A new revolution of ‘smart drugs’ is underway. These brain boosters promise everything from better memory to unlocking your brain’s full potential. Are these the chemical keys we have been waiting for or is the genius elixir still out there? HighExistence is up for the challenge and will test the nootropic (“turning the mind”) blend of TruBrain.
“I was blind; now I see. I wasn’t high, wasn’t wired; just clear. I knew what I needed to do, and how to do it.” – Bradley Cooper, movie Limitless
Humans are anything but unique in these consciousness altering quests. Dolphins get high on puffer-fish. [edit: this information seems to be inconclusive, so here is a short cool link about animals getting stoned] Dogs lick toads to space out. But, well, we are a curious bunch. We swallow and inject almost everything we can get our hands on. We know we have been using consciousness altering substances as far back as oral history takes us. And perhaps it comes as no surprise that in todays competitive age we are not just exploring mother nature’s garden, but are actively designing little pills to get ahead of the curve. With the movie Limitless making ripples in mass culture, it seems we are officially entering the consciousness tinkering age. (or perhaps, more disturbingly, the brain chemistry management age.)
Everything around us has at least some psycho-active effect. Bacteria in forrest soil can act as prozac, mold in our kitchens have been linked to depression and chocolate contains a beautiful collection of tryptamines. We are constantly surrounded in a network of chemicals that influence how we function. By adding some or subtracting others we perhaps can find a solution of the increasingly demanding world we are living in. A world which demands more attention and cognitive capabilities and offer less exercise and sleep. After all, whole empires were built on coffee.
When I was contacted by truBrain asking if I was willing to try out their new cognitive blend, I immediately said yes. The blend consists of the following:
- Piracetam (3g)- designed to enhance brain’s metabolism, boost information processing, attention, learning and memory.
- Carnitine (as Acetyl-L-Carnitine) (500mg)- can help increase energy production in the mitochondria aka the “power plants” of the cells and helps boost physical and mental energy.
- CDP-Choline (250mg) – helps support memory and focus.
- EPA & DHA (1.2g) – both essential Omega 3 fatty acids, they help the brain by reducing cell damage, inflammation and oxidation of cell membranes.
- Magnesium (200mg) – helps ensure proper cell signaling in the brain.
- Pramiracetam (300mg)- stimulates attention, learning and memory.
- Theanine (200mg) – helps relieve stress and increase focus.
- Tyrosine (350mg) – raises energy levels and improves attention and mood.
I got a “two week” supply for writing this article (2x 5 working days).
This is how they describe their brain booster package:
The blend is a mix of cognitive enhancers that help with things like brain blood flow, neurotransmission, and neuroprotection and macro-nutrients, these are compounds such as amino acids and fatty acids that humans need to consume to live, function, and for metabolism.
Importantly, the blend was chemically designed to provide things that work synergistically together or we aren’t getting enough of in our diets. Like tyrosine which is a building block for neurotransmitters and magnesium which helps in neurotransmission (cell communication) and Choline, that’s a basic cell membrane component but a 2007 study shows that most people don’t get enough of it from their diet (comes from eggs, fish, cauliflower…). And to provide them at levels that actually make a biological difference, not just so we can list it as an ingredient which is what other supplement companies do.
The main ingredient in this mix is Piracetam, which:
Makes cell membranes more fluid (changes cell metabolism, reduces risk of clots)
Improves mitochondrial function
May improve connectivity / transmission over the corpus callosum (between two sides of cortex)
Piracetam is virtually non-toxic. It has an LD50 (lethal dose 50: dose at which 50% of animals die) that is at least 3 times more than salt. (salt is 3.3g /kg, piracetam was not toxic at 10g/kg. (find out more about safety)
What I like most about Trubrain is that they are actually doing their own research. While their test group is extremely small so far (N=7), they showed me some promising plans for follow up studies.
Method of this experiment:
Only pure introspective self reports. No self-blinding, no controls and no external ‘objective’ measuring (well, I did some EEG testing coincidentally but nothing that could determine any improvement). So please be cautious to draw any conclusions from this experiment :)
Ingesting 7 pills before breakfast (pre-meditation for me) and 6 after lunch. I swallowed these big boys with either water, tea or coffee. I did this for 10 non-consecutive days. I didn’t change my diet (paleo) or exercise regiment (yoga/gymnastics).
- A test-subject.
- Your own supply of the truBrain blend or the ingredients independently combined. The blend seems overly expensive, and as John Backhus shows it would be substantially cheaper to make your own pills. However, as another discussion clearly indicates, it could be worth it to avoid the many inconveniences. Doing it yourself would be a huge pain in the ass.
Observation / Results:
I had a very important paper coming up on philosopher Walter Benjamin which was demanding all of my time. The high stress and intense focus sessions seemed to be the perfect conditions for trying truBrain.
