!', and network 2 diverts your steps and prevents you walking in it. Our brain processes so fast, and these interactions occur so close together, that they are effectively simultaneous.

Evolution has refined the brain to develop these networks first, because upon these foundations of attention and orientation everything depends. Without them we have no clear perception and sparse data to put into memory. Without them we couldn't learn anything. That’s why we work on networks 1 and 2 first of all.

 

“You left space dock without a tractor beam?!”

(Admiral James T Kirk in Star Trek 'Generations')

 

Neurohackers sometimes fail because they attempt to improve one aspect of intelligence, for example intellect, without first upgrading the stuff on which it depends, for example, memory.

One topic of increasing popular interest, for example, is "brain fitness," or how to maintain and further develop cognitive abilities. This is a bit like buying a new calculator program and expecting it to improve the memory capacity and processing speed of your computer! In fact, the program might even slow everything down. If you improve memory capacity and processing speed first, every function including intellect will improve.

It really is difficult to convince some captains that this is the fastest method to success, but it's true. In all cases we must work from the ‘bottom up’ and put in all the foundations first before ‘doing an upgrade’ if we want a fully-formed, high quality intelligence. Don't leave space dock without a tractor beam!

 

Q –Can you remember (without looking back) what kinds of long term memory are stored in networks 1 & 2?

A –Network 1 stores sensorimotor memory and network 2 stores spatial memory.

 

doitnowrat

DO IT NOW

 

Get your Captain's log and look at the golden rules.Since these tutorials were first written, we've learned a lot more about how these rules apply, originally we were unsure of the order they should be in, and then we realized that they match up with the networks rather nicely. So it's worth checking back to see if you've got them in the right order because tutorials get updated as we learn.

The first six rules associate with one particular network each (Rule 1 goes with Network 1, and so on). If you like, you can make notes about the networks next to their relevant rules, or you may like to start separate “network” pages. Note down very briefly what sort of things the first 2 networks do, what sort of memory they use, and what rules apply.

Think about why each rule might be especially relevant to each network. You may not see any clear reason yet, but it is good to consider this. If you look at what functions the networks perform, you may get some idea of how the rules relate to them.

 

Q – Can you guess why there are eight rules; not just six? What might the other two be for?

A –The remaining two rules apply holistically; they apply to you as a whole person and they concern all networks and all procedures; they are about the nature of perception. We'll talk about them more in a future tutorial.

 


 

brain 

A New Perspective On Mental Health

 

In tutorial 1 we looked at some of the main changes in what we now know about the brain and intelligence. Here we’ll take a brief look at what the new scientific discoveries have told us about the nature of mental health.

Consider what's changed: we now know that the quality and quantity of brain cell connections we can develop determines not only our intelligence but also our personality overall and ultimately our mental health. Most importantly, we know that the quality and quantity of connections is not fixed, but can be increased by pursuing the correct behaviors to stimulate their development, or decreased by giving them unhealthy input or no input at all.

The hard part of this discovery to take for some researchers is the revelation of how easy it is to accidentally damage intelligence by misusing or not using the brain, but that’s good news to neurohackers because it teaches us more about what to avoid!

The concept of ‘mental health’ has also changed fundamentally because of this knowledge, but not everyone is yet aware of this. When the previous generation of neuroscientists were students, (not too long ago), ‘mental health’ was basically about deciding who was ‘sane’ or ‘insane’, and this was portrayed by medical science [rather short-sightedly] as a simple polarity. Either you were sane, or you weren’t.

You were either strolling along on the top of the cliff of sanity, or you had ‘gone over the edge’ or fallen, or jumped, or been pushed off it; you either ‘got the plot’ or you had ‘lost the plot on drugs, man’; granddad either ‘still had all his marbles’ or had ‘lost his marbles, poor old thing’.

Neuroscience has progressed a heck of a lot since then, partly because some researchers began to ask the sorts of questions that most people never even thought about –like, where and why and how and when did granddad drop the first marble, and, how many marbles did granddad start out with, and how many must we lose before we are, effectively, a marble-free zone, and whether that was inevitable, and whether we couldn’t increase our marble stash, and so on…

Way back then, not only did we not have any of the tech to find much of this out; there was also a certain degree of trepidation about the research itself. ’Most people’ includes ‘most scientists’ [scientists are people too] and I’m not sure that most people even wanted to think about whether they personally might have dropped a couple of marbles already during situations of personal chronic stress, let alone contemplate the possibility that they might not be able to pick them up again.

Also, before the advent of fMRI et al, we did not have the ability to properly show the development of mental dysfunction, and consequently we could not detect it until it became relatively severe. We recognized ‘depression’ and ‘bipolar disorder’ as mental problems but we were not able to see the precursors (what changes lead to these conditions) and consequently we did not grasp the true nature of mental health itself, because it turned out to be not a polarity at all but a 'sliding scale' balance that can go 'out of the zone' in either direction; very much like the health of the body.

 

“You’ve been down that road Neo. You know exactly where it ends”

(Trinity, “The Matrix”)

We now know that people do not just ‘become depressed’ or ‘go senile’, there is a series of traceable changes towards and away from these states, based on habits of thought and behavior, all the way from total mental health to total mental dysfunction. Dysfunction begins when these changes lead us outside of the green zone. Development and repair occur when the changes move us closer to the zone or keep us in the zone.

Networks can stop working properly and decline for a long time [sometimes years] without you or anybody else noticing any change and before you show any outward symptoms of malfunction, unless you know what you are looking for.

Now that researchers do know what to look for, we can assess the health of a particular brain by looking at and assessing the kind of behaviors displayed by the individual right now, because we know where those behaviors lead –towards or away from entelechy. Thus if we take the right steps, we can improve performance and prevent decline.

 

Neurotransmitters

Another area that has experienced much new discovery lately is neurotransmission (the role of brain chemicals in signaling, thought, mood and interaction). The most important and useful brain chemicals a neurohacker can know about are neurotransmitters. They are the chemicals that signal cells, they make up part of that all-important 'inner environment'.

Most transmitters are produced by the first three networks. A transmitter is important wherever it is used as well as where it is released, and many neurotransmitters are used all over the brain. This is why, if insufficient amounts of transmitter are made by just one network, the whole brain will be deficient, so we learn which bits to hack to get our transmitters back into balanced production.

Transmitters released in the brain and hormones released by the body also have optimal effect on the brain only if they have somewhere to go. For example, if the network for receiving any chemical is very sparse, no matter how much of the chemical is produced it will have little effect on the brain! This is why it is important to have all your networks developed enough to do their job well.

That doesn’t mean brain size is the important thing though! (Einstein had a notably small brain.) It is the density of networks that matters, and that is about how many connections each network can make. And how many transmitters can use them. The more connections, the more sites for receiving and sending transmitters, and this is what gives your brain faster processing speed and better multitasking [parallel processing] skills.

Here’s a list of the networks, together with some of the main transmitters they use. Don’t worry if you know nothing about neurotransmitters yet; you’ll get used to what they do as we’re going along, because we’ll remind you, probably until you are really sick of it.

