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Hacking the Brain (nih.gov)
389 points by whereareyo 26 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 143 comments

I haven’t found near infrared radiation referenced in the article - I‘m using near infrared as a brain hack, by shining a cheap 850nm LED light on my forehead. This has, over the last 2 years, enabled me to code for weeks on end, for 12+ hours a day, with only minor cognitive decline. It’s not something I really want to do, but sometimes it’s useful.

Before I started the near infrared routine (~5 minutes every other day), 5-6 hours of coding per day was all I could do - eg after coding for 8h, I noticed serious cognitive and emotional decline, and might need to do less the following day. Not anymore - nowadays I can be productive whenever I’m awake, with little side effects. Near infrared radiation is safe (thousands of studies demonstrated only very mild side effects), and is even used to treat Alzheimer’s. I have no idea why its beneficial effects are not more widely known - for some people, it’s life changing.

Sidenote: 850nm light works way better for me than 830nm.

Improving executive function using transcranial infrared laser stimulation (2015)


Transcranial infrared laser stimulation is a new non‐invasive form of low‐level light therapy that may have a wide range of neuropsychological applications. It entails using low‐power and high‐energy‐density infrared light from lasers to increase metabolic energy. Preclinical work showed that this intervention can increase cortical metabolic energy, thereby improving frontal cortex‐based memory function in rats. Barrett and Gonzalez‐Lima (2013, Neuroscience, 230, 13) discovered that transcranial laser stimulation can enhance sustained attention and short‐term memory in humans. We extend this line of work to executive function. Specifically, we ask whether transcranial laser stimulation enhances performance in the Wisconsin Card Sorting Task that is considered the gold standard of executive function and is compromised in normal ageing and a number of neuropsychological disorders. We used a laser of a specific wavelength (1,064 nm) that photostimulates cytochrome oxidase – the enzyme catalysing oxygen consumption for metabolic energy production. Increased cytochrome oxidase activity is considered the primary mechanism of action of this intervention. Participants who received laser treatment made fewer errors and showed improved set‐shifting ability relative to placebo controls. These results suggest that transcranial laser stimulation improves executive function and may have exciting potential for treating or preventing deficits resulting from neuropsychological disorders or normal ageing.

I asked this elsewhere but I’ll ask again here: how is this any different from just going outside?

Prof Hamblin (of Harvard) said in the video interview with the guy from selfhacked that sun at greater heights (multiple kilometers above sea level) does indeed give some of the beneficial effects that are observed with near infrared devices. Elsewhere, radiation is not strong enough to have the same effect.

For the time periods described it's probably not significant but exposure to sunlight does increase risk of skin cancer.

Sunlight increases the incidence of melanoma, but reduces mortality:


Interesting. Here in Australia we've had a decades-long campaign to reduce sun exposure as much as possible due to a wave of skin cancers in the '80s and '90s. It's been arguably too successful and now other health issues have become prevalent (eg. vitamin D deficiency) due to too little sun exposure.

Humans evolved while being baked in the sun, it'd be surprising if eliminating sunlight almost completely didn't come with some downsides.

That's probably due to a healthier lifestyle.

Other studies have adjusted for the effects of BMI and exercise levels, and sun exposure is still significantly inversely associated with all cause mortality:


Over a period of 20 years, you will double your risk of dying if you avoid sun exposure.

Not everyone lives in a sunny tropical paradise.

it more reminds me about sitting in front of campfire and my grandmother's house wood stove in the childhood. This is probably how i got so smart.

That would be more far infrared than near infrared, meaning there is almost no penetration deeper than 1 millimeter or stgh.

Wish what people living in those sunny tropical paradise wants to?

It’s easier to have a lamp at your desk than it is to work outside

how powerful is this LED? https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4870908/ seems to suggest you need several watts.. "snouf and colleagues reported that only 34% of an 850 nm continuous light source at 100 mW could penetrate 0.784 mm of human skin. Approximately 89% of 820 nm light will penetrate 0.4 mm of epidermis (Kolari, 1985) and about 13.5% traverses 2 mm of skin (Henderson and Morries, 2015a). Our laboratory research shows considerably less penetration by low level NIR. We found energy from a 50 mW 810 nm LED did not penetrate 2 mm of human or sheep skin (Henderson and Morries, 2015a). Similarly, no energy could be detected penetrating either human skin or sheep skin from a 200 mW LED (650 + 880 nm). Using higher energy devices, we found 9% of the energy from the 10 W combined 810/980 nm continuous wave infrared laser passed through 2 mm of skin (human or sheep)."

