Caffeine: Friend or Foe?

Can Caffeine Unlock Previously Unknown Cardiac Benefits?        Caffeine is the most widely consumed cognitive enhancer in the world, and many in the nootropics community know the cognitive benefits of adding caffeine into their Nootropic stack (Mental Mojo uses 150mg of caffeine per serving, about the same as a small coffee from Starbucks). Now new health benefits derived from caffeine are coming to light thanks to a study appearing in PLOS Biology, by Authors Judith Haendeler and Joachim…

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Can Pupil Size Predict IQ?

Could IQ--a famous standard of intelligence that has long eluded quantification--be as easy to measure as pupil size? Could the reason why establish a link between norepinephrine and fluid intelligence (and therefore, Mental Mojo consumption--See last paragraph)? Georgia psychologists Jason Tsukahara and colleagues hypothesize affirmatively in a paper they published two months ago. First a little background. Pupils have long been known to vary in size due to changes in emotional state and cognitive effort (i.e., brain strain). As Tsukahara writes: Starting in…

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Is Your Reality an Illusion?

Since the dawn of humankind, we've believed that we've been immersed in a continuous flow of consciousness. But that was merely an illusion our brains created according to cognitive neuroscientists at the Swiss National Science Foundation.  Their paper, published earlier this month, is titled "Time Slices," and theorizes that consciousness works much like a movie reel--we rapidly perceive myriad discrete images and our brains splice them together to create what we perceive as consciousness. Because visual processing takes only a few milliseconds,…

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Can Your Academic Major Predict Your Personality Type?

It is well-settled that there are five personality traits: (1) neuroticism; (2) conscientiousness; (3) agreeableness; (4) extraversion; and (5) openness to experience. Each of us has a certain mix of these traits, which determines our overall personality.  For instance, it's no surprise that those who skew towards conscientiousness have long dominated the curves at universities across the country, but depending on their levels of neuroticism, extraversion, etc., they may have had very few friends to tell about…

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Inside the Brain of a Math Wizard

There's no doubt that truly gifted mathematicians think differently than the rest of us. It's often observable during their everyday social interactions. But is there a neuroanatomical explanation for the difference, or is it merely the result of training? Cutting-edge fMRI studies suggest the former. You'll recall from last week's post a discussion of the revelations gleaned from the dissection of Einstein's brain: it was more connective, and had a smaller than average language center  (a.k.a., Broca's…

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Is Your Brain Over the Hill by 30?

Cognitive aging is widely misunderstood. It is true that many cognitive capabilities begin to decline in one's twenties, foremost among them fluid intelligence (the ability to solve novel problems). However, new studies are emphasizing that this is only half of the intelligence equation. The other half--crystallized intelligence--continues to improve all the way into one's seventies. And what's more, new theories are being advanced that fluid intelligence, once thought to be static and genetic, can be amplified through focused…

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How Ignoring Stuff Makes You Smarter

We've all accused somebody of selective hearing before, or have been accused of the same. We probably thought at the time that this potential manifestation of selective attention was an impediment. But neuroscientific studies of working memory are revealing the opposite. Working memory is like the brain's dashboard--it's where the brain stores things before determining whether they will be committed to long term memory. For a long time now, it's been generally accepted that working memory can store about…

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Dumb and Grumpy: The Effects of Sleep Deprivation

This blog often discusses cognitive enhancers, such as mental mojo, but one of the single most devastating cognitive detractors is sleep deprivation. Increasingly, neuroscientific studies are showing that sleep deprivation is cognitive kryptonite. For starters, it blunts the brain's ability to be positive. According to findings of two related studies published in the Journal of Psychosomatic Research, less sleep makes the brain more sensitive to negative stimuli, and less sensitive to positive ones. This is why, as many new parents will…

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The Five Best Brain-Boosting Rituals

Your brain is your engine of success. Research suggests that adopting the five following rituals will keep it finely tuned into your golden years. Savor the little victories: your brain doesn't know the difference between little ones and big ones, but perceived progress is an enormous driver of positive behaviors and neurochemistry. Consider a morning routine that ends with an accomplishment (working out, writing a blog entry, etc.) to get your victory in the bag at the…

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Can Concussions Cause Suicide?

For decades, Americans have been glued to NFL Sunday or flying down the ski slope without a helmet, mostly ignorant of the perils associated with concussions. Now, the players' lawsuit against the NFL and the publicity it inspired (including a movie called Concussion, which itself includes a suicide by an individual suffering from concussion related cognitive disorders) has placed concussions and their risks front and center. Those risks are real, and fall into two primary categories. For those who…

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