 

  • Network 1 – Serotonin, Acetylcholine
  • Network 2 – Dopamine, Norepinephrine
  • Network 3 – Oxytocin, Cortisol
  • Network 4 – Acetylcholine, Dopamine
  • Network 5 – Norepinephrine, Serotonin
  • Network 6 –  Endorphins, ACTH 

 

Other substances as well as neurotransmitters, such as glucose, Omega 3 fatty acids [and some things as simple as water], are constantly needed by the entire brain. Your overall diet should be providing these basics, but no matter what you eat or what supplements you take you cannot make or use sufficient amounts of neurotransmitters without having sufficiently developed networks to do so. 

Replacing transmitters or stimulating receivers with drugs can work to improve your state of mind and intelligence to some extent in the short term. But the only long-term way to keep transmitters balanced and improve your brain is to get it naturally fit and keep it that way.

 

What Happens If Things Go Wrong?

 

Below is a diagram that we are going to use a lot. You should sketch or copy it in your Captain's log.

 

Map of Networks as Seen From Above


network_template

 

This is a schematic map (not a literal portrayal) of brain networks. The brain is 3-dimensional, and we are restricted to 2-D, so we have had to ‘flatten’ the structure to show the relationships of networks from underneath and on top. The numbers of the networks are placed roughly where network cores are if we took a slice across the brain from ear to ear (the front of the brain is at the top.)

This is the ‘ideal’ version of the map with all colored networks fully functional.

As we said in tutorial 1, usually there are only two ways in which networks can go wrong. Either [nonuse] some networks are wasting away doing nothing, or [wronguse] one or more networks are doing the wrong things instead of what they should be doing, which confuses and slows down all the other departments and also wastes a lot of time. Both are pretty harmful, because both lead to degradation in the end.

Perhaps surprisingly, nonuse and wronguse usually happen together. Here’s why:

Nonuse can lead to wronguse: Every little neuron is like a member of your ‘starship’ crew; a valuable employee. When any network gets low input, less exercise and less nutrients it does less work, and that network slowly becomes 'downsized' (because resources (cells and nutrients) are removed from networks if they’re idle for any length of time). This is plasticity, enabling the brain to adapt, but whenever some networks are sparse the rest of the networks are left with a heavier workload. They take over more and more functions they are not designed for (they begin wronguse) and the neglected networks with the least input (whole sections of your ship!) begin to close down. All the abilities, applications and skills they would have provided inevitably go down with them. -And that means we lose those abilities and we get dumber!

Wronguse can lead to nonuse: When a network starts dealing with the wrong information and doing the wrong things, it gets big ideas about itself and its own importance and tries to take over the whole ship. It begins to believe [and so do we, because dominant networks dominate thinking] that it can run things entirely on its own, and that its way of doing things is the only valid way that there is. It diverts all the information and abilities of all the other departments into the service of its own agenda via spreading ‘thought propaganda’, and actively discourages us to use any departments it doesn’t understand by labeling them either ‘unimportant’ or ‘dangerous’ (these fall into nonuse).

Eventually the rogue network does the equivalent of mutiny and takes command of the ship. This is where mental problems begin; when a part of the ‘machine’ is trying to run the whole machine but has already unknowingly shut down many of the other parts!

This is what is referred to in Matrix Theory as being ‘stuck in a Matrix’; and Personality theory calls the associated mental state “incongruity”.

(If you want to know more about this before going on, read “Biological psychology & personality theory: the basics”; in the Basics section of the library. If you want to know more about Matrix theory see the 'Theory & Research' section of the library).

Becoming stuck seriously limits our intelligence, because our talents are slowly restricted to the thoughts, interests, memories and abilities of a single brain network, and our awareness narrows down along with it so that we do not see that we are missing anything. So ‘wrong use’ of some departments also leads to ‘non-use’ of others!

One main reason this very common problem starts is due to a change of blood flow to different parts of your brain. This can happen because some networks have been developed in the wrong order (due to past nonuse & wronguse), or it can happen for chemical reasons (some neurochemicals and hormones increase or decrease the blood flow to certain parts of the brain).

This is how anxiety has such a powerful effect on thinking. The hormones it produces reduce blood flow to frontal networks, making it harder for your conscious mind to think clearly; and increasing blood flow to muscles and the skeletal system.

There are classic patterns of nonuse/wronguse. By far the most common two are colloquially known as “Frontloading” and “Rearloading”.

Any combination of front nets in wronguse and rear nets in nonuse is ‘frontloading’. Below are some examples of typical frontloading:

frontloaders

In these maps, colored nets are in wronguse and white nets in nonuse. 

Any combination of rear nets in wronguse and front nets in nonuse is 'rearloading'. Below are some examples of typical rearloading:

rearloaders

In these maps, colored networks are in wronguse and white networks are in nonuse.

 

The brain is meant to function as a whole. Our thoughts and memories must be selected from all our experience; not just one section of it. Remember, shutting down a network cuts off access to any long term memories it is storing and any processing tasks it can do! Most networks by themselves are shallow and rather close-minded, unable to attend to or understand (and eventually even to perceive) anything unless it is relevant to themselves and their own particular processes.

When one or two networks try to take over everything, general anxiety disorders and personality disorders will eventually emerge, because the mind actually gets anxious when it can't work properly, but in a 'catch 22' it cannot work properly when it’s anxious!

Think of your starship’s crew, down below, if they are getting danger signals. Front nets (sections) are closed down by anxiety… the crew below would be sending the bridge a message like “Warning! We are getting signals that things are about to go badly wrong!” But they don't get the information to tell them what is wrong, why, where or how (only front nets could work that out). Unaware that the problem is internal, the unsuspecting Captain naturally focuses on events outside the ship looking for the cause.

When communication with front nets goes down, we are not aware of our state of mind in a conscious manner. We usually blame the anxiety on something on the outside, and this is the root of paranoia. But the unconscious brain is aware when it’s “being pushed in the wrong direction” and slipping outside the entelechy zone, and it knows this will have eventual serious effects on the whole brain, so it keeps sending the hormonal danger signals.

 

Q: How can such a small problem escalate into such a big issue?

A: A big part of the problem of unbalanced networks concerns the fact that every brain network uses its own “favorite” chemicals as transmitters, and we need a balance of these brain chemicals in order to maintain a ‘balanced’ mind, personality and awareness.

If any network is under-used, we will get a deficiency in the particular transmitters it produces and uses, and this will in turn cause the loss of the ‘receptor’ tissue in all other networks that use those transmitters waiting in vain to receive them.

This is why many psychiatric disorders can be successfully treated by drugs either replacing or enhancing these chemicals. The great majority of medication for psychiatric disorders works this way [the chemical changes caused by SSRIs, for example, actually cause new brain-growth in network 3, replacing some of the receptor connections that have been lost and even growing whole new cells].

Sometimes, the brain’s unconscious awareness of a neurotransmitter imbalance results in people unknowingly ‘self-medicating’ by using tobacco, coffee or alcohol, or other drugs that influence brain chemicals’ production, because many recreational drugs also target neurotransmission and replace the signals that anxiety has blocked, or reduce anxiety hormones themselves, speeding up repair and growth.

Neurotransmitters are designed to work together, so by exercising all of your networks you will enable the production of all the essential neurotransmitters for your health and intelligence, and keep your personality as well-balanced as your brain chemistry.

