11

votes

Best Hacks for intelligence

Answered on August 19, 2014
Created November 03, 2011 at 2:28 AM

I already feel like one of the smartest guys in the world discovering paleo, however right now I'm at a point in my life where some bad decisions in the past are coming back to haunt me. My question is what are your best hacks for getting smarter? Right now I need to be able to memorize things better, have a clearer train of thought and focus like never before. What are your best hacks for general smartness?

F02990386b12528111740ad6279ba29d

(1363)

on November 29, 2011
at 12:33 AM

I also use it for Spanish, I have trouble finding a decent deck though, they seem to have so many errors! I end up making my own for most decks, although time consuming it's best to know its formatted well for yourself.

7bf306ada57db47547e9da39a415edf6

(11214)

on November 28, 2011
at 05:01 PM

I grabbed a few Spanish decks and merged them with one I've been building over the past few years. So now I've got around 8000 sentences and a bit of a backlog. Studying anything is better than studying nothing, but I suspect a professional linguist could come up with a better set of sentences- possibly for all languages, or at least many of them. I need an android device or something because it would be good to have Anki in my pocket

F02990386b12528111740ad6279ba29d

(1363)

on November 24, 2011
at 04:36 PM

I like it when I've used it so far, definitely a simple easy thing to do thats worthwhile. Helped me forget about the cell phone that I could be playing on instead of being productive.

F02990386b12528111740ad6279ba29d

(1363)

on November 24, 2011
at 04:30 PM

That's crazy, I definitely feel smarter when not drinking, but I don't moderate well. Very interesting.

F02990386b12528111740ad6279ba29d

(1363)

on November 24, 2011
at 04:26 PM

It would be interesting to see some kind of study comparing the two. And whether we need to "exercise" different parts of our brain like we do our body. I've read all kinds of benefits that learning a new language has on brain function, but I wonder if you just do that do you let the logic section of your brain muscle atrophy as if you were doing pushups but no deadlifts. I've been exercising my brain by learning language, but probably should do more.

724ba4f39f7bbea7f74b45c0a79615f2

(1968)

on November 24, 2011
at 04:18 PM

Yeah, the prescriptions vary so widely depending on what you want to do. I don't think 30 seconds is going to be enough to find one's true center or let go of worldly desires or what have you, so if that's what you want, I'd google it (I know almost nothing about it). But for the focus thing, I try to visualize what I'm doing next, how it'll feel, the mindset I want to keep, while also literally trying to slow down time. Not that I can, but I think the process of trying attunes you to how you can speed yourself up or slow yourself down in relation to the passage of time. Tell me how it goes!

C56baa1b4f39839c018180bf63226f7d

(3499)

on November 24, 2011
at 05:15 AM

I think there's significant value to exercising your brain in the abstract. In 2009 the Mind Research Institute at UNM showed that playing Tetris increased "cortical thickness" in the brain, and the press release indicates that previous studies showed how similar mental exercises made the brain run more efficiently. I guess my question to you is whether you are challenged to flex your brain's operational capacity, qua the aforementioned, when you learn something concrete and apply it; in the case of games and puzzles, I have to instead find or develop my own strategies and processes.

25b139cc1954456d9ea469e40f984cd3

on November 24, 2011
at 04:29 AM

That's what the data indicates, although most or all of it is less than ideal (no double blind studies)...

F02990386b12528111740ad6279ba29d

(1363)

on November 23, 2011
at 11:04 PM

Moderate alcohol is better than no alcohol for brain function? Is that true?

F02990386b12528111740ad6279ba29d

(1363)

on November 23, 2011
at 11:03 PM

I love Anki and use it for all kinds of things. The shared deck feature is amazing. People are really impressed with my ability to locate every country in the world, name its capital, and identify its flag. Mostly learned in downtime at work using a shared deck I spent no effort creating. I also like it for Spanish and I will anki things from books I need to remember. You have any favorite decks? Anki is a truly amazing learning tool. Having it on my Droid makes wasted time like standing in line suddenly useful.

F02990386b12528111740ad6279ba29d

(1363)

on November 23, 2011
at 11:00 PM

I've been hearing a lot about meditation lately, but there doesn't seem to be any concrete information on how its done and the varying time ranges necessary are huge. I'm about to employ the 30 seconds to focus thing RIGHT NOW. It's so easy to become distracted today by the always on-hip cellphone and the thousands of things to click on while on the internet that I wonder if I ever really truly focus.

F02990386b12528111740ad6279ba29d

(1363)

on November 23, 2011
at 10:54 PM

I wonder if doing the brain games is as worthwhile as doing things like reading books or working through problems that are directly productive in life. For example instead of doing logic puzzles maybe I read an investment book and work out my best strategy for paying off debts and credit cards while investing for the future. Both are going to challenge the brain and exercise it, just one seems more productive. Am I right in exercising my brain by learning new subjects or is there more value to the games than I give them credit for?