Interesting article. The dosage is controlled by J/cm^2 in most of the studies I'm looking at - so time and distance from the emitter are the other factors.

eg, This study used an array of 500mW LEDs and a 10 minute exposure to achieve 13 J/cm^2.


Alas, I didn't measure it with a meter (since I don't have any), but according to the spec it draws 14W with a panel size of ~70 square centimeters. There's diffraction and everything, but since I put it directly on the skin, it's fair to assume that the theoretical absorption is 200mW/centimeter. BUT, power loss is huge (cheap infrared LEDs are below 50% efficiency), I don't think that, all in all, more than 30% of the input energy are preserved. So that would be 60mW/centimeter.

I'm seeing a lot of comments, both positive and negative, but no answer to the important question: what the hell is the mechanism? How is this light supposed to actually get through to your brain? These aren't X-rays or microwaves; like visible light, infrared light gets stopped almost completely by skin.

>like visible light,, infrared light gets stopped almost completely by skin

Actually light passes through skin rather easily. You can test this by putting a flashlight up to your hand. Light even acts as a catalyst for nutrients in your body according to some recent studies:


Maybe a fraction can pass through the scalp, but what about the skull?

Near infrared light is of lower frequency than visible light, so it can penetrate matter more easily. UV light barely passes through more than a few layers of skin cells (thereby potentially overloading those cells with a lot of energy, causing DNA damage), while visible light can go millimeters deep, and near infrared can go even deeper. Near infrared can be used to measure bone density. This would not work if bone were fully opaque to IR light.

Seriously, why is nobody else asking THIS question.

I'm usually convinced there are a ton of really smart people on HN... much smarter than myself. Yet, this thread is one of those few times where I'm found doubting.

Either I am just totally missing the facts here, or yea... there's some wild placebo + self convincing going on.

You are missing facts indeed, see my sibling comment.

quantum tunneling

You might be interested in biophotons: human body emits dim light constantly. These photons may be functional and not just a byproduct. Many sources are a bit 'woo', so take with a grain of salt, but there is an idea floating around that some molecules are excited by specific wavelengths, and so by targeting cells with these wavelengths you can preferentially change the reaction rate of certain molecules it contains.

This is a widely known effect. I work for a big outsourcing company, they equip developers in open spaces with small personal infrared LEDs. It can be mounted to a headset and programmatically connected to pomodoro time tracker, so that they are switched on during rest periods automatically.

If you are not trolling, what country is this company in? I'm also curious why it only switches on during rest periods?

This is astonishing. Can you provide any more information or evidence of the prevalence of this practice?

Your body will naturally develop an immunity, a bit like a callus, to constant IR light. To counteract this use an IR light with Pulse Width Modulation, such as a TV control.

Then post pictures of yourself holding a remote to your head so that you can help educate others about your medical breakthrough.

Get an ESP32 and drive a MOSFET through a GPIO pin that in turn drives the LED array.

Then use the WiFi on it and make it controllable through Alexa. Hands free operation!

Thanks; this sounds amazing. I’m gonna do some more research on it to see if there’s any more information about the safety and technique. I just purchased an 850nm setup on Amazon to try it out. Does this look anything like what you use? https://www.amazon.com/dp/B075F7NV56/

Mine has more and smaller LEDs, but I think this one should do nicely.

Wouldn’t get the same if not more of all the wavelengths by just sitting outside for 5 minutes? Is that maybe what you’ve been missing?

You're not missing anything, sufficiently bright natural sunlight would have the same effect.

No, radiation is not strong enough to have a significant effect, according to Prof Hamblin. Locations that are higher up (mountains) are better in that regard.

Could you elaborate on this? What exactly LED bulb are you using, what is your exact current routine? 5 mins in the morning? The professional ones are very expensive, could you share your solution?

I have several devices, one from a manufacturer called "Red Light Man", but the best effect I get with a $25 CCTV infrared radiator (850nm) that didn't even have a power adapter shipped with it. Photobiomodulation is ideal at 830nm (maximal energy resorption by chromophores in human cells), so 850nm is quite close to optimal. There are more expensive solutions of course, even therapeutic lasers that cost a couple thousand dollars. There are people who self-assemble helmets with laser diodes. LEDs and lasers can also be pulsed, to allow deeper penetration without overheating tissue. If you search for "LED infrared device" or "photobiomodulation" you should find lots of options.

Do you mind explaining your routine of 5 minutes every other day? Is this recommended from a study?