Exercising networks also improves your body health –because neurotransmitters control many hormones as well (that’s how psychological problems can cause physical symptoms such as headaches or raised blood pressure.)

Whatever the first symptoms, the results of unbalanced brain activity always eventually manifests as loss of brain tissue. Loss of a little will just slow us down, and if it’s just for a short time or due to something like injury, we can always build it back up again. But slow, permanent ongoing loss will eventually lead to irreversible loss of memory, and from there to confusion and senility. That’s why it’s important to prevent rather than cure!

You don’t have to learn all about neurotransmitters in order to protect your health, but you should be aware that most psychological disorders begin with the initial wrong use of networks and an associated imbalance of neurotransmitters.

Most people start out in NH with some network imbalance, but fortunately, any degradation can be reversed. We can shape up our brains and get them fit, even if we already have some problems when we begin. It does take some time and effort to achieve mental fitness and high intelligence, and obviously the more ‘out of shape’ you are, the more you’ll have to do, but then again, the more you have to gain!

 

rabbit

 

To summarize; you would be very unusual if you started out in neurohacking with an optimally performing brain, because as far as we know, nobody does. We all begin in varying stages of fitness, both physically and mentally.

Mental health is a balance, much like physical health. It is obvious to us that there is a long, sliding scale in physical health & fitness between, say, an obese sedentary alcoholic smoker, or a person with serious malnutrition, and an athlete in top form! Most of us are a bit vague about where exactly we think a line could be drawn between being fit and unhealthy, but most of us would say we are ‘around average’ physical fitness most of the time, and that’s probably fair enough unless you are Superman or seriously ill.

The equivalent of absolute physical health for intelligence is optimal mental function, (and then the possibility of augmenting that to become mentally ‘superfit’; -the equivalent of a mental athlete). It's obvious that in just the same way we vary physically, everyone starts out in a different place on that mental ‘fitness scale’ in the beginning, and everyone has different experiences, and everyone develops at a different pace. So there is no ‘average’ intelligence and there is no point where intelligence can be said to be ‘fixed’ or ‘finished’, and there is no 'average' mental health, because all of these things change throughout our lives.

So there is no ‘average’ neurohacker and no 'usual' goal in NH apart from getting into the entelechy zone, the 'journey' itself is the most important thing so you must select what you need and what is useful to you as we are going along –that is how you tailor this program for yourself personally. Your FA (next tutorial) will tell you what sort of shape your brain is in, and that will guide you in what exercises to select and what hacks you can do to improve.

We do all benefit from the same basics, however, so now we’re going to have an in-depth look at the first golden rule.

 

 


 

 

Golden Rule 1 

As we have seen, there are several ways networks can get out of balance, but underpinning all of them is our biology, and this is the basis of golden rule # 1; “If the brain doesn’t get what it needs, the mind won’t do what you want”.

This rule may seem like the bleeding obvious but it’s amazing how many people don’t take it into account. What you eat and how much sleep you get and when, are choices that can give or take away the fundamental requirements for a healthy brain. Just as with physical fitness, the healthier you are, the more you can push it, but all neurohackers should consider their sleep patterns important, and should study nutrition. Staying up studying for another hour before exam day may make you more stupid in the morning than getting that extra hour in sleep!

 

Sleep

 

Sleeping kitty

 

Biology expects you to go to sleep when your body and brain are tired, and wake up when they’re not. Breaking into this natural biological event with alarm clocks, sleeping pills, coffee, cigarettes, sugar and speed has caused a generation of sleep-deprivation-related anxiety disorders. Getting back to that natural cycle of sleeping without interference has cured some cases of depression and paranoia without changing any other variable.

There is a lot of discussion in the media about ‘how much sleep’ is good for you. The answer is, it not only depends on the person but on the events the person experiences, each and every day. We ‘defragment’ our memories in our sleep, and if you have a day of busy new experiences it’s going to take longer to file it all away.

If you're sleep deprived, the increasing need for memory defragging causes loss of attention during waking time. Consequently, many people spend up to half their time not thinking about the task at hand even when they’ve been told explicitly to pay attention

The amount of sleep necessary is also affected by the temperature, your physical health, what you eat, your age, whether you meditate [your brain can also defrag while you meditate], the weather, and about six hundred other factors!

So remember, there is no set amount of sleep that is good for everyone all of the time. If anyone tells you we should ‘all’ get x or y amount of sleep a night, they don’t know much about brains.

“Most people thrive on between 8.2 and 8.4 hours per night”, according to a Harvard sleep researcher, but we stress that this is not applicable as a general rule. For example if you meditate well, you’re fit and healthy and you sleep when nature wants you to, you could only need half that! If you sleep when you want to, you actually need less sleep.

If you work or study 9-5 style, it can be very hard on your sleep quality and your health. Most people who do so are not going to be performing on optimal (which says a lot about how society is structured –it’s not designed with your health as a priority).

Based on all the scientific evidence available, we believe that eating and sleeping whenever you want to is a basic human right and necessary for optimal intelligence, not to mention health and happiness.

The first time people hit a dilemma like this in NH they sometimes get baffled about what to do. It’s easy. You make priorities, depending on what matters to you most in the here and now. It’s a bit like when an amateur athlete or musician has at some point got to decide which is more important to follow –the ‘hobby’ or the job?

If and when to take that leap is up to the individual and their circumstances. Some compromise by moving to part time work, self-employment or flexitime so as to have more time for training, some take the plunge and try to earn a living doing what’s good for their health and/or encouraging others to do so. Some decide they don’t have the time to ‘go pro’ right now and will risk another few years missing out on healthy sleep in order to get their material lives sorted out, and fit in NH to the best of their ability like a hobby. If you’re included in that last ‘some’, there’s quite a lot you can do to improve the quality of the sleep you do get, but first you need to find out whether this problem is getting in your way right now. We’ve included an exercise to assess your sleep in the ‘hacks and exercises’ section at the end.

 

Food

 

Kitty asleep on its plate

 

Serious NH-ers like to follow a diet that ensures not only physical health and longevity but also that gives the brain all the necessary resources to function at optimal. Some nutrients and supplements are particularly associated with assisting or protecting brain functions. [More info is available in the ‘Drugs & chemicals’ section of the library.]

We recommend a ‘low GI’ diet. The ‘GI’ [Glycemic Index’] is a classification of foods according to the speed at which they release their sugars into the bloodstream. Fast-release (High GI) food is associated with oxidative damage to cells –particularly neurons, and several glucose-processing disorders including metabolic syndrome, type II diabetes and obesity, inflammatory diseases and Alzheimers.

For a long time in health circles there has been an interest in “CR” [Calorie Restriction] because it appears to promote unusual health, vitality and long life for many mammals. It is effective because of gene transcription [effectively some kinds of CR alter the expression of genes that cause some aspects of metabolism and aging, both in the body and the brain].

The discovery that some types of CR need not be followed on a permanent basis in order to achieve this change is welcome as well as surprising. And now we also know that a low GI diet works in the same way (but without having to restrict calories).

