SO WHAT’S THE POINT OF NOOTROPICS ANYWAY?
Most of what we Alchemists have to say centers around a particular topic known as Cognitive Enhancement. But what does that really mean?
First, a definition - The term “Cognition” can be described as the mental actions or process of acquiring knowledge by perception, sensation, intuition, notion, and reasoning. Cognition typically involves a series of mental processes that are mostly interdependent and can not occur separately. For example, when we try to learn material we need to read, perceive and remember that material. Thus, cognition is conceptualized as a range of processes that are organized in relation to one another.
THERE ARE THREE MAIN ASPECTS ASSOCIATED WITH COGNITION:
- Input - our perception, wakefulness, and attention
- Representational - knowledge in the brain using working memory and long-term memory
- Executive - How we act on and react to the knowledge in an executive way to make decisions, plans, and produce behaviors.
Currently, researchers have shown an increasing interest to improve cognition. Consequently, there has been many attempts to study changes in cells, molecules and brain chemistry and how they can affect cognition.
It’s worth noting that although they are related, intelligence and cognition are not the same things. The term “Intelligence” can be defined as individual’s ability to discern or literally choose between one thing and another, and the ability to acquire and apply knowledge and skills. Cognition and intelligence are not only about the scale of individuals’ understanding, memory, problem-solving, and reasoning skills, but also how fast they perceive and understand new concepts. Cognitive enhancement does not directly correspond to increased intelligence.
As mentioned, cognition involves a series of mental processes that are mostly interdependent. The term “cognitive ability” also attempts to capture some aspects of these interlinked mental processes such as learning, memory, attention, planning, problem-solving, cognitive flexibility, etc. Efforts have been made to improve “cognitive ability” by boosting individual's abilities in relation to any one of these aspects, thus enhancing their performance. However, it’s important to bear in mind that in some cases, attempting to change or enhance one of these aspects might affect other aspects in a negative way. For instance, an improvement in the speed at which ideas or concepts are grasped can lead to deterioration in another aspect, so that the person responds faster than usual but gets the wrong answer.
LEARNING, MEMORY, AND THE BRAIN:
While there has been a lot of findings regarding the cellular and molecular basis of learning and memory, discovering how new information is collected, consolidated and either recovered or forgotten still remains to be an ongoing research. One research study in particular, The Foresight Project, has identified the memory as the key factor in changes in synapse function, both in size and strength, otherwise known as synaptic plasticity. These connections are formed through both the creation of memories and experiences, as well as intake for new information through learning by an individual. This leads to the formation and loss of new synapses through neural proliferation and programmed cell death. Through a combination of removing unnecessary synapses and creating stronger connections, the overall cognitive function will improve.
The term “cognitive enhancement” basically suggests some measurable improvement or progress in one or more features of cognitive ability. It is derived from the treatment of a range of diseases that are associated with cognitive impairment, however, the term now extends to include preventative measures of normal aging in those with non-medical goals and healthy users seeking further improvement. -Modern AlkaMe focuses on the latter.
Listed are a few cognitive processes which collectively are the culmination of our brain power:
Attention - A cognitive process of selectively focusing on one aspect of the environment, while ignoring other aspects.
Memory - A cognitive process concerning the capacity and retention of material.
Short-term memory (primary or active memory) is the capacity for holding a small amount of information in mind in an active, readily available state for a short period of time.
Long-term memory is the capacity for holding information in mind in an active, readily available state for an indefinite period of time.
Reasoning - A cognitive process of consciously applying logic of thought in a sensible and reasonable way
Comprehension - A cognitive process to gain a thorough understanding of the subject
Creativity - A cognitive process to create or utilize imagination or ideas
Planning - A cognitive process to establish an organized set of information
Problem-solving - A cognitive process to find solutions to complex or difficult issues
Learning - A cognitive process to thoroughly understand and retain select information for reapplication
HOW TO ENHANCE COGNITION
Although the term Cognitive Enhancement is somewhat new, this isn’t necessarily a new concept. Unless you think your cup of coffee this morning was the first in history...
There are several means of affecting cognition, whether it be through traditional mental exercises or exogenous sources. As a Nootropic focused company, we tend to talk about consumption and supplementation the most.
Dr. Corneliu Giurgea developed a list of primary characteristics required to be deemed a Nootropic .
- They should enhance learning and memory
- They should enhance the resistance of learned behaviors/memories to conditions which tend to disrupt them
- They should protect the brain against various physical or chemical injuries
- They should affect the efficacy of the tonic/subcortical control mechanisms
- They should lack the usual pharmacology of other psychotropic drugs and possess very few side effects and extremely low toxicity
Nootropics are nearly unparalleled in versatility. Our platform will allow you to unbiasedly aggregate your biometric data and Nootropic research to help you measure the cognitive enhancing effects of your diet and supplement regimen.
Interested in Measuring Your Cognitive Enhancement?
- Giurgea C (1972). "[Pharmacology of integrative activity of the brain. Attempt at nootropic concept in psychopharmacology] ("Vers une pharmacologie de l'active integrative du cerveau: Tentative du concept nootrope en psychopharmacologie")". A