Medium avatar

(5639)

on November 23, 2011
at 09:56 PM

this is a really really useful answer!

Ed71ab1c75c6a9bd217a599db0a3e117

(25472)

on November 05, 2011
at 12:22 AM

Butter is a fat = good brain fxn. CO is a MCT = great brain function

D2db41500a9385fafe0f50e178717e80

(193)

on November 03, 2011
at 08:44 PM

Oh, I'm also a heavy user of Evernote to collect notes, thoughts, drawings, etc. It's amazing how much I'm able to pull some useful nugget from there in times of need.

D2db41500a9385fafe0f50e178717e80

(193)

on November 03, 2011
at 08:08 PM

I've developed mental models - a list of models/structures/etc. I use for learning, problem solving, praying, and so on. The list usually changes only in the form of better models coming onboard. For example, as a strategy consultant, I have 10 questions that I ask every business I consult with. Obviously, those questions are tweaked to match the industry, business model, and so on, but in general, those 10 questions hit the most important things I need to know right away and then I can dig deeper. FYI, this mental model thing was inspired by Charlie Munger, Warren Buffet's right hand man.

0242b468fe1c97997749db416c92e7ed

(4528)

on November 03, 2011
at 04:18 PM

+1 for the jedi-mind-tricks tag :)

B4e1fa6a8cf43d2b69d97a99dfca262c

(10255)

on November 03, 2011
at 09:09 AM

nice!..........

25b139cc1954456d9ea469e40f984cd3

on November 03, 2011
at 08:53 AM

Moderate alcohol > no alcohol > very heavy alcohol (Re: intelligence)...

9ac8a7b68cf079b22de42b703e466e64

(787)

on November 03, 2011
at 04:56 AM

yeah i definitely agree. i'm not as sharp for a week or two after drinking. if i've gone a couple weeks and not had anything to drink, my brain seems like it is turbocharged

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12 Answers

7
Be1dbd31e4a3fccd4394494aa5db256d

(17969)

on November 03, 2011
at 03:07 AM

A big part of it has to do with levels of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), which helps keep neurons healthy and aids in the formation of new synapses and neurons so it is obviously directly tied to being able to form new memories. Some ways I know how to boost it: exercise, meditation, sleep, pantethine*, DHA, blueberries (and probably other berries) and I'm going to hazard that just generally good micronutrient status supports this.

Protecting the brain is important, much of what I just mentioned and nutrition in general protects the brain. Of course we want to do all of the normal good paleo things to reduce inflammation, oxidative stress, and anything that damages the brain. So make sure glutathione is supported by getting enough sulfur and sulfur-containing amino acids, and utilize anything that will protect the brain from damage. I like astaxanthin as a powerful protector**. Other things that damage the brain are excitotoxins, toxin toxins, and too much of various minerals like iron, manganese, copper, zinc, lead, mercury. It is actually good to get your iron levels checked and make sure they're not too high, but be sure to test first.

So in general I think that a paleo diet and lifestyle is ideal, and that there is merit to taking various supplements to get a boost. Check out Evolutionary Psychiatry if you haven't already http://evolutionarypsychiatry.blogspot.com/ and just try to take care of your brain as best you can. There's more to it than what I mentioned but what tends to keep the brain healthy is what keeps the rest of us healthy.

**http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19367117

6
96bf58d8c6bd492dc5b8ae46203fe247

(37227)

on November 03, 2011
at 03:03 AM

Most importantly, do whatever it takes to get undisturbed sleep. I used to think I had to have my caffeine to be alert, but when I stopped for a while I could feel that I woke up more alert than I was achieving with the coffee. Getting good physical exercise gives me a higher energy level, while sleeping too much or eating a lot of starch makes me very sluggish.

If you can't change the past, learn from it and close the book. Live into the future you want to have one choice at a time. Oh, and don't be like me and plan your answer while the other person's still talking! It took me forever to learn to listen first, then respond.

5
724ba4f39f7bbea7f74b45c0a79615f2

on November 23, 2011
at 04:00 PM

Honestly, I'm going to say practice. None of this is paleo per se, it's just advice about how to focus. Sorry it's kind of long.

I used to teach grad-level standardized tests on the side, and I'd make my students (a) meditate for 30 seconds before each section; (b) create a ritual; (c) practice like their life depended on it or not do it at all.

The more you half-ass your way through anything, the more your brain becomes habituated to half-assing it, and that's a hard habit to break.

The main point of the meditation and exercise isn't what you'd think (after all, how much Zen do you really achieve in 30 seconds?) but rather as practice in focusing. In 30 seconds, you can get a very good sense of exactly how slowly you can make time pass (a big bonus when you're crunched for time). Understanding the passage of time and learning to temporarily ignore all outside stimuli is key.