A low GI diet followed for around six months will affect semi-permanent changes that can only be reversed if you’re very overindulgent afterwards. So you can stay on low GI around half the time and stuff your face the other half [although we’d recommend you stuff your face with things that don’t slow your brain down too much]. You can always go back to full GI to ‘reset’ the genome if you accidentally overdo it and trip those genes in the wrong direction (outside the entelechy zone).

If you stay on low GI there’s no need to restrict any calories. Here’s the hack –the change in the genome that’s deleterious to health 'turns on' in response to an excess of events called “exothermic reactions”. That’s a kind of chemical reaction that gives off a lot of heat. All high GI foods (sucrose [table & cooking sugar], corn products, and many fats and carbohydrates) cause these reactions to occur inside our bodies and brains, releasing particles called free radicals that damage the tissue there. These foods are all ‘high GI’ because their sugars are released quickly.

When food is cooked in hot vegetable oil or baked it produces similar reactions in the food, creating carcinogenic chemicals like acrylamide. Regardless of origin, these reactions affect the expression of the genome in a way that changes how efficiently the body can deal with glucose. If the body deals with glucose in the wrong way, we get ‘metabolic syndrome’, become insulin-resistant, susceptible to diabetes, age more quickly and are prone to cardiovascular problems. It also slows down the brain and encourages senility, so we don’t want to go there.

When we follow the low GI diet, the genetic ‘switch’ can be clicked in the opposite direction. Once it has, our whole metabolism changes. We can relax adherence to the diet as long as we keep watch for any warning signs.

 

Signs to Watch For

Going in the right direction

If you are processing glucose optimally your blood pressure will be slightly lower than ‘normal’ for your age, and your body temperature will be a degree or 1.5 degrees lower than ‘normal’ (the temperature thing can be difficult to spot). You should also notice increased energy and of course if you were overweight, weight loss.

If it’s not working, you may need to adjust your hormones by practiing anxiety reduction (this hack works even if you don’t feel worried or nervous) because anxiety hormones are the main remaining thing that can keep that rogue bit of genome turned on.

Going in the wrong direction

You’ll notice weight gain, possibly fatigue, and a rise in blood pressure and temperature (although your GP may say both are ‘normal’). Your blood sugar and cholesterol will rise and you may get headaches or indigestion. Some people notice mood swings or waves of fatigue.

 

The GI Diet in a Nutshell

The low GI diet is pretty easy to follow, and it’s packed with goodies for your brain. It goes like this:

Get a regular size dinner plate. Fill one third of it with fresh unprocessed protein [fish, meat, cheese, eggs, or whatever you like]. Fill the other two-thirds with vegetables and/or fruit. Eat it. Do this 3 times a day.

Twice a day, have a half-sized version for a snack. In the ‘veg & fruit’ space on your snack plate, include half a handful of nuts or other source of omega 3.

Avoid Completely

Chips/fries, crisps, corn products, fizzy drinks, jelly/jam, candy/sweets

Avoid as Much as Possible

Salt, sugar, pasta, potatoes, white rice, bread, cookies/biscuits, cakes, processed foods [eg burgers, bacon, sausages], anything with loads of additives, processed cereals, grains except for oats. 

 

If you’re one of those people who can’t handle life without bread, use wholemeal. You can replace your ‘snack’ meals with sandwiches if you’re eating bread.

Anything fried should be fried in olive oil, and grilling or boiling is better than baking or frying. Barbecues are right out. Replace your burgers with lumps of pork or chicken steak or fish in wholemeal bread with a bit of fresh salad and mayo and it’s really not all that different!

If you smoke cannabis and you get the munchies, explore melons, peaches, lychees, walnuts and grapes, honey on wholemeal bread, fruit yogurts, and custard with honey and anything. [If you don’t like any of this you are either dead or not stoned enough.]

This diet is NOT to be strictly adhered to; once you’re sure your body has adjusted and is processing glucose okay it’s fine to eat a load of crap once or twice a week, but the GI diet should be your ‘default’ eating habit if you want to look after your brain.

And finally, timing: if you eat when you are actually hungry, you will get the most nutrients out of your food. Don’t eat because it’s a certain time of day –let your body nibble what it wants when it wants it.

 

Q: What if I’m a vegetarian?

A: No problemo. Use wholegrains and pulses, not processed ones, and make sure you find a regular source of B12 and other B vitamins essential for the brain. Walnuts and olive & linseed oil are rich in Omega 3, which the brain likes a lot. Try to avoid processed soya/fungal products like TVP or Quorn. You might need Zinc supplementation, because chemicals called phytates in wholegrain foods and legumes can diminish zinc absorption, and you might need vitamin B12 supplementation too if you don’t like yeasty foods.

 

Pollution

Pollution, for the brain, is anything toxic to it. One good reason to watch your diet is that a lot of food additives are harmful to the brain. Here is a list of some of the worst:

  • Acesulphame K
  • Aspartame & other artificial sweeteners
  • BHA & BHT
  • Coal tar dyes & food colorings
  • MSG (monosodium glutamate)
  • Olestra
  • Potassium bromate
  • Propyl gallate
  • Sodium nitrite
  • Sulfur dioxide
  • Table sugar (sucrose)
  • Table salt (sodium chloride)
  • Trans fats

 

The quality of your air and water will affect your intelligence. Fortunately, the public now knows about the dangers of lead in petrol, smog in the air and pesticides in water. Unfortunately, it still doesn’t know about the dangers of cosmetic products in the air (or on your skin) and chlorine and fluoride in water, 

Here is a list of rogue chemicals you should try to avoid in personal products: 

  • 1, 4 Dioxane
  • Bentonite
  • Benzylphanone
  • Diethanolamine (DEA)
  • Dioxin
  • Glycerin
  • PABA / Oxybenzone / benzophenone
  • Polyethylene glycol
  • Propylene glycol (antifreeze)
  • Sodium benzoate
  • Sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS) and sodium laureth sulfate (SLES)

 

You should avoid poisoning your brain as much as possible. And remember, the worst pollutant of all is anxiety hormones –because they make your immune system less able to cope with all the others!

 

Exercise

 

Dancing rat

 

Walking for thirty minutes a day is quite enough exercise for a healthy brain. Many of us get more exercise than this walking around at work! It may be necessary to exercise more than this to maintain your physical shape, but that’s outside the subject matter here.

Sex is also a superb exercise, as are dancing, swimming or bicycle riding. We’re sure you can manage at least one of these activities now and again.

Exercise maintains a healthy flow of blood to the brain because of increased cardiovascular fitness. It also increases a chemical nerve growth factor, which helps you to repair damage and grow new connections between brain cells. The fitter your body, the more it is able to support your brain in optimal performance.

However, there are payoffs between mental and physical fitness. It is better for the health of your body not to smoke tobacco or drink caffeine, for example, but for some people the health of their brain deteriorates as anxiety increases when they do not. You must look at such ‘trade-offs’ carefully because there is no use developing a super-fit body if you must damage your brain to do so! The first priority is to keep anxiety hormones down by whatever means. Only when that is established can anything else do you any good.

(if you want to know more about exercise before going on, read ‘The Benefits of Physical Exercise’ in the ‘methods & tech’ section of the library).