It's basically self experimentation, and cross-checked with literature to make sure I don't overdose. Overdose is not that bad (it surely happened to me), slight light-headedness and confusion for a few hours, in my case. Not stay-at-home bad, only a bit annoying. I quickly learned not to overdose, and haven't for over a year. Prof Hamblin from Harvard gave an interesting video interview with the guy from selfhacked (should be on youtube) where he mentions that he uses near infrared on his forehead to increase cognitive function, for a certain timespan (don't remember how often he does it). Since he's probably the most versed person (with a scientific background) on that topic, I thought it would be valid.

Very interesting. Last question, do you mind linking the exact CCTV led model you're using? Just so that I have a baseline for experimentation. Thanks for the info!

Is this similar to the hair restoration helmets that use lights/lasers?

They use the same principle yes. Hair growth seems to be a mixed bag for near infrared though, it works for some people but not all.

> Sidenote: 850nm light works way better for me than 830nm.

You might want to check out 1064nm laser stimulation as well (instead?), based on the research done in "Transcranial laser stimulation improves human cerebral oxygenation"[0].

0 - https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5066697/

Thank you, I'll check it out!

This is the funniest post I've ever read on this website

Either it's entirely the placebo effect, or it somehow actually does something and you're cooking your brain to wage slave even harder

Mean-spirited post. The OP appears to be working for his own design/development studio, so your premise is already wrong. Others could be doing it because they want to be more productive at work in order to finish quicker and spend more time with their families at home.

Regardless of the validity of the effect they are describing, this is an incredibly mean and nasty comment.

They are describing a personal experience so that others may research it further should they choose to.

I agree they haven't shared any objective evidence to add credibility to their claims, but our response should be to ask for more evidence, not to mock and sneer.

"cooking your brain to wage slave even harder"

Not just mean, but wrong; as another commenter pointed out, they seem to be self-employed, and for all we know, could have a serious reason (e.g., financial challenges, important work) why it matters a lot to be highly productive, at least occasionally (note they literally wrote "It’s not something I really want to do, but sometimes it’s useful”).

For what it's worth, here's an article from 2014 that examines research into this kind of practice and finds evidence for its efficacy [1].

Other studies have found evidence that transcranial infrared energy may be beneficial for cognition [2] or illnesses such as Alzheimer's [2] and MS [3].

That said, it's not the kind of thing I would try, at least not regularly, as I take the view that artificial interventions like this likely carry some kind of side-effect or cost that renders negative or at-best neutral over the long-term (I feel the same way about pharmaceuticals and stimulants like caffeine).

But I have used infrared light in other ways to address issues like muscle tension and inflammation, which is common and often recommended by mainstream doctors.

But please, keep comments like this off HN. It's meant to be a place for curiosity and respectful discourse. The derision and contempt you displayed has no place here.

[1] https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fnsys.2014.0003...

[2] https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-019-42693-x

[3] https://medicalxpress.com/news/2014-08-publish-brain-ms-fnir...

A simple "pubmed near infrared brain" web search will yield enough results to dispel your concerns somewhat. Overdosing is of course not desirable, so yes, don't use a 10W laser for several minutes. There are plenty of therapeutic options which make it hard to overdose.

Since you mentioned wage slaving - I chose coding performance as an example, but I could also have mentioned improved guitar playing skills. Or being a better listener. On average, I don't code that much more now, maybe 6h per day (as a freelancer, there's also lots of other things to do).

voldacar 25 days ago [flagged]

So do you just tape the thing to your third eye or something? Do you have some kind of harness rigged up for it?

Or we live in a reality where that just works, no cooking involved. That would also be amazing and hilarious.

"This one simple trick..."

snake-oil salesmen hate him

Placebo or not, I have turned the post into a business plan and have just submitted what I think will be an award winning pitch to YCombinator.

>> wage slave

Keep the personal attacks off here. There is no need for this.

Halfway through, I also thought this was some next level satire.

Don't listen to these bums, there are much more people that agree with you. Its just that butt-hurt is a greater comment motivator than agreement.

I honestly couldn't tell if the comment was just really good satire. It sounds like something right out of a dystopian anthology series.

It was not. Do look it up, good keywords are "lllt", "photobiomodulation", "cytochrome c oxidase".

This is peak n-gate.

Yeah, I'm looking forward to reading that summary, too. I hope it gets better than the original thread as a noticed the quality of n-gate summaries go down a bit recently.

I prefer to put my head in the oven with the gas on, especially when I am trying to tackle a landslide of difficult problems

That’s cool that it works well , but aren’t there trade-offs for everything?

This method seems to help your brain work more because it increases its metabolism but that might also cause your brain to age faster right?

The harder you work something, the faster you wear it down.

Is my logic flawed or am I missing something? Just curious.