I find rituals important, like doing 5 pushups or running around the block (plus the 30 second meditation) right before you launch into any tasks requiring extreme focus. It's physically stimulating, but it also functions like Pavlov's bell. If you do the same thing every time, your brain learns that this ritual means focus time, and so the lag between the ritual and maximum focus shortens with practice until it becomes second nature -- five pushups, 30 seconds with closed eyes, and suddenly the lights are brighter and you're in the zone.

So, I don't know if any of that is helpful or what kind of focus you need to achieve right now, but when I get a new student who despite being smart and together just can't focus, I really treat it like marathon training. Do it every day. Some of us are very used to being focused, for some of us it's a learned skill, but it can certainly be learned.

Last note: I know everyone's all anti "chronic cardio," and I don't love it to death either, but I do find it useful for when I really need to get back into focus mode, because it's boring as hell, which also makes it endurance-training for your brain. It helps train you to power through things that are unpleasant for longer than you want. When this is what I'm going for, I don't listen to music, I don't daydream, I just run and stare at the clock for 30 minutes. I suppose you could also do something else unpleasant for 30 minutes, but I feel like at least here you're getting some exercise (which, like everyone else said, helps make you smart anyway).

F02990386b12528111740ad6279ba29d

(1363)

on November 24, 2011
at 04:36 PM

I like it when I've used it so far, definitely a simple easy thing to do thats worthwhile. Helped me forget about the cell phone that I could be playing on instead of being productive.

Medium avatar

(5639)

on November 23, 2011
at 09:56 PM

this is a really really useful answer!

F02990386b12528111740ad6279ba29d

(1363)

on November 23, 2011
at 11:00 PM

I've been hearing a lot about meditation lately, but there doesn't seem to be any concrete information on how its done and the varying time ranges necessary are huge. I'm about to employ the 30 seconds to focus thing RIGHT NOW. It's so easy to become distracted today by the always on-hip cellphone and the thousands of things to click on while on the internet that I wonder if I ever really truly focus.

724ba4f39f7bbea7f74b45c0a79615f2

(1968)

on November 24, 2011
at 04:18 PM

Yeah, the prescriptions vary so widely depending on what you want to do. I don't think 30 seconds is going to be enough to find one's true center or let go of worldly desires or what have you, so if that's what you want, I'd google it (I know almost nothing about it). But for the focus thing, I try to visualize what I'm doing next, how it'll feel, the mindset I want to keep, while also literally trying to slow down time. Not that I can, but I think the process of trying attunes you to how you can speed yourself up or slow yourself down in relation to the passage of time. Tell me how it goes!

4
77877f762c40637911396daa19b53094

(78467)

on November 03, 2011
at 09:04 AM

See about nootropics:

http://paleohacks.com/questions/69563/does-anybody-take-nootropics#axzz1cdBobeDr

Apart from that, you need to stay active, to solve problems, i.e. exercise the brain and do new uncomfortable things.

Exercise and sleep finally.

4
6670b38baf0aae7f4d8ac2463ddc37c0

(3946)

on November 03, 2011
at 03:20 AM

I would like to hear what The Quilt has to say about this.

4
13a44ea00b0c9af0b6d0f3d5f5c2cfca

(7223)

on November 03, 2011
at 03:08 AM

I'll second the sleep and exercise, and also add making sure you are getting plenty of omega 3s.

3
0242b468fe1c97997749db416c92e7ed

(4528)

on November 03, 2011
at 11:55 AM

You might want to check out Seth Roberts' blog - he's done some intriguing self-experimentation that seems to suggest that butter improves brain function.

http://blog.sethroberts.net/2011/01/29/the-buttermind-experiment/

Ed71ab1c75c6a9bd217a599db0a3e117

(25472)

on November 05, 2011
at 12:22 AM

Butter is a fat = good brain fxn. CO is a MCT = great brain function

3
C56baa1b4f39839c018180bf63226f7d

on November 03, 2011
at 05:35 AM

Healthy fats and some dietary cholesterol will certainly help you get started. Seafood in the form of fatty fish and shellfish will help you here, as will grassfed beef for the O3 content. Ginseng and gingko won't hurt, though I often see their efficacy disputed.

However...

The thing you really need to do to boost your brainpower is to exercise it. I'd recommend getting a subscription to GAMES magazine, in which most of the pages each issue are devoted to crosswords and logic puzzles. Learn how to do cryptic crosswords. Get a DS and a copy of Brain Age. Play along with Jeopardy. Study chess or go. Learn how to write software if you don't already know; http://www.htdp.org/2003-09-26/Book/ is still a stellar first tutorial. Most importantly, remember that you never stop learning whether you are trying or not. Trust your gut when making decisions because it's the result of searching against everything you have ever learned.