 

 

doitnowrat

 

DO IT NOW - Find Out If You’re Fit Enough to Supply the Brain with the Oxygen it Needs.

 

You don’t need any special equipment to do this. You need a watch or a clock with a second hand, OR a BP/Pulse measuring machine.

Sit quietly for a minute or two, then measure your “resting pulse” [the easiest way is to count the number of heartbeats in 15 seconds and multiply by 4]. Make a note of it in beats per minute.

Now subtract 7 from 978 in your head. Say the numbers out loud and do it as fast and as accurately as you can. When you have a result, subtract seven from that result, and so on. Do this for about two minutes.

Take your pulse again. It should have risen by between 10 and 20 beats per minute.

If it doesn’t rise at all or only increases by 5 or less, you need more physical exercise to supply your brain with its needs.

 

brain

Getting Used to Where We Are Going

 

We want you to be able to understand the links between your functional analysis and input control. Here are the connections:

Networks / functional analysis / plasticity / epigenetics / anxiety reduction / input control.

 

By now you should know a little bit about the first four steps; for example you should know: 

  1. That the brain has networks.
  2. That a functional analysis can tell you which networks are strongest and which need upgrading.
  3. That the brain structure is plastic and can be changed and developed.
  4. That the main thing getting in the way of development is anxiety.

 

If you didn’t know any of that you have missed some tutorial somewhere! We will fill in the last two categories (epigenetics and input control) during the rest of this tutorial.

 


 

Epigenetics

“Behave as though it’s happening, and the brain will think it’s happening.” This is not just a golden rule; it’s a master rule that applies to perception and processing itself.

It’s also the secret behind the ‘placebo effect’. When the brain ‘thinks things are happening’, gene transcription factors alter the expression of your genome. So it doesn’t matter if you don’t think you’re highly intelligent already; you can always become so, if you have enough time and you learn what you’re doing, which genes to turn on and how to go about it.

The terms 'epigenetics' and 'proteomics' sound horribly scientific and complicated, but they're not. In effect, turning on the proteome via triggering genes through epigenetics is what you do any time you go to the gym and exercise!

Your unconscious biology doesn’t know about gyms and weights and benches and stuff, it only knows that you are a biological creature whose lifestyle seems to regularly demand periods of increased exertion. Therefore, reasons the genome, the tools for that lifestyle need to be provided, so it churns out the proteins to increase muscle size and upgrade the cardio vascular system.

Biology doesn’t care whether you’re out hunting deer or running on a treadmill, all it knows is that your physical movements are associated with a lifestyle that needs bigger muscles and better circulation, and the signals from your behavior are what is telling the genome to turn on the genes to make the proteins that build and maintain them. You are eliminating the things limiting the body and setting up the conditions for fitness to develop, and it cannot do otherwise.

The genome just responds to chemical signals for ‘needs’. The whole point of epigenetics is that changing conditions triggers different genes. By using anxiety reduction and input control you are eliminating the things limiting the brain and setting up the conditions for intelligence to develop, and it cannot do otherwise.

 

Input Control

We are used to thinking of the ‘environment’ as meaning “outdoors”, because we talk a lot about nature and ecology and this is where the word gets used, but “environment” really means ‘whatever something is surrounded by’. The environment for a bunch of bacteria in a test tube is whatever liquid they are floating in, and the environment for a brain cell is whatever chemicals it is floating in. If you like you can think of the planet as the ‘overall’ environment and the brain chemistry as the ‘local’ or 'inner' environment for networks.

Brain networks get their input from various places; from your senses obviously, but also from the body and from other networks inside the brain itself. The brain thinks of all these sources as its “environment”.

Changes in the inner environment (your brain chemistry) in response to changes In the overall environment are what signals the genome. Input control is all about making beneficial changes happen on purpose in that 'inner environment' by manipulating input from the overall environment.

Environmental effects on learning and memory became apparent in the late Sixties and early Seventies, when Mark Rosenzweig and colleagues examined how manipulating levels of sensory stimulation, exercise and social interaction affected rats’ behavior.

Back then, laboratory rats typically lived in a cage with bedding, food and water but little else. In the enriched environments (EE) that Rosenzweig’s group created, animals got access to a changing roster of things to play with and increased opportunities for socialization and exercise.

The brains of EE rats were larger and they outperformed controls (which were housed in typical cages) in learning and memory tasks. Subsequent work by researchers looking at the cellular level has shown that EE triggers changes in the density of brain networks and upgrades resistance to neurodegenerative disease and learning-related neural activity.

A lot has been discovered in epigenetics since then. Behavioral, cellular and molecular studies have revealed significant effects of enriched environments on our own species, and provided new insights into mechanisms of experience-dependent plasticity, including developing new brain cells (adult neurogenesis) and new brain connections (synaptic plasticity).

For neurohackers, these discoveries have helped explain how a lot of things work, including bio- and neurofeedback, electrical and magnetic stimulation, placebos, dietary and behavioral therapy, and development itself. What we had been doing for all this time with all these input control methods was epigenetics. Epigenetics was the missing link –the thing that explained how “A causes B”, the method by which all these practices were having an effect.

It’s easy to see that the mind learns by interacting with things and copying or practicing them until they become habitual; but what epigenetics told us is that every cell in the brain tries to adapt to everything in its environment; everything it perceives it is surrounded by. The mind discriminates about what we want to remember and learn, but we are still affected by millions of subliminal, unconscious inputs every second of every day.

Because a million little signals change a network, if we select more of the signals deliberately ourselves, we can choose the ones that grow intelligence rather than be subjected to a contradictory and chaotic input. This gave us many new methods of input control.

The mind likes life to make sense, because it should (and we know that unconsciously). We get anxious when it doesn’t seem to. We say things like, “It isn’t fair!”, “It isn’t right!”, and we think things like “There’s something missing”, “It’s all wrong”. Life makes sense when we are in an enriched environment that promotes growth and development, rather than living like bored lab rats. Because we’re intelligent, an enriched environment is where biology expects us to be. If the brain keeps getting messages we haven’t got there yet, it gets confused.

The feeling of “things not being like they should” is one of the causes of chronic unconscious anxiety. On the surface it may only cause confusion, but the thing about brains is, they don’t develop when they don’t feel comfortable with things because if they don’t feel comfortable, they focus on protection, like a ship under attack reroutes main power to defenses. If a mind doesn’t know what’s going on; if life doesn’t make sense in some way, it creates an ‘unknown’ area where “anything could happen”. We don’t feel safe in this state of mind. We doubt our own ability to adapt to change, so change never takes place.

What we do with input control is hack the signals going to the networks. Remember the “pen in your teeth” exercise in tutorial 1, where we made your brain cells believe that something good was going on ‘out there’? That was input control. There are a lot of different types, which you’ll learn about as we’re going along. There’s more info about practical input control in our guide (below).

 

rabbit

  

It is in order to eliminate things limiting the brain and set up the conditions for intelligence to develop that we use anxiety reduction and input control; and you can probably now see the links we were establishing:

Networks / functional analysis / plasticity / epigenetics / anxiety reduction / input control.

We find out what Networks to work on by doing a Functional Analysis. We take advantage of the brain’s Plasticity by using Epigenetics; practising Anxiety Reduction and hacking the genome with Input Control.