Photobiomodulation does not work cells/mitochondria harder, but on the contrary, it releases nitric oxide from cells which is a by-product of oxidate stress. The immediate positive effects are probably from vasodilation, which increases blood flow to tissue, and increased ATP production via the cytochrome C oxidase pathway. Longer term beneficial effects might stem from increased stem cell proliferation and suppression of inflammation (inflammation is highly suspected to be based on a lack of energy in cells, so it makes sense that increasing ATP production helps in that area).

Here is a study where near infrared light actually increased lifespan for fruit flies:

Ageing is an irreversible cellular decline partly driven by failing mitochondrial integrity. Mitochondria accumulate DNA mutations and reduce ATP production necessary for cellular metabolism. This is associated with inflammation. Near-infrared exposure increases retinal ATP in old mice via cytochrome c oxidase absorption and reduces inflammation. Here, we expose fruitflies daily to 670 nm radiation, revealing elevated ATP and reduced inflammation with age. Critically, there was a significant increase in average lifespan: 100–175% more flies survived into old age following 670 nm exposure and these had significantly improved mobility. This may be a simple route to extending lifespan and improving function in old age.


This is a good point and I think it's a safe assumption that you're right, but here's another tid bit to consider:

Perhaps some people have abnormally SLOW brain aging / metabolism. This would be a way for them to get back to normal?

Tenoke 26 days ago [flagged]

Can't tell if satire but if not can you provide us with some links as to why you decided to try it and how you decided on the specific setup?

> Scalp application of red and NIR light is a new application for LED technology. More than 30 years ago, however, it was observed in human cadaver studies that red (600 nm) and NIR (800–900nm) wavelengths could penetrate through the scalp and skull (∼ 1 cm). Two physiological changes associated with exposure of cells to red and NIR wavelengths of light are: 1) Increased production of adenosine triphosphate (ATP) by the mitochondria, and 2) Increased vasodilation/regional cerebral blood flow (rCBF), explained subsequently.


whoa. so a helmet that bathes your skull in near infrared light could supercharge your brain (or fry it...)

2y ago I was reading selfhacked.com a lot, and photobiomodulation/LLLT kept popping up. The founder also interviewed Prof Hamblin, and I found that one _very_ interesting [1] and wanted to give it a try. I started searching around, and found lots of promising studies. Even 2 small studies with LED helmets that vastly improved Alzheimer's symptoms (at least for ~2 weeks, so patients need to keep up the routine; they actually produced some for the study alumni so they would not relapse). I anxiously put that cheap CCTV light on my forehead for 3 minutes, and after ~30m noticed that my sense of smell improved greatly (probably because the root of my nose was also irradiated). I smelled slight scents that others didn't - so that was what tipped me off that this thing could really work. I also noticed a few hours later that I could think more clearly and with more endurance, for about 24h. So I just kept it up. Over time, the positive effects kept lasting longer, and then there were times where I didn't use it for weeks on end. Currently I use it a lot because I have a deadline to meet. It's a real life changer - I don't ever worry anymore that I can't finish a project because I'm brain dead after a few days of intensive work. Being able to fully rely on your ability to make money is huge if you previously were not. I also know that I'll be able to learn and apply new concepts if needed, no matter how tired I am (I have little kids).

1: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wAW8Fvg-TJQ&t=662s

Do you notice much difference between just flashing those CCTV lights at your head vs making a helmet of some sort?

I'm curious to try it, so far I mostly see positive responses from those who have but I am yet to invest more time into researching it.

It's a shame the wavelength needed is so specific, or you could use a garden variety remote control...

Just use an all in one remote and set it to a Toshiba L9300 Series

Imagining a bunch of hacker news readers heading to purchase LED lights to shine at their heads just made my day.

In a noisy open plan office, with one of those noise reducing helmets, SADS lamp, earplugs, white noise, popping adderall, barista delivering espressos to feeding tube, etc.

I think I might have just figured out where Daleks came from... and why they're so angry all the time.

I actually wonder why they haven't already. Even Jack Dorsey has a near infrared bulb at this desk, it was mentioned in an article about his daily routine.

I just ordered a dozen for my entire team!

Am I on your team? If not, can I be!??

Just buy a cheap CCTV 850nm radiator, they cost about $25. No need to change jobs to get one.

this is the most hacker news post i have ever seen that doesnt involve Rust

Now that you said "Rust" I'm sure all their phones are beeping with alerts and they'll come in and comment.

Old USENET folks will remember having to say "Trkey" and "Kbo" to avoid certain people finding the thread. I think on Hacker News, we will need to say "R*st"

I have a tangential question around brain hacking.

The Flynn effect says we're gaining an avg of 3 IQ pts every decade since the early 20th century. Meaning our great grandparents, on average, would be considered mentally handicapped compared to today's intellect.

