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.

Part 2: Dee Coulter on the Original Mind

 Michael and Dee Coulter, author of Original Mind, follow up with their previous gab session.  Coulter explains the importance of sleep and water consumption, and other things we can do from a physical and physiological perspective to lead more balanced and calmer lives.

Turns out that if we don’t carve out calming time and get enough sleep, we have a bias against new activities.  What we do to our bodies with respect to food and nutrition, water consumption, and even relaxation exercises, has an impact on how we perceive and interact with the world.  Since we spend so much time indoors and in front of screens, we should take a break from technology for a while and just go outdoors to give our minds a change of scene.  (Seems like poet Walt Whitman had that idea.)

Coulter emphasizes the importance of language and cognition with respect to impulse control and delayed gratification.  Children have a different relationship with language than adults which often leads to parental inference relating to defiance whereas the child doesn’t fully understand a negative imperative.

Coulter advocates a morning meditation ritual to cleanse ourselves of yesterday’s stress.

Learn more at Dee Coulter’s site.

The Fat Burning Man

Michael’s guest in this podcast is Fat Burning Man (and renaissance man) Abel James.  He’s an author, coach and host of the popular Fat Burning Man Show podcast. Abel, a recovering vegetarian – explains his lifelong journey leading him to the truth about the conventional wisdom concerning nutrition. Now, through his podcast and  Lean Body System he is dedicated to spreading the word to help curb our country’s growing health crisis caused largely by poor nutrition.  Also an accomplished musician, Abel is the author of The Musical Brain which explores the evolution of Music, its ubiquity in our lives, and how it intertwines with human psychology.

Is medicalizing wellness the answer?

Does every health care issue require an intervention from the conventional medical care industry? In this podcast, Michael Ostrolenk along with health and wellness coach and consultant Vik Khanna, examine this question. Vik, at his website, www.KhannaOnHealth.com recently published the first article of a three part exposé of the ineffectiveness of corporate wellness programs, in partnership with our managed care-heavy health care system, in achieving actual health and wellness among its clients.  Physicians, hospitals, and nurses are trained to treat sick, individuals, on a case by case basis, not manage population health issues, contends Mr. Khanna.  Vik’s published books include, Road Warrior: Effective Fitness Strategies for Business Travelers and Ten Commandments of Faith and Fitness.

Ancestral Health Symposium 2012

August 9-11 the Ancestral Health Society will hold its second annual symposium. Co-founder of AHS, Brent Pottenger makes his second appearance (click here for the first) with Michael and gives a preview of the event. It will be held at Harvard Law School in conjunction with the Harvard Food Law Society. AHS is investigating how to harness the wisdom of our ancestors to solve modern health challenges. Registration will open March 1 for AHS members and March 2 for the public. Learn more at http://www.ancestryfoundation.org/

“One-size-fits-all” USDA dietary guidelines don’t work

Adele Hite is the Policy Chair and founder of the Healthy Nation Coalition. The coalition works to expose the flaws and misuse of science in the formation of our nation’s dietary guidelines. Promulgated by USDA, these guidelines are not based in current science and have resulted in a 30 year decline in our population’s health. Individuals should be empowered to become informed about what works best for their individual nutritional needs.

Audio Only Version:

Questioning 3 Orthodoxies in Conventional Medicine

Donald W. Miller, Jr., MD is Professor of Surgery & a cardiac surgeon at the University of Washington School of Medicine. Inspired by Dr. William Osler, a founder of modern medicine who had “an absorbing desire to know the truth,” Dr. Miller has examined the facts about medical “truths” that are often accepted without question. He found many of them to be lacking credibility.  In this podcast with Michael Ostrolenk, Dr. Miller expands on 3 of the medical orthodoxies he believes to be false: the HIV/AIDS hypothesis, vaccine safety, and the connection between saturated fats and heart disease.  Read more about Dr. Miller and his research at http://www.lewrockwell.com/miller/miller-arch.html & http://www.donaldmiller.com

Optimal living, diet, exercise & evolutionary cognitive neuroscience

Evolutionary cognitive neuroscience examines why the human brain has evolved with unique complex abilities, e.g. self-awareness & free will.  In this podcast Steven Platek, PhD, talks with Michael Ostrolenk about the evolutionary jump that created a link between the brain and the conscious mind and the role exercise and diet play in maintaining the optimal operation of our mind and body.  These advances in brain function took place at a time when humans were constantly in motion foraging for rudimentary foods, explains Dr. Platek, and our modern sedentary lifestyle and carb-heavy diets thus diminish the performance of our brain and interconnected gut and immune systems.  Michael and Dr. Platek also take a look at theories about what benefits religion and non-ordinary states of conscious, like meditation, have to our human consciousness.  Learn more about Dr. Platek and his work in the journal he co-edits Evolutionary Psychology and at his website devoted to functional fitness http://www.crossfit-gwinnett.com.

Legislative efforts to empower consumers of healthy food and dietary supplements

Current and proposed FDA regulations concerning healthy food and dietary supplements hurt both the consumers & producers of these important goods. In this podcast, Darrell Rogers of the Alliance for Natural Health & host Michael Ostrolenk discuss two pending bills in DC that will effect the ability of Americans to improve their health through these non-pharmaceutical methods.  H.R. 1364, the Free Speech About Science Act, will allow consumers to more easily find scientific studies about supplements by lifting the FDA prohibition against manufacturers referencing this information.   In addition, Darrell talks about the dangerously vague sections of S. 216, the Leahy Food Safety Bill, that either need to be clarified or completely removed in order to protect supplement and food producers from unjustified Federal prosecution.

FDA “protecting” the public from locally grown, high quality food

Powerful corporate interests  have become proficient in colluding with the state to shield themselves from having to compete in the free market.    In this podcast, Deborah Stockton, Executive Director of the National Independent Consumers & Farmers Association speaks with Michael Ostrolenk about how the heavy-hand of government over-regulation is forcing many small, independent farms across the United States to close.  The FDA labyrinth of  “food safety” rules do not actually protect the public but rather protect the corporate farming industry from competition while restricting consumers’ access to high-quality, locally-grown food.