That sounds a lot easier, doesn’t it?

 

NHAGuide

NHA Guide to Methods & Technology

 

What we do and what we think about today shapes our health and ability tomorrow and in the future.

The habits of thought and behavior that we use every day ALL lead to either improving or degrading our mental health, and increasing or decreasing our intelligence.

All of our experiences, from before we are born until the end of our lives continues to push us one way or the other, into or out of balance in terms of overall intelligence and mental ability, and we now know that we can deliberately and beneficially learn how to ‘change our minds’ and improve our intelligence by following habits that we know will improve them, and keeping ourselves in the entelechy zone. The quality of your thoughts, behavior and environment today is known to be a strong determinant in your future health and ability overall. This is why neurohacking can be so effective.

Behavior matters all the time, and it’s the first place to start your input control –your own behavior.

First of all let’s remind you that you’re the Captain, so you must set an example to your crew. You wouldn’t feel inspired to do processing for a grumpy old fart who complained at you all the time, would you? So don’t send these messages to your brain! If you find yourself thinking grumpy thoughts, deliberately do something beneficial instead. Do or watch or listen to something that cheers you up and makes you laugh.

 

This is a very simple step to take in beginning NH and if you fail to take it you should ask yourself why you are not willing to use your own intelligence and power? What would make a person refuse to change an unpleasant state? Here are some possible reasons:

  • Have you decided that doing this is nonsense and won’t work before you have tried it? If you think this is what you’re doing, ask yourself why would you pre-judge something you haven't tried without any evidence or experience? Is that an intelligent thing to do? Practice anxiety reduction before continuing.

  • Are you unable to think of anything that will cheer you up when you’re down? Make a note to prepare some favorite comedy when you’re in a good mood, and label it “watch when miserable”.

  • Are you too busy to mess about watching movies cheering yourself up? If you feel this way, ask yourself which you prefer: spending time improving your mental health or spending time making it worse? Every extra minute that you are miserable pumps more and more toxins into your brain and body. Choose your priorities! You can stay this ‘busy’ and go senile in your sixties or get a bit less busy now and be mentally sound in your nineties. It’s your life; you choose. (But don’t take too long to decide –or your biology may decide for you).

  • Have you just lost access to your favorite anxiety-reducer? Try something different; you may be surprised. The reason many ‘recreational’ drugs seem to have such a strong effect is not always because of the drugs themselves. The effects of smiling, laughing, dancing and giggling get us even more high, as do many foods we choose to eat when on drugs. If you run out of your favorite thing, try something different but include all the associated things. For example, if you normally like to get stoned, eat munchies and watch a movie, try having a few drinks, eating munchies and watching a movie.

  • Do you feel uncomfortable about breaking familiar habits? Here’s a tip about hacking habits: never give up a habit; always REPLACE IT with something. The example in the ‘food’ section above of a ‘beneficial’ burger is a good example. If you can’t think of anything to replace a harmful habit with, leave it alone for now and practice anxiety reduction. Don’t try input control unless you actually have got better input!

 

The ideal type of input control replaces something harmful with something beneficial, but it’s quite alright to replace something harmful with something a bit less harmful. It’s a step in the correct direction, and that’s what we’re aiming for; a series of those steps. Once taking those steps is a familiar skill, you’ll have cultivated the habit of causing deliberate change for the better, change will no longer seem such a big thing because your own experience will now have proved to you that it isn’t. Also, you’ll become better at recognizing alternative habits as we go on and you'll find out more about the choices of input control methods.

For now, we’re sticking with sensorimotor and spatial methods because we’re working with networks 1 and 2, and that’s the kind of input they can understand. So start paying attention to your face and your posture and what messages they are sending to your brain. People don’t tend to smile enough for their health unless they are on drugs, so more input control can be practiced here! Smile regularly, even if you feel crap. It doesn’t cost you anything and it can only improve your present state of mind and overall health.

This is not some airy-fairy “let’s all be fabulously happy” in a ‘new age’ type of bouncy fluffy type of activity; it’s hard science. You do ‘x’, and then ‘y’ happens because of your own biology. So we’re not suggesting you should grin wildly at everyone you meet, but even if you start your input control with just a couple of minutes of deliberate smiling in bed each night, it will start to improve your intelligence simply because that’s the way biology works.

[Note: ‘grinning’ with lips closed won’t work so fast, but will work to some extent.]

Some people feel a ‘mood lift’ or calmer right away, others take a few days for it to kick in. This is because everyone’s brain chemistry is different and some people’s levels of anxiety hormones will be lower than others when they first start.

To find your own ‘effective’ level, practise the exercise more frequently until you do notice a difference, then establish a habit of doing a smile exercise once a day. When you have a permanent elevated mood, cut down the number of practices until you find the minimum that keeps you feeling how you want to feel. Then explore for other ways to get into that state of mind, and finally choose the method that works fastest with the least hassle.

Finding the fastest and easiest hacks for you personally is part of your personal plan, and you should keep notes in your NH diary (The Captain’s Log) about what exercises you are trying and what results you get (when you compare them later, choose the most effective ones only).

Using your brain in the ‘right’ way means using habits of thought and behavior that improve your intelligence, and avoiding habits of thought and behavior that decrease your intelligence. Both are important! Scowling doesn’t just make your face look unattractive, it reduces the efficiency of your immune system and if you do it often enough, it causes the release of chemicals that make you feel paranoid, which is a bit of a vicious circle to get stuck in. So remember that. –Looking grumpy is bad for your health.

Remember, everything we do moves us in one direction or the other –towards healthy growth and development or towards decay and deterioration.

 

Practical Assignment – Lifestyle Assessment

What lifestyle assessment can tell you is how much of your everyday life is spent doing things that you actually like to do. This is important because if you are spending more time on activities you dislike, you will be especially prone to anxiety and hence to neurological [and physical] problems. Once you know about it, you can take steps, however small, to reduce your anxiety level and protect your health.

 

Q -If our lifestyles have such a huge effect on our behavior, what does all this say about our own concept of personal agency and freedom; 'free will'?

A -The evidence certainly points to a number of things affecting our minds and behavior that are quite outside our conscious awareness! However, the nature of plasticity and the results of biofeedback teach us that we are never ‘stuck with what we started out with’, as long as we know how to change it and we have the intent to change it. Remember, our genome is subject to plasticity as well as our brain. “Destiny” is never fixed, because with increasing awareness we are able to make more deliberate directive choices.

This means the more you increase your intelligence the more free will and autonomy you are likely to have, but you are prevented from being irresponsibly wilful or reckless because your judgment and decision making are maturing too.

 

Lifestyle Assignment

Make a list of all the activities you spend more than half an hour doing each week [work/school, hobbies, general pursuits].

Now put a letter ‘N’ for ‘no’ beside all those things on the list that you would rather stop doing if you became a billionaire in the morning, and a letter ‘Y’ beside all those things you’d carry on doing regardless.

