Nootropics, adaptogens, brain foods… What the heck is going on?

In a world where cognitive performance is considered a clear advantage to succeed—whether as a student or a busy professional—it’s not surprising the idea of popping a pill to enhance your brainpower is appealing to many. And marketers have noticed: the market for cognitive enhancers is a multi-billion dollar industry. Between drinks supplemented with “adaptogenic …

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The art and science of mind wandering

“Sorry, I spaced out, what were you saying?” you ask your friend. It has happened to all of us: we are physically in place, while our mind is in another one. Mind wandering, while it can take many forms, is an experience of thought shared by all of humanity. Some people see it as a …

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Impossible colors: our vision’s incomplete palette

We take the way we see the world for granted. But our experience of the world is shaped in part by our visual system—which is both extremely complex and limited. Impossible colors, which are sometimes called non-physical colors, are a great reminder to not consider our perception of the visual world the only possible experience. …

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Brain-training games are BS

“Brain Age: Train Your Brain in Minutes a Day!” claims the fifteen-year old Nintendo brain-training app, also known as Dr. Kawashima’s Brain Training. The app consists of mini-games supposedly designed to stimulate various parts of the brain and help combat normal aging effects on the brain. The latest version was released early 2020 in Europe …

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The Evolution of Consciousness: a talk by Dr Derek Tracy

These are raw notes from a lecture Dr Derek Tracy gave at UCL on March 2nd 2020. Dr Derek Tracy is a psychiatrist and clinical director at Oxleas NHS and Bexley Care, as well as a senior lecturer in the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology & Neuroscience at King’s College London, and at UCL’s division of …

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Somewhere over the brainbow: a beautiful neuroimaging technique

In the late 1800s, researchers discovered a technique to stain neurons black. Called the Golgi’s method after its inventor Camillo Golgi, an Italian physician and scientist, it allowed us to discover a number of new facts about the organisation of the nervous system, and gave rise to the neuron doctrine—the concept that the nervous system …

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Is there a limit to the human brain’s capacity?

The human brain is a fascinating machine. The complex interactions in our mind shape our thoughts, memories, feelings and dreams, and ultimately make us who we are. Is there a limit to what this wonderful machine can accomplish? Is the human intellect capped to a certain level? If we project ourselves in, say, a thousand …

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Science-based methods to improve your memory

Many think it’s impossible to improve your memory. But scientific research shows that many techniques do have an impact on how well we remember things. Unfortunately, lots of people use the wrong methods. For example, highlighting has virtually zero effect on information retention. “It seems like if I have highlighted something (…) then I should …

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IQ and death: why smarter people live longer

In my article about neuromyths, I debunked the commonly-held belief that IQ tests results only represent your ability to take IQ tests. In reality—and despite their flaws—IQ tests are predictive of many things. And, in particular, IQ tests can help predict your chances of dying. In a cohort study conducted in 2009 with almost a …

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Neuromyths: debunking the misconceptions about our brains

Fake news has become a hot topic. But the deliberate disinformation of the general public via traditional outlets or social media goes beyond the news: there is also an alarming rise in “fake science.” The brain and the mind feel extremely familiar. We do spend lots of our time inside our heads. That’s why it’s …

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