Now certain biochemical explanations for the Flynn effect explain raw neurophysiological gains (e.g., iodine fortification in the early 20th century added 5 pts).

So my question: for whatever isn't explained by biochemical enhancement, is there an equal cognitive tradeoff in something less measurable than IQ?

I.e., do our brains act like muscle and the info age as a super gym? Or are we becoming "mentally impaired" compared to our great grandparents in other aspects (e.g., working with our hands, building communities, etc)?

I imagine our neuro-plastic brains try to make use of all of its real-estate. If so, then could it just be that we're growing in measurable ways, and becoming "mentally impaired" in non-measurable ways?

Sounds Ludditic, maybe an expert can weigh in

I've got some incredibly lazy sunday afternoon non expert thinking.

200 years ago, just about everything was custom, bespoke. A carpenter would look for a piece of wood that was best for solving the problem at hand, that bit of warp was perfect for making a barrel stave.

Work now, of all kinds, is more about minimum thresholds. classify objects or problems, and use standard approaches. Just about any piece of wood is fine, because we have power tools and standardized fasteners.

We've shifted from local optimization to identifying minimum requirements. A shift away from arbitrary wood blocks, to high-tolerance, highly consistent lego blocks.

Anyway, i think the flynn effect is mostly about reshaping the world to value a little bit more abstraction over local optimization, and we teach people how to operate in the consistent world rather than the bespoke world.

Anyway, our great grandparents weren't dumb. Their minds were focused around a time when everything was precious, scarce and unique. They had to focus on what makes X special, and how can i use that unusual feature the best way possible? Now, we have lots of stuff that's plentiful and consistent. How do we systemize around that?

I mean, to a very large extent, a keyboard is a keyboard. we can have passionate arguments about mechanical keys vs rubber dome, but there's like a handful options, and at the end of the day any of them will let you type and be reasonably productive. But our great grandparents, they likely considered what's special about every object they interacted with.

That's not to say i don't think about, say, dishes. But if i break a dish, i'll just go buy another one. Our great grandparents probably thought a lot more deeply, and worried more about everyday objects, just because they were so much more expensive. They needed that local optimization. For, like, everything.

I feel like data analysis is moving us into a new world where the assumption of interchangeability is ruthlessly exploited, so I suspect that there's a feedback where the older mentality is becoming more valuable again. At least until things reach a new equilibrium.

Like, every product you buy has a million factors that affects its quality, and at best, you can test, directly or by proxy a very few. So, it used to be that you could assume that the quality was representative. But increasingly, it's possible to optimize precisely the characteristics consumers (or regulators or reviewers) look at while making everything they don't crap.

Capitalism seemed to work so well for a while because businesses inadvertently provided more quality than economically optimal, but better data processing is changing that and I think it will force an evolution in what sort of intellect thrives in the society of the near future.

I don't disagree that the transition you describe happened, but we're in the middle of a new one in my opinion.

It’s like what happened in the physical and construction world. If the romans had computers their viaducts wouldn’t still be standing. If Caesar could use a tenth of the material for the same ends when invading Britain he would have. He didn’t so had to massively over engineer.

Hence why a Roman infrastructure is still used in the UK to this day.

> The Flynn effect says we're gaining an avg of 3 IQ pts every decade since the early 20th century. Meaning our great grandparents, on average, would be considered mentally handicapped compared to today's intellect.

According to Flynn's later work[0], this gain might be explained by:

> The Dutch data proved the existence of unknown environmental factors so potent that they account for 15 of the 20 points gained. The hypothesis that best fits the results is that IQ tests do not measure intelligence but rather a correlate with a weak causal link to intelligence. This hypothesis can also explain difficult trends on various mental tests, such as the combination of IQ gains and Scholastic Aptitude Test losses in the United States.[0]

> do our brains act like muscle and the info age as a super gym?

I'm not quite sure what you mean by "age as a super gym", but cognitive functions can be increased, much like how exercising strengthens the muscles used.

Some research supports earlier introduction to abstract concepts contributes to increased fluid intelligence. Other research posits nutrition might be a contributing factor. It would not be unreasonable to think both contribute to some degree.

As far as "brain hacking" goes, there is research supporting increasing fluid intelligence via far-transfer cognitive training (working memory, set switching, sustained focus, etc.). It also is hypothesized that these cognitive training tasks contribute to near-transfer benefits.

EDIT: corrected cognitive training enumeration.

0 - https://psycnet.apa.org/record/1987-17534-001

This started going back down in the 1970s: https://www.sciencealert.com/iq-scores-falling-in-worrying-r...