Here’s an example of somebody else’s list:

  • Working [as a lawyer] N
  • Sleeping Y
  • Playing the guitar Y
  • Watching TV Y/ N?
  • Watching movies Y
  • Masturbating Y
  • Playing with the kids Y
  • Eating & cooking Y/N?
  • Driving my car N
  • Going out for drinks with friends Y
  • Listening to music Y
  • Baths/toilets/grooming etc. Y
  • Housework, cleaning and shopping etc. N

 

[This person had several ‘no’s in their list, and if you look at the ‘no’ subjects they were in fact what the person spent most of their time doing. The upshot of this lifestyle was that he had bouts of depression, hopelessness, fatigue and apathy on a regular basis. His seems like a fairly ‘normal’ lifestyle so it came as quite a surprise to him that if he didn’t change something, he’d end up with premature senility. His online name; ‘Nowhere Man’, reflected the way he thought about himself and his life; stuck in a rut by obligations he had taken on in the past.

But there was a happy ending to his story…  ‘Nowhere Man’ has now become ‘Jiving Jaguar’. He has changed his work to guitar teacher and part-time DJ, and does freelance legal work for agencies in his spare time. He orders his shopping online and pays a roadie to drive him about. His whole family helps with the housework so they can spend more time with him, because he’s now much more light hearted and fun to be with.

He didn’t achieve any of these material changes by neurohacking, but it was neurohacking that gave him the confidence, ability and skills –the intelligence- that it took for him to make them happen.]

 

 

buddhabrot

Spiritual Advice

 

Other people can only show you the doors. You’re the one who has to fly the ship. Taking the first steps, following through, both are equally important.

Forget where you have been, whatever has happened to you, it doesn't matter. All that matters is that you have the power to change things for the better, right here, right now.

 

"Sometimes we stare so long at a door that is closing, that we see too late the one that is open."

(Alexander Graham Bell)

 

"You have to let it all go, Neo. Fear...doubt...disbelief. Free your mind!"

(Morpheus, The Matrix)

 


   

rabbit 

The Most Important Things to Remember From This Tutorial

 

The brain has networks. Intelligence needs them all to function well.

A functional analysis will tell you which networks are strongest and which need upgrading, giving you the basis of your personal NH plan.

The brain structure and all networks are plastic and can be changed, repaired and improved.

What goes in comes out (epigenetics shows that beneficial environments and behaviors improve intelligence).

The main thing getting in the way of development is anxiety.

Start practising anxiety reduction.

Start practising input control.

 

doitnowrat

DO IT NOW

 

Hacks for anxiety: the most successful cost-free methods

On a limited budget or prefer to do things the most organic way? Here are some completely free, ecology-friendly anxiety reducing techniques that are most effective for the amount of work and time involved:

 

Breathing Exercises

Deep breathing is an easy anxiety reducer that has numerous benefits for the body, including oxygenating the blood, which ‘wakes up’ the brain, relaxing muscles and quieting the mind. Breathing exercises are especially helpful because you can do them anywhere, and they work quickly so you can relax in a flash.

 

Meditation

Meditation builds on deep breathing, and takes it a step further. When you meditate, your brain begins a kind of functioning that’s similar to sleep, but carries some added benefits you can’t achieve as well in any other state, including the release of certain hormones that promote health. Also, the mental focus on nothingness stops your mind from working overtime and increasing your anxiety level.

(if you want to know more about meditation before going on, read ‘benefits of meditation’ in the methods & tech section of the library)

 

Guided Imagery

Do your functional analysis first, because this method (and the next two) work well if you have a strong network 3.

It takes a little time to practice guided imagery, but this is a great way to leave anxiety behind and relax your body. Some find it easier to practice than meditation, as lots of us find it more doable to focus on ‘something’ than on ‘nothing’. You can play natural sounds in the background as you practice, to promote a more immersive experience.

The technique is to make up a little story and imagine you are transported to a beautiful place where the weather is fantastic. Fantasize as much as you like, happy in the knowledge that it’s good for your brain. There's only one rule: everything that happens in this place is really cool.

 

Visualization

Building on guided imagery, you can also imagine yourself achieving goals like becoming healthier and more relaxed, doing well at tasks, and handling conflict in better ways. Also, visualizing yourself doing well on tasks you’re trying to master actually functions like physical practice, so you can improve your real life performance through visualizations as well!

 

Self-Hypnosis

You can learn self hypnosis if you don’t like the idea of using a hypnotist. Self-hypnosis incorporates some of the features of guided imagery and visualizations, with the added benefit of enabling you to communicate directly with your unconscious mind to enhance your abilities, more easily give up bad habits, feel less pain, more effectively develop healthier habits, and even find answers to questions that may not be clear to your conscious mind! It takes some practice and training, but is well worth it. We’ll be introducing you to self hypnosis during these tutorials.

 

Physical Exercise

Many people exercise to control weight and get in better physical condition, to become more healthy or physically attractive, but exercise and anxiety reduction are also closely linked. Exercise provides an opportunity to step back from complex situations, as well as a boost to your brain’s blood supply, and gives you a lift via endorphins as well. (if you want to know more about exercise before going on, read ‘the benefits of exercise’ in the methods & tech section of the library).

 

Progressive Muscle Relaxation

By tensing and relaxing all the muscle groups in your body, you can relieve tension and feel much more relaxed in minutes, with no special training or equipment. Start by tensing all the muscles in your face, holding them tight for ten seconds, then completely relaxing for ten seconds. Repeat this with your neck, followed by your shoulders, etc. You can do this anywhere, and as you practice, you will find you can relax more quickly and easily and help prevent posture problems, reducing tension as quickly as it starts!

 

Sex

You probably already know that sex is a great tension reliever, but have you officially thought of it as an anxiety-relieving practice? Perhaps you should. The physical benefits of sex (including masturbation) are numerous, and most of them work very well toward relieving anxiety. Sadly, many people have less sex when their cortisol levels are high. Learn how to avoid this trap!

 

Yoga

Yoga is one of the oldest self-improvement practices around, dating back over 5 thousand years! It combines the practices of several other anxiety management techniques such as breathing, meditation, imagery and movement, giving you a lot of benefit for the amount of time and energy required. There are many accessible books and sites online where you can learn yoga.

 

Gardening

The physical activity of digging, pulling and planting can be a great anxiety releaser, your skin absorbs a mood-lightening neurochemical from soil, plus free vitamin D, peace and quiet.

Planting, fertilizing and tending a garden of vegetables, flowers or anything else that grows, can be a wonderfully relaxing pastime, with the reward of delicious organic food, a beautiful bouquet, large quantities of cannabis, really cool interior d├ęcor, or a gorgeous yard to chill out in as well!

 

These methods all use renewable resources and are good long term choices. Other methods using minimum resources are:

 

Music

Music therapy has shown numerous health benefits for people with conditions ranging from mild to severe. When dealing with anxiety, the right music can actually lower your blood pressure, relax your body and calm your mind. There are some suggestions of different types of music to listen to, and how to use music in your daily life for effective anxiety management, in future tutorials.

 

Dancing Alone (singing optional)

Belting out one of your favourite optimistic tunes, either on your own, or with CD backup or a video, can be a great form of anxiety reduction. Dancing releases tension from your body, and singing can therapeutically take your mind off problems and move them onto solutions.