C56baa1b4f39839c018180bf63226f7d

(3499)

on November 24, 2011
at 05:15 AM

I think there's significant value to exercising your brain in the abstract. In 2009 the Mind Research Institute at UNM showed that playing Tetris increased "cortical thickness" in the brain, and the press release indicates that previous studies showed how similar mental exercises made the brain run more efficiently. I guess my question to you is whether you are challenged to flex your brain's operational capacity, qua the aforementioned, when you learn something concrete and apply it; in the case of games and puzzles, I have to instead find or develop my own strategies and processes.

F02990386b12528111740ad6279ba29d

(1363)

on November 24, 2011
at 04:26 PM

It would be interesting to see some kind of study comparing the two. And whether we need to "exercise" different parts of our brain like we do our body. I've read all kinds of benefits that learning a new language has on brain function, but I wonder if you just do that do you let the logic section of your brain muscle atrophy as if you were doing pushups but no deadlifts. I've been exercising my brain by learning language, but probably should do more.

F02990386b12528111740ad6279ba29d

(1363)

on November 23, 2011
at 10:54 PM

I wonder if doing the brain games is as worthwhile as doing things like reading books or working through problems that are directly productive in life. For example instead of doing logic puzzles maybe I read an investment book and work out my best strategy for paying off debts and credit cards while investing for the future. Both are going to challenge the brain and exercise it, just one seems more productive. Am I right in exercising my brain by learning new subjects or is there more value to the games than I give them credit for?

2
7bf306ada57db47547e9da39a415edf6

(11214)

on November 23, 2011
at 09:26 PM

Anki is a spaced repetition flashcard program. If you need to memorize things, it can't be beat, unless someone else has a better algorithm. You put in what you want to remember, you review it, and you tell it how easy or hard it was to remember. It decides when to have you review it again; the whole point is to have the flashcard come up right before you'll forget it. In this way, you can maximize the amount of stuff you can remember in whatever amount of time you a lot to reviewing.

Other than that, well I just remembered I can vote on this site, so I'll up vote those who have mention the other stuff I do.

F02990386b12528111740ad6279ba29d

(1363)

on November 23, 2011
at 11:03 PM

I love Anki and use it for all kinds of things. The shared deck feature is amazing. People are really impressed with my ability to locate every country in the world, name its capital, and identify its flag. Mostly learned in downtime at work using a shared deck I spent no effort creating. I also like it for Spanish and I will anki things from books I need to remember. You have any favorite decks? Anki is a truly amazing learning tool. Having it on my Droid makes wasted time like standing in line suddenly useful.

7bf306ada57db47547e9da39a415edf6

(11214)

on November 28, 2011
at 05:01 PM

I grabbed a few Spanish decks and merged them with one I've been building over the past few years. So now I've got around 8000 sentences and a bit of a backlog. Studying anything is better than studying nothing, but I suspect a professional linguist could come up with a better set of sentences- possibly for all languages, or at least many of them. I need an android device or something because it would be good to have Anki in my pocket

F02990386b12528111740ad6279ba29d

(1363)

on November 29, 2011
at 12:33 AM

I also use it for Spanish, I have trouble finding a decent deck though, they seem to have so many errors! I end up making my own for most decks, although time consuming it's best to know its formatted well for yourself.

1
B4e1fa6a8cf43d2b69d97a99dfca262c

(10255)

on November 03, 2011
at 09:09 AM

nice!..........

1
25b139cc1954456d9ea469e40f984cd3

on November 03, 2011
at 04:49 AM

Moderate alcohol has not been mentioned yet...

9ac8a7b68cf079b22de42b703e466e64

(787)

on November 03, 2011
at 04:56 AM

yeah i definitely agree. i'm not as sharp for a week or two after drinking. if i've gone a couple weeks and not had anything to drink, my brain seems like it is turbocharged

25b139cc1954456d9ea469e40f984cd3

on November 03, 2011
at 08:53 AM

Moderate alcohol > no alcohol > very heavy alcohol (Re: intelligence)...

F02990386b12528111740ad6279ba29d

(1363)

on November 23, 2011
at 11:04 PM

Moderate alcohol is better than no alcohol for brain function? Is that true?

F02990386b12528111740ad6279ba29d

(1363)

on November 24, 2011
at 04:30 PM

That's crazy, I definitely feel smarter when not drinking, but I don't moderate well. Very interesting.

25b139cc1954456d9ea469e40f984cd3

on November 24, 2011
at 04:29 AM

That's what the data indicates, although most or all of it is less than ideal (no double blind studies)...

0
96440612cf0fcf366bf5ad8f776fca84

(19463)

on November 04, 2011
at 10:37 AM

DMAE seems to help, as does dark chocolate and coffee. I also use FocusFactor, which takes a while to have an effect. (I've noticed that stopping it's use for more than a week has a negative effect, and starting it back up also has a delayed effect.)

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