Why your brain is nowhere near full capacity, despite what Cambridge research says
By: Dave Asprey
August 2, 2011
Scientists from Cambridge University are quoted in an article in the Daily Mail titled, “The end of evolution? Scientists say the human brain may have reached full capacity.” The article says that smarter people have the best brain wiring, which actually lets an electrical impulse travel across the brain more quickly in smarter people than in people of average intelligence. But Simon Laughlin, neurobiology professor, says, “You pay a price for intelligence. Becoming smarter means improving connections between different brain areas but this runs into tight limits on energy, along with space for the wiring.”
Then, to make matters worse, Martijn van den Heuvelan, assistant professor of psychiatry at Utrecht medical centre in Holland who also studies brain wiring and intelligence, said, “Increasing the power of the brain would take a disproportionate increase in energy consumption.”
So the conclusion of these brain scientists (with little to no nutrition experience obviously) is:
- It takes a lot of energy to rewire the brain to be more efficient, so we can’t do it
- Getting smarter would take more energy, so “there are tight constraints on intelligence”
As a biohacker who has worked in Cambridge, England, I know there is a British word for these conclusions. It is “bollocks.” Since I’m not a native Brit, I am not qualified to use that term properly, as it is a quasi-swear word that can be good or bad. For my American readers, a more apt term might be “bullsh*t.” Here’s why.
The idea that you can’t rewire your brain to be more efficient because it takes a lot of energy is plain and simply wrong. Reprogramming most biological systems is possible using an amazing technique called “training.” There are lots of ways of training different parts of your brain, and I’ve tried nearly all of them I can find. Some work better and faster than others, just like physical exercise, others not so much.
As an example, it’s possible to gain more muscle and metabolic efficiency from a small workout done properly than you would gain from a longer workout, consuming more energy, done improperly. That’s why Crossfit training or kettlebells produce much larger gains per calorie of exercise than low intensity cardio.
Brain training is the same way. Some techniques (like the emwave2) are radically good at rewiring the brain in short periods of time, but some (like copying off a blackboard) are woefully inadequate. The Cambridge scientists never talked about efficiency of brain rewiring techniques, instead focusing on the fact that it allegedly takes a lot of energy to do so it must be hard.
The second theory there is to be smarter you’d need a disproportionate increase in energy consumption, so intelligence is constrained.
A more open-minded biohacker might see the data and instead think to himself, “Maybe to be more intelligent, or to rewire my brain, I really would need a disproportionate increase in energy consumption, just like I do if I want to reshape my body. So I’ll eat more and hack my metabolism.” That’s why, for the last two years, I’ve eaten about 4500 high density calories per day from the Bulletproof Diet, without any substantial exercise, and with less than 5 hours of sleep per night on average, and stayed lean. Because, as our Dutch psychiatrist puts it, “Increasing the power of the human brain would take a disproportionate increase in energy consumption.”
Indeed it does. In addition to having far fewer brain-impacting toxins than a typical diet (even a paleo one), the Bulletproof Diet is richest in the fats that help brain function, including butter, and XCT oil, a special form of MCT oil that the brain can use directly, one that has been used to reverse symptoms of Alzheimers.
My take on all of this is that, if you want to be smarter, or rewire your brain to be more efficient, you do need more energy. That’s why you should eat more healthy fat, because it is the most energy dense. A nice side effect is that it makes you lose weight too, as your body adjusts to a more efficient fat-burning metabolism.
In fact, I had to figure out ways to eat even more healthy fats and to metabolize them. That’s why Bulletproof Coffee makes you feel so good – it’s powering your brain better. The same thing goes for raw egg yolks, which are a key component of my smoothies.
Biohacking Intelligence for Beginners
While the Cambridge scientists deny the true power of your brain and all of the amazing things it is capable of, I have been writing extensively about increasing IQ and brain function for quite some time now. Im pretty well known for my use of cognitive enhancing smart drugs like modafinil, but there is a wide array of methods you can use besides smart drugs that are available to just about anyone.
I get into a variety of of ways to hack the human brain here, and one of the ways are nutraceuticals. These are an excellent way to start if you’re a beginner or you’re apprehensive about the word “drugs.” While there are a lot of different ones you can take Im going to keep it simple and recommend you start with any of these 4.
- Acetyl-L-Carnitine – ALC is a powerful antioxidant, helps protect your brain, and is a potent cognitive enhancer. It also has has other neat benefits that help sperm motility and supercharge the mitochondria, which is not only helpful to your body, but your entire system as a whole.
- Krill Oil (EPA/DHA) – Krill oil is superior to fish oil and almost everyone is deficient. This will help the your omega 3 & 6 ratios and provide your brain with vital fatty acids that are essential to brain function.
You should get a blood test to see if you are deficient in any other nutrients that might be costing your brain valuable energy, and check out this post on optimizing your supplements.
I’d respectfully like to let those scientists at Cambridge and Utrecht Medical Center know that energy consumption – and efficiency – are controllable, trainable parameters in modern man. That’s why I believe that intelligence is not limited by them in most people, at least not yet. You can build your brain just like you can build your muscles. You just have to eat more of the right things and train in an effective way.
And all of this is possible – today – without even considering brain augmentation or uploads like my friends at the Singularity Institute are working on!