 

Input Control for Improving the Immune System

Our ability to withstand anxiety-related, inflammatory diseases is associated with our behavior. Behavior that is less exploratory and less communicative can be a sign of high anxiety hormones.

An emerging area of medical science examines the mind-body connection, and how behavior and anxiety contribute to disease. Long-term exposure to cortisol takes a toll on organs. Like any injury, this brings a response from the body's immune system, including the release of key immune chemicals that trigger inflammation in an attempt to begin the healing process. The same process goes too far as part of diseases from rheumatoid arthritis to Alzheimer's disease to atherosclerosis, where inflammation contributes to clogged arteries, heart attacks and strokes.

One current study found that that people who interact more, and in particular those with high "dispositional activity" or involvement in life, have dramatically lower levels of the inflammatory chemical and stronger immunity than those who do not.

You can use input control here and actively engage yourself in life. Join the forum : )

Involvement in life can come in many forms. Even if you're shy of company, you CAN learn to play a musical instrument, start a garden, go to the cinema or out for a meal, on your own. Treat yourself to new activities and also to days or nights out. Communicate with those you like, and also put yourself in places where you can meet new people who may share your interests. Variety is the spice of life, and if you find you don't like something, you can always withdraw. You're the Captain; get into the habit of being in charge of the activities you choose, and you're now choosing behaviors that you know will increase your health and intelligence.

Combining this type of input control with physical exercise has rapid effects on both anxiety and inflammation levels.


Hack for Those Who Have to Conform to Artificial Sleep Patterns

Work with your biology -when your brain wants to daydream, allow it to do so as often as you can. Daydreaming allows extra 'memory filing' time for the brain and reduces the effects of lack of sleep. Psychologists have also discovered ways to increase and decrease mind wandering when you either have time for it or you don't (so you can let your memory catch up whenever you have time). You need a random number generator (several free ones are available online).

Set it going on single digits and then tap a key every time you see a new number appear on the computer screen but DON'T tap if the number is three. You'll soon find your mind wandering, at which point just let it and stop tapping the numbers.

 

Exercises to Improve Networks 1 & 2

Input control practice (good for all networks)

Smile. Give your brain a good cheery smile message with your lips apart and preferably teeth slightly apart as well. Keep smiling as you read that you’re now releasing the neurotransmitter called Serotonin. Keep smiling even more as you find out that this will improve your self confidence and your immune response without your having to do anything else at all. And start laughing your head off when you learn that the amount of serotonin in any mammal’s brain is directly related to its social popularity and its status. A surprising side effect of doing this regularly is that you’ll also feel you have more energy. You won’t know why at this point, but the results prove the point of how simple n-hacking can get.

In networks one and two, physical movement and the movement of thought can trigger each other. Because you associate good things happening with smiles, your brain associates smiling with good things happening. Using muscular movements or muscular relaxation is a great way to convince your brain that something is happening.


Exercise for networks 1 & 2 (Do not do this exercise just after eating!)

This is one of the few physical exercises we do. Stand or sit or lie down comfortably anywhere there is enough room in front of you to bend over. By whatever means is most comfortable to you, get into any physical position that leaves your head slightly lower than most of the rest of your body [on a chair with head between your knees, crouching with head lower than knees, hanging your head off the edge of the bed].

Remain in this position while you take ten slow, deep breaths.

Slowly return to your original position [if lying down, support your head with one of your hands as you sit up]. If you feel at all dizzy, remain still and breathe deeply and slowly until it passes.

You have increased the blood and oxygen supply to your brain, and doing this now and again is a useful way of sharpening your mind –good for that ‘mid-afternoon drop’ in energy many people experience, or if you’re feeling too stoned [professional athletes adopt this ‘head below the knees’ posture to recover after great physical exertion, to prevent oxygen deprivation to the brain causing fainting.] For a short time you can take advantage of the increased glucose supply you have caused in the brain, so save this hack for those times when you need a quick boost. If you have a coffee or other stimulant just after doing the exercise the effects will last longer.


Exercises to Improve Attention & Observation (good for all rear networks)
Zoom In

Choose a small familiar object from your domestic surroundings that possesses detail. A matchbox, clock, radio, ornament, key, postcard, brush, shoe, book, plant, mug, cushion, lamp, pencil, painting, all will do. Begin to observe it very closely. The exercise should last a definite time. Ten minutes is a good timespan. If you cannot keep up an intense level of concentration for this long, you may find that drawing the object is a good aid. Don't worry if you can't 'draw a likeness'.

Body Awareness

Lying in bed, slowly stretch your body in all directions. Make all stretches very gentle. Do not force limbs into painful positions! Pay attention to each part of your body from the feet up and stretch it a little. Then relax, and every time you naturally breathe out, concentrate on a different part of your body to relax.

Estimating Dimensions
  1. At home, every time you go into a new room estimate the dimensions by eye. Note these down and then measure them with a pocket tape. How many rooms do you have to enter before you are accurate within one foot / 30cm?
  2. Spend five minutes going around your home estimating the dimensions of furniture and then checking it with a pocket tape. Continue daily for ten days, rest and assess your improvement. Continue in periods of five or ten days until you can guess dimensions including diameters within one inch /2cm.
  3. Cut various random lengths from a ball of string. Each length is let fall on a separate part of the floor. Guess the lengths and check against ruler. Take five minutes and continue daily for ten days or until required accuracy is attained.


Testing for Sleep Deprivation

Find out whether you are sleep-deprived. [This is best practised at weekends or when not working, and it won’t work if you are taking lots of drugs -including coffee, tea, sugary foods, soda, alcohol and tobacco].

Make sure you have at least a whole day in which you don’t really have to do anything at any particular time. Take your watch off, and try to avoid watching the clock. Whenever you feel tired, regardless of what time it is, go to bed. As you go to bed, note and write down the time.

When you wake up, write down the time as soon as possible. 

How long did you sleep?

If it was more than 8.4 hours, you’re sleep-deprived. If you’re under 25 years old you’re going to need more unless you meditate because your brain [and at many ages your body] is still growing.

Being sleep-deprived retards the growth and performance of intelligence because we process memories during sleep. Your memory and concentration are the first things to suffer when your sleep is disturbed. If you are able to practise this exercise for two nights running, you will notice that on the second night you need less sleep. You have ‘caught up’, and should set aside time to do so regularly as a first change of behavioral habits.

Lack of sleep does not affect mental function only, but is related to the degree of risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes and inflammation. Finding this out means that we should, as intelligent people, consider sleep as an important component of a healthy lifestyle and also essential in maintaining optimal mental function. Allow yourself at least one day per week to sleep in so that your brain can catch up with its memory storage duties and you’ll notice your memory –and ease of learning- improves immediately.

 

If You Have Small Children and Not Enough Spare Time to Do This Test

Try to sleep whenever your child sleeps (we know how tempting it is to use the space to “get everything done” but your mental health is more important than housework. If the former improves, you’ll have more energy to do the latter, so you’re not saving any time or energy by working instead of napping!

We’ll learn more about sleep and memory as we go on. (If you want to know more before going on, read: “Learning & memory: the basics” in the Basics section of the library).

You should now move on to tutorial 3

 

Last Updated on Monday, 29 May 2017 12:58