We will define brain performance as your ability, or your brains ability to focus, be productive and effective, and work on challenging problems for long periods of time.
This, to no surprise, also seems to be on the steady decline.
The advent of information technology, particularly the internet, smart phones and social media has lead to an explosion of over-information and inputs entering our brain at any given time.
This means that most of the time, we are juggling an insane amount of thoughts and battling distractions and notifications from every piece of tech we carry around.
This is great for keeping up with friends, or with what’s going on everywhere in the world. But it’s DEFINITELY not good for focusing on your priorities, and completing deep, meaningful work.
Thankfully, this problem is already being solved from a variety of angles and attack vectors - primarily in the software and hardware space.
There are dozens of “productivity apps” which help track or remove your social media apps for X period of time, or track how much time you spend looking at your phone.
This is a good start, but there is also a case to be made that we need to put a “hard reset” on our brain chemistry as well.
The overstimulation of social media, video games and the like has led to a short circuit of our dopamine reward pathways.
At any given second, we can flood our brains with these feel good neurotransmitters by showing us things we want to see all the time on Instagram, or by posting a photo to attract likes from friends or complete strangers.
This means that more and more we are turning to these devices to get our dopamine hit each day, when initially we evolved to use dopamine to motivate us to do hard things that is deserving of a reward (finding a mate, foraging for food or hunting large animals).
I think it is imperative that we start to learn to completely switch off distractions from our phones, email and social media. Let us start the conversation about minimising the use of these tools each day. This will allow us to focus deeply on important, hard problems that will make us feel fulfilled and productive.
It may also be wise to look at other activities we include in our daily lives, which gives us these really short term, pleasurable dopamine hits with very little effort involved.
This can include pornography, watching movies or TV regularly, playing video games, eating junk food.
These activities can literally rewire our brain to crave these easy stimulus hits without doing meaningful, hard activities to achieve the same dopamine output. This reduces our ability to stay disciplined and focused on the important work we need to get done each day.
We can also begin to look at supplementing with some natural ingredients to give us a boost in focus or brain performance.
These include stimulants like Caffeine, Teacrine, Dynamine and Zynamite.
Teacrine and Dynamine are compounds with structural similarity to caffeine, however they do not cause habituation (tolerance build up over time). They work in a similar way, by inhibiting adenosine in the brain leading to wakefulness, but can also act weakly on dopamine receptors to increase focus.
When paired together with caffeine, these ingredients create a synergistic or "entourage" effect. They amplify each other, and lead to great improvements in these specific cognitive functions without a huge crash.
You can also look at Dopamine precursors like L-Tyrosine or Velvet bean extract/Mucuna Pruriens (L-Dopa).
Watch out with taking Mucuna Pruriens, which is typically high % L-Dopa. L-Dopa is the direct precursor to Dopamine and if taken at too high of a dose, or for too long of a period, can downregulate dopamine receptors in the brain.
You can also look at MAO-B inhibitors such as Neuravena, which is a patented Green Oat extract. MAO-B is an enzyme which preferentially breaks down dopamine in the brain. Supplementing with an MAO-B inhibitor may then potentially elevate dopamine levels.
An interesting thing to note, is that currently, many uni students and corporates resort to “Smart Drugs” which are pharmaceuticals prescribed to people with ADHD or narcolepsy (sleep wakefulness disorder). This includes Ritalin, Modafinil, Dextroamphetamine or Adderall.
Most users take this without a prescription, in order to seriously boost their focus, alertness and wakefulness.
A lot of these drugs work largely as NDRI’s or Norepinephrine-Dopamine Reuptake Inhibitors. Basically, this floods your neurons and certain regions of your brain with these neurotransmitters for a short period of time.
While these substances can be useful tools in your toolkit, you should take caution as if taken too frequently, can once again, lead to massive “come downs” including irritability, fatigue and dopamine downregulation.