I'm not an expert, but a brief scan of secondary sources (Wikipedia and Our World In Data) show it going back to 1910 in the Americas at least:


Edit: ah excuse me, I misread. I have seen a question about its recent reversal.

I think there's more nuance to the claim from statistical perspective. How is the average estimated, what kind of a distribution does population IQ have, and what factors influence it?

Super interesting to compare this to violent crime rates and the percentage of atmospheric lead!

The brain is like a muscle. But the info age isn't a gym workout. It's doing curls with cans of soda. The info age "workout" creates fatigue, not muscle.

While, it's not necessarily info age / distraction age centric, I suggest checking out the book "Your Brain at Work" by David Rock.


Well to be honest the iq test has always been kind of bullshit imo. It changes with your level of education. In HS mine was 120 and now it's 143 (edit: I actually took that test 4 years ago and 3 years ago I had a brain tumor that left me with seizures and I have definitely suffered cognitively because of that so its probably lower if my memory and focus are any indicator). The test itself doesn't even measure useful cognitively profound abilities and if it did we'd all be near the same. It measures everything as a flat value. There is no value for each type of cognitive ability and most of it is skills you've picked up through life and education.

So when you look back at our great grandparents, take me for example, I'm part native hawaiian and my great grandparents were literally living in a shack on the beach. Their lives consisted of catching fish and fruit and sugar cane farming I don't even know if they could read before my grandparents started school. So of course their iq is lower. I mean hell you can't even take the iq test if you can't read. So I don't think the brain changes that we have are responsible for our higher iq points. I think it's availability to information, the more you have and contemplate the smarter you'll be. Pretty straight forward I think. Higher nutrients and regularly available food is helpful as well obviously.

The Flynn effect seems to have peaked and has been reversing

Most of the things worth mentioning were invented by these "mentally handicapped" generations. Not sure how that works.

The important thing to note about the parent poster was that he said "on average". Perhaps these things were not invented by average people.

Edit: fix auto correct mistake

If we are on the average smarter now, we have to see higher achievement rate on the average too. Doesn't seem to happen.

Is it implied anywhere that an increase in IQ corelates with a decrease in EQ?

It really takes a special kind of mind to take something originally intended to be fun, subversive and/or spiritual (recreational drugs) that's existed for decades or even centuries, and turn it into yet another tool to boost your React productivity by 12.3% on Friday evenings, under the new brand of 'enhancement' or 'hacking'. Because to what other end would that 'performance' boost be put to use?

According to what bible/religion are "recreational drugs" (whatever the definition of that is) "intended to be" for fun, subversive and/or spiritual use only and why should anybody care?

A random fun hypothesis by Paul Staments (in my own words): that the neocortex in humans evolved the way it did, because hominids have been consuming Psilocybin mushrooms for millions of years (until Christians and Nixon banned them and pushed the rest of the world to follow). In other words: there's symbiosis between hominids and Psilocybin mushrooms. Psilocybin mushrooms as food = more intelligent hominids (after the trip) = higher survival rate of hominids = higher survival rate for the mushroom due to active conservation by hominids.

Fun fact (according to Staments): Psilocybin mushrooms occur in higher concentrations around human settlements than in "wild nature" (still today).

Interesting! That helps explain why Lenin was a mushroom.


As if it wasn't thoroughly explained enough already.

>According to what bible/religion are "recreational drugs" (whatever the definition of that is) "intended to be" for fun, subversive and/or spiritual use?

No bible but mere history and tradition. That's where the original 'intent' came from.

>why should anybody care?

You shouldn't. This is just a comment on a certain kind of people that likely won't have any effect on them and that they are free to ignore.

Cool theory though. Do you have some links to dig into it? Also could it have applied to other naturally-occuring psychedelics (salvia divinorum, mescaline cacti, etc.)?

I get this, I really do. The whole "brain hacking so I can earn more profit for my boss" thing is something I'm acutely aware of. At the same time, ADHD makes adulting in general wicked hard. If I can get the job done more easily, or work more hours and earn more money, that gives me a better quality of life, that's a worthwhile tradeoff for me.

On the other hand, imagine a world where I don't have to make this tradeoff.

I was about to write a negative, sarcastic comment agreeing with you but (despite being absolutely sober) was suddenly filled with acceptance and understanding for my fellow humans and decided against it.

Dear HN, this person's got it. Hacker ethic is about finding the hidden ways in things, it's about not letting the world tell you what to do, it's definitely not about playing monkey tricks for money treats. Also, being a hacker is about fun. Fun, interestingly, is like, what happens when you don't have to force/trick/"hack" yourself into doing something. It's pretty great. If you're forgoing it for more volume of code then, maybe consider talking to someone about your goals and fears? Introspection and the ears of well-meaning people can do wonders for productivity, since nothing will let you do things quite like doing the right thing.

