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Why your brain is nowhere near full capacity, despite what Cambridge research says

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Scientists from Cambridge University are quoted in an article in the Daily Mail titled, “The end of evolution? Scientists say 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 just 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.

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 is that it 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 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.

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!

 

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  • http://rmctech.net Ryan Critchett

    Yo Dave.

    I’m surprised more people aren’t commenting on this. First, I want to say it’s really cool to read this, because I’ve dealt with the bullshit idea from everyone else, to include scientists, that the brain is limited in this way. Meanwhile, I’ve engaged in my own plasticity over the years to restructure thinking processes and other things. So.. rock on. Second, this is another timely post for me because I’ve been realizing (and this totally confirms it) more and more that the demand I put on my brain to grow. seems to require better care, whatever that may be. I’ll have to study further into how you only need limited amounts of sleep. For me, 8+ hours has been a huge difference in cognitive function throughout the day. I infer, based on what you’re saying in a lot of these articles, that if I consumed more things like butter, on a larger scale, I wouldn’t need as much sleep. We’ll see.

    But, yea dude, the brain is nowhere near full capacity. I totally believe that. Anyone with half a mind, that sits down to meditate, and actually starts to get in there, would realize how vast the brain is and how changeable it can really be. In fact, for me, meditation was actually the first tipping point for the change in my brain. I mean.. literally in a week, I felt 100% different and could already “do new things.” Pretty cool.

    • Brad

      Great post, and great comment. Would love some advice on a good video or link to beginning meditation. I am completely new to it. I downloaded an interesting app, “Simply Being”, which seems pretty cool. Any suggestions?

      • Ryan Critchett

        Hey Brad,

        Cool! — I listen to this track frequently, to meditate: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UIt1W0s8txY it’s just simple, calming music. Very zen like. The idea really, is to train the brain to stop doing the logical processing, and move into the integrated kind of awareness. It can take anywhere from 20-40 minutes to get there, and it’ll be easier to literally control your brain in the moment, as you go deeper into the state.

        As far as methods, there are many, and because there are many, it probably confuses people more than helps. I’d say, the best strategy is to pay close attention to how much your brain wants to go randomly think about all types of stuff.. and calmly, and consistently throughout the process, direct yourself back to a “zero state,” where you aren’t thinking anything. You have to learn how to do that in your head – so it’s not a “technique” necessarily. It’s like learning to angle the bat specifically in a way to hit a baseball.. it’s hard to explain what you do in your brain to do that. — Just know, with practice, you’ll learn to quiet everything down, and then all the regenerative, brain enhancing effects of it.

      • Sami

        Try getsomeheadspace.com

  • james braselton

    hi there yeah we can use the 2.5 petabytes brain storage capacity buy useing brains as computer storage drive

  • Mateus Gonçalves

    Caramba, that was exacly what I was looking for…

  • Julie Atkinson

    Hi,
    I go to school and I want to know what I can take to enhance my brain, and focus better.

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