Jesse Lawler: Hacking the Brain for Better Performance

Note:  Neither Ostrolenk nor Lawler is a medical doctor, so nothing within this segment should be taken as professional medical advice. Consult with your medical professional for health risks or contraindications if you are interested in exploring impact of any of the drugs or supplements mentioned in this podcast.  Be sure to consult your medical provider according to his/her judgment with respect to any disclosures regarding your current medication/supplement regime before considering taking any of the drugs or supplements mentioned in this post.

Michael sits down with Jesse Lawler to talk about boosting human cognition. Lawler founded the mobile app company “Evil Genius Technologies.” Jesse also hosts his own podcast which you can visit at Smart Drug Smarts where Lawler is coming up on his 50th podcast. Lawler wants to make clear that he is not a medical doctor and that his knowledge of the supplements and drugs that he exhibits comes from research, expert interviews, and personal experience.

Lawler interviews experts in fields of fitness, nutrition, and cognitive performance. Now that smaller can point to an existing body of work, he jokes that he has a good excuse to call up people in the brain science and personal health space.

A computer programmer by trade, Lawler is an autodidact with respect to enhance human performance. While Lawler has experimented withnootropics, he advocates for dietary and lifestyle improvements first. Once an individual has remove toxins from his diet and made significant lifestyle changes to boost performance, then this individual should begin to research nootropics.

Lawler was a strict vegan for a most seven years then read Catching Fire: How Cooking Made Us Human by Dr. Richard Wrangham.  While the book didn’t convince Lawler immediately to switch his diet, it eventually changed his mind to adopting a diet more along the lines of the Paleo diet. Lawler admits that his exception is dark chocolate.  He did notice that he has been able to gain more muscle on the Paleo diet.

The transition for Lawler from Veganism to the Paleo diet was challenging because of the atrophy of meat-friendly microbes.  After a period of intestinal consternation, he was able to return to normal.

In criticizing the Paleo diet, Lawler reasons that the average age of early human ancestors, and even early homo sapiens, resulted in the impossibility of the manifestations of the negative long-term impacts of the Paleo since the average life span at that time was much lower than the average lifespan now.

Lawler references Spark: The Revolutionary New Science Of Exercise And The Brain by John Ratey as a good resource on the nexus between exercise and brain function.

While many individuals focus on exercise in improving cognitive function, they would be remiss to abandon the socialization component requisite to healthy living. Since so much of our own happiness and enjoyment of the world centers around interpersonal connection, Lawler reasons that human relationships are an important component of cognitive function.

Lawler has found that some neurotropic drugs and cognitive enhancers to be helpful. Since a lot of these drugs don’t have generally agreed-upon mechanisms of action in the brain, a lot of these are difficult to categorize. Piracetam, and drugs with a similar suffix are generally classified as neuro-protectants since they help brain cells recover from damage or some optimal cellular chemistry. A lot of the drugs that are used as cognitive enhancers now were initially introduced as these protectant types of drugs. Some studies have shown improvements in cognitive function such as working memory when taken by young test subjects. Lawler has confidence in the studies. While some claim to be able to subjectively feel the effects of these drugs, Lawler likens his experience with them to the manner in which many experience the effects of multivitamins. Lawler feels strongly that Aniracetam, which he occasionally takes, has a positive impact.

Lawler does not mix nootropics, he does regularly take an L-Theanine compound.  L-Theanine occurs naturally in Green Tea.  Adderall and Ritalin, drugs prescribed for attention deficit disorder, are often abused. Though Lawler has never taken either of these drugs, he is curious as to their effects.

There are also many non-drug interventions individuals can explore in order to boost their neuro-cognition. Many home-based neuro-feedback solutions are available to consumers.  Transcranial direct-current stimulation is a noninvasive form of neurostimulation that uses a low volt form of electrical stimulation that has apparently shown to have some positive effects. Lawler has recently acquired a device called foc.us, but hasn’t had a chance to fire it up.  Ostrolenk has recently begun experimenting with the alpha-stim but doesn’t yet have enough personal data to report on it.

One of Lawler’s next projects is going to involve exploration into binaural beats as a means of inducing a brain state that approximates deep meditation.  The technology he uses is called holosync.

Lawler recently posted a podcast on sensory deprivation tanks during which he speaks with Crash, the owner of Float Lab Technologies about the transcendental states that people can achieve in float tanks.  Lawler appears to be a big proponent of float tank use.

Be sure to visit Smart Drug Smarts and follow Jesse Lawler on twitter @Lawlerpalooza to learn more about Lawler and his work.

Note:  Neither Ostrolenk nor Lawler is a medical doctor, so nothing within this segment should be taken as professional medical advice. Consult with your medical professional for health risks or contraindications if you are interested in exploring impact of any of the drugs or supplements mentioned in this podcast.  Be sure to consult your medical provider according to his/her judgment with respect to any disclosures regarding your current medication/supplement regime before considering taking any of the drugs or supplements mentioned in this post.