Or perhaps these people simply aren't hedonists that orientate their lives around momentary pleasures. Instead, they derive pleasure from achievement and building things.

Recreational drugs, on the other hand, have ruined millions of people lives. You are being disengenuous to suggest that they have a positive effect to most people.

Finally, no one "intended" drugs to be anything. They are simply tools that humans have discovered. It is ludicrous to suggest that they have specific intention.

You're right, people should eschew such debasing wordly pleasures for the noble task of checks notes tracking the living hell of anyone with an internet device to serve them with personalized ads. Much achievement, very world-building.

>Recreational drugs, on the other hand, have ruined millions of people lives.

Yes all recreational drugs are opiates and physically addictive. People have been overdosing on mushrooms and LSD for decades before the government undertook heroic prohibition efforts. That's definitely what's happened.

>It is ludicrous to suggest that they have specific intention.

The original users did them with a specific intention. That's what is meant by the passive form of 'intended'. Of course I am not forbidding you to enhance your IQ with minute LSD microdosings so that you can perform better at your next hackathon, by all means feel free to change the world.

You see, it's actually something that almost anyone will start to think about when they abuse ritalin on a daily basis for a little too long.

Just look at the microdosing community.

Are you gatekeeping drugs for fun only?

What kind of mind does it take to do something like that? And is it ok to repurpose drugs for productivity if you channel that energy into solving the worlds problems?

For those who don't want to read the whole thing.

Use your brain regularly on many types of tasks, drink coffee or tea, play video games, exercise, and provide your brain with either proper nutrients or appropriate levels of supplements. Too much or too little supplements will have negative or no effects. Everything else doesn't have enough research and some side effects might not be what you wanted. Not to mention there are placebo effects as well.

If you didn't know that before then go ahead and read it. You might get something from it.

Also, get high quality sleep. I'm still not sold on video games and coffee/tea. I'll have to look at it more. If you some research that shows the beneficial effects of coffee/tea and video games, please share

I think new forms of human-computer interaction will likely have the largest effect on cognition, whether that's Augmented Reality or Brain-Computer Interfaces or both. It's interesting to see how quickly BCI's are developing and I wonder if AR will actually ever have commercial success. If BCI's are able to 'hotwire' human vision and pass information directly to our brain, AR displays would be rendered obsolete.

The only remaining question is how fast BCI technology can reach that level. If it takes more than 10-15 years, I think there could certainly be an age of AR devices that we soon find ourselves in, where AR goggles parallel our current smartphones. On the other hand, the rate at which the BCI field is progressing makes me feel like society might just 'skip over' this AR stage all the way to BCI's.

> This work was supported by the Volkswagen Foundation, Germany.

What an odd area of research for Volkswagen to fund.

The Volkswagen Foundation is completely independent of the company named Volkswagen. It was found with the proceeds from the sale of the company to private investors by the state of Lower Saxony and the Federal Republic in the 60s and receives the dividends of the still publicly held shares. It's not a company foundation and Volkswagen has no say in any form. It's just a large public science foundation.

Compare the Rockefeller, Carnegie, Ford, Pew, and MacArthur foundations, for the US. These don't represent the interests of Standard Oil, US Steel, Ford Motor, Sun Oil, or Bankers Life & Casualty.

It's not a commercial story.

One extremely important topic wasn't mentioned here - the impact of sunlight. For those, who feel that sunlight is crucial for their cognitive and (more important) emotional base-level, I recommend a great book by Linda Geddes - "Chasing the sun"[1].

One of important findings in the mentioned book was that blue light (as emitted by computer and smartphone screens) inhibits melatonin excretion and thus have negative impact on the quality of sleep and makes it harder to fall asleep. I replicated author's experiment and haven't used smartphone & computer after 8PM (for about a week) and my sleep quality improved greatly.

[1] https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/42603316-chasing-the-sun

The word "hypnosis" does not appear anywhere in this document, that's a pretty glaring omission, IMO.

This is interesting, more?

In re: hypnosis in general the books I recommend are: "TRANCE-formations" by Bandler and Grinder, and "Monsters and Magical Sticks: There's No Such Thing as Hypnosis?" by Heller.

For specifically improving "cognitive enhancement" the easiest, safest, and most far-reaching technique involves modifying your self-image. You can reprogram yourself to believe that you're smarter and your mind will modify your behaviour to meet your belief. For better or worse one's intelligence level is generally tied into one's self-image, and the only barrier to being smarter is your natural reluctance to become a different person.