Day 1: Perhaps its the less than optimal sleep I had last night, but today I have been very out of focus, easily distracted and easily succumbed to destructive thoughts. Normally I always meditate to snap out of this. But, and I find this a paradox, my meditation went amazing, yet I readily returned to the scattered monkey mind when attending to my dense texts. At the end of the day, I was done. I felt extremely tired, something I rarely experience.
Day 2: I slept like a baby on Xanax. Woke up refreshed and sharp, ready to start the day. But somehow, the day never really got started. The meditation went great, but when I started getting e-mails out I felt quite down. I couldn’t feel any purpose and was self-doubting so much that I almost forgot how I normally would feel.
Day 3: Sleep was again extremely good. But when I started working, my mind became very clouded once more. I actually started doubting the whole reason I loved what I was doing in the first place, it was a quite alien and disconnected feeling. I started to suspect some adversary reaction to the truBrain blend. I also did a podcast and I found myself disconnected and inarticulate.
Day 4: Shrugging the depressive feelings off I actually got a lot done this day. Morning yoga routine went very smooth and was quite focused during the day. I noticed some peculiar sharpness to my senses, a sharpness that not only enhances everything but also stings. This can explain the nice meditations, but the overload I feel during the day. The wine at dinner which mellowed me out a bit was actually rather pleasant.
Day 5: I did some research on the adverse affects of piracetam and I found that in a few individuals it can cause depressive symptoms. Im strongly suspecting I am part of the few unlucky ones as the days seem darker and my paper unsurmountable. It definitely enhances some aspects of my experience, like restlessness, intensity of colors, tingling in my body, and decreases some other aspects, in particular my drive to get things done.
Day 6: Today I had to do some EEG testing for an university project which consisted of quite some waiting time with the measuring scalp on. I used this time to meditate and once we started measuring I got one rather interesting compliment, I was told I had some very nice alpha waves. (Which is a very relaxed mental state, often seen in meditators.)
Day 7 & 8: I refrained from taking the truBrain formula these days. I originally planned to take it 5 days in a row twice, as recommended, but I couldn’t let the EEG testing pass on day 6. At the end of day 7 most heavy thoughts seemed to have subsided, and waking up on day 8 I felt incredible sharp. Got unusually lot done on day 8. It seemed I had all the positive aspects and none of the negative ones.
Day 9: Nothing special happened this day. Started downing those little buggers again and didn’t experience anything out of the ordinary. Perhaps the depressiveness was a fluke?
Day 10: Nope, not a fluke. I feel physically great, but I just can’t be bothered to do anything. All the things I want to do seem just lame means to lame ends. I’m actually pondering about stopping the experiment, but I gave the guys from truBrain my word and I don’t want to cop out. Perhaps it’s because of the ‘loading phase’? I have no idea what that is supposed to mean, I am just hoping what I feel at times now is temporal.
Day 11: Decided to continue since it’s not full blown ‘can’t get out of my bed’ type of feel. Just a bit of annoyance. Some aspects have potential, and this is perhaps a disadvantage of taking a fixed formula: you can’t tweak it yourself. Perhaps a lower or higher dose of any of the ingredients would have transformed my world into bliss? It’s impossible now to find out what would work for me and what wouldn’t. I think there would be value if you could order your own personal blend and get it shipped every month instead of getting a general formula which might work for some, but not for others.
Day 12: I can recall much more dreams than I normally can, and wake up easier too. There is something in this blend that is worth experimenting with in the future, but I first have to find out what it is that my body doesn’t appreciate (assuming that these are not the same, which could very well be). I’m glad the experiment is over but disappointed that I didn’t experience the ‘limitless’ effects as some other users have reported.
My feelings are mixed. On the one hand I feel it has tremendous potential for some individuals (I will be keeping my eyes out on the latest research and data.) Certainly there were aspects that indicate cognitive enhancement, like improved sleep, highly focused meditations and overall functioning on the ‘off’ days. Unfortunately, on the other hand, I felt a bit depressed, was unmotivated and noticed a painful sharpness to the world. This blend didn’t seem very effective for me.
There are many other brain boosters and combinations between ingredients which are possible, and I’m sure some combinations will work. Remember that both cocaine and methamphetamine was thought to be a game-changer too. (And, noticing the legions of students on adderall, it has been.) The racetam family is continually expanding but reports differ widely. So it is up to every individual to test for themselves and see if they can benefit from it enough to make it worth for them. My search will continue. :)
The methods used in this experiment are of course very weak, the results impossible to reproduce and the conclusion certainly biased. There are infinitely more variables that could have contributed in some way to what I experienced. So, with regards to truBrain nootropics combination, this is by no means a conclusive statement. I am waiting for their future studies to find out.