Living a life “on purpose” requires a healthy brain; plus many of our listeners are looking at ways to increase focus and productivity. So Life on Purpose Episode #13 takes us to a place we’ve never gone before on the show: the brain!
In this fascinating hour-long chat, Dr. Andrew Hill joins us to discuss the newly emerging science of nootropics — supplements and functional foods that improve one or more aspects of mental function such as focus, memory, and motivation. We also talk about NeuroFeedback, a type of biofeedback that uses real-time displays of brain activity such as EEGs to teach self-regulation of brain function and can be used to help treat addiction; as well as neuroplasticity, brain health, and much more! (episode summary below)
Andrew Hill is a UCLA graduate with a PhD in Cognitive Neuroscience from the department of Psychology, employed as a Lecturer at UCLA, teaching multidisciplinary courses on Healthy Brain Aging, Neuroscience topics, and Biofeedback. He has extensive experience working with clinical and research populations across many areas, including neurodevelopmental, inpatient and outpatient, and people working to overcome substance abuse challenges.
Dr. Hill received his PhD in Cognitive Neuroscience from UCLA in 2012, studying how attention operates in the brain. He is currently lecturing for the Undergraduate Education Initiatives program at UCLA, teaching a course sequence gerontology, and the neuroscience of healthy brain aging. Dr. Hill has published chapters on measuring and modulating human attention, and continues to research self regulation.
Prior to UCLA, Dr. Hill obtained extensive experience working with both psychiatric and developmental populations as well as gaining experience in high technology areas. He received his B.S. in Psychology/Neuroscience from UMass Amherst. See Andrew’s book chapters Measuring & Modulating Hemispheric Attention and EEG Correlates of Hemispheric Word Recognition..
In this in-depth conversation, Dr. Hill and I discuss NeuroFeedback, neuroplasticity, brain health, the pioneering work of Dr. Richard Davidson, and much more including:
- Coffee and the trend of adding butter and “brain oil” to increase focus.
- “Humans have been consuming things to alter their brains since they’ve had brains.”
- What are Nootropics and how are they different from stimulants and “smart drugs”?
- “The category of substances we call Nootropics should be neuroprotective in some way, they should support cognition (memory, focus, attention), and they should do so with minimal or no side effects.”
- How tea helps people achieve a calm, smooth focus through the amino acid L-Theanine and GABA.
- “I’m of the considered opinion that the British Empire was the first real serious state-level nootropic endorser. Because the British and their tea essentially conquered the world.”
- Medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs), how the liver uses them, and how they can provide instant energy.
- The anti-fat movement of the 70s, the low-fat/high-sugar diets that followed, and how they’re problematic for our bodies.
- His advice for how to modify your diet for brain health: “Reduce the sugars, reduce the starches, and increase the fats.”
- Are there dangers in taking nootropics or any potential side effects?
- “Nootropics don’t alter you. You don’t get euphoria. You don’t feel pushed the way you do on a psycho-stimulant. The subjective alteration can actually be larger with a few cups of coffee than nootropics sometimes. It’s a very gentle, subtle support to your continued output.”
- TruBrain, his business that creates nootropic drinks and blends, and their studies to quantify what brainwaves look like throughout the day.
- “They’re best taken on a day-in/day-out basis when you aren’t using them to alter yourself in the moment for some effect. You’re using them to support your long-term brain health in the same way that you would for diet, exercise, and other kinds of lifestyle choices.”