For self-image engineering the best books I've found are "Psycho Cybernetics" by Maltz and "With Winning in Mind" by Bassham.





(But really, read "Prometheus Rising" by R. A. Wilson and do the exercises.)

Usually around October, as the temperature falls and the sun sets earlier, I delve more into the esoteric. RAW has always been a go-to and his lessons are eye opening. When I finally manifest my quarter I was ecstatic :)

The Master Key system is an interesting read too https://www.amazon.com/Master-Key-System-Charles-Haanel-eboo...

Sleep 8h each day, eat clean, workout - especially high intensity stuff, watch your stress levels, meditate daily. I've found those to make huge difference if you have the discipline.

I recently read Andrew Gelman's description of these effect sizes from short studies. I think the idea was that if many small interventions created large positive effects then there could also be as many interventions on the negative side and we would not see any effects at all.

Yet there are interventions that clearly create massive net +ve effects, one just has to do experiments which is repeatable and stands the test of time.

Rhetorical Q: Does this IR thingy do that?

I'm skeptical of IQ enhancing drugs ever coming about. Intelligence is so complex even the actual definition is a controversial topic.

So far we can show that intelligent enhancement can be predicated on exercise, outside of that there are temporary drugs (e.g. coffee) that "boost" intelligence but in actuality boost attention.

"In the first test, conducted in Northern California in the late 1960s, a researcher named Calvin Edlund selected 79 children between the ages of 5 and 7, all from “low-middle class and lower-class homes.” The children were randomly divided into an experimental group and a control group. First, they all took a standard version of the Stanford-Binet IQ test. Seven weeks later, they took a similar test, but this time the kids in the experimental group were given one M&M for each correct answer. On the first test, the two groups were evenly matched on IQ. On the second test, the IQ of the M&M group went up an average of 12 points—a huge leap."

From Paul Tough's book "how children succeed"

We're all going to be fucked, when it comes to employment in twenty years, then.

Forget the M&M's. Video games are a skinner box on steroids. Kids are going to learn fast.

Edit: I may have missed the point -- it looks like motivation improves performance, not necessarily actual "cognitive ability", if we can quantify that.

Intelligence is hard to improve upon because it's poorly defined (as you noted). However, specific parts of it can be trained and targeted, eg short term memorization and recall, number of productive hours awake (especially on little sleep), ability to hold strong emotions at bay.

Medications that address such things this may not "improve intelligence", but at the end of the day, if they let someone concentrate and be productive for 18 hours in a day, with no "hangover" the next, or lets them visualize complex protein makeup while altered, with enough retained to write up a scientific paper about said protein when sober, isn't that close enough for the pop-sci definition of "improved intelligence"? What the person is able to do with them, is still better than if they did not. Nootropics and micro-dosing are popular topics for those trying to use medication to improve overall effectiveness, in the quest for the drug that's still science fiction featured in the movie Limitless.

Politicians blindly outlawed a shitload of potential real smart drugs in the rush to stop Americans from using MDMA. 2C-D looks promising https://erowid.org/chemicals/2cd/2cd_smartpills1.shtml

It'll move away from the IQ 'brand' and move to job performance or some other easier-to-measure metric. I'm actually okay with this, I'd much rather they be honest that a particular enhancement is only good for particular things.

Mind enhancing drugs and neutraceuticals exist currently. Research Nootropics such as CILTEP or Piracetam.

Has anyone here tried Dual N-Back for more than a couple of weeks? Does it really improve working memory and indirectly your IQ?

Short answer - it probably doesn't do too much outside of making you better at tasks similar to n back.

Long answer - https://www.gwern.net/DNB-FAQ

It improves your skill of doing Dual N-Back. Most new studies show that brain games (like dual N-Back) are not transitive (unfortunately).

Did not see any genetic engineering of somatic cells using viral vectors. I guess that's just too extreme.

When it's possible, id like to upload my mind into a machine.

But you will remain in your body while a digital copy of your mental states is being run on some machine. The fleshly you won’t get to experience the machine existence, if there is anything to experience at all.

What good would this do you? Or the machine for that matter?

Really, REALLY targeted ads

Talk about all these pharmaceuticals .. Shortcuts will fry the hardware.

A dangerous game. Good luck to those who dare. Ill always propone meditation and developing attentive discipline.

Not a coffee drinker, eh?

Somehow I feel like the Age of Enlightenment occurring at around the same time as when coffee drinking was becoming increasingly widespread in Europe can't have been a coincidence

As I understand it, the coffee largely replaced alcohol, so there was an effective two-for-one effect of less depressant and more stimulant consumption.

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