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Tips for concentration, memory, and creativity part 3

Tips for concentration, memory, and creativity part 3

You can read the first four tips (Ciltep, B Vitamins, Choline, and PQQ) in the Tips for improved concentration, memory and creativity part 1. Tips 5 to 8 (Theanine, Magnesium, Iodine, Phenibut) are in the article Tips for improved concentration, memory and creativity part 2.

9 Binaural beats

Binaural beats don’t cause a bell to ring in most people’s ears. Binaural beats are sounds that play at two different heights of frequency for the left and the right ear. Because of the difference in frequency, the brain will create its third frequency to compensate for the difference between the left and the right ear. The frequency that is created by the brain consists of the difference in frequency between the right and the left brain.

Binaural beats also influence brain waves within the brain. The brain can generate five different forms of brain waves: Alpha, Beta, Gamma, Delta, and Theta. For concentration, memory and creativity it is essential to stimulate the Alpha, Beta or Gramma brainwaves. Alpha brain waves create the most optimal environment for learning and processing information. The deep relaxation of Alpha brainwaves causes the communication between both brain hemispheres to improve while staying focused on one activity at the same time. Beta brainwaves are the best state for making decisions, working, discussing, reasoning and processing a lot of information. We also saw a similar effect of brainwaves in our earlier tip 5 about theanine.

Binaural beats can improve creativity [1]. They can also improve your memory [2]. Furthermore, binaural beats can influence levels of anxiety and mood [3]. To get the best effects from binaural beats, the right tone that will stimulate some specific brainwaves within the brain has to be chosen.

For binaural beats to work, you will have to use stereo headphones. With mono headphones, it will not be possible to create differences in frequency, making it impossible for the binaural beats to work.

The outcome of binaural beats can differ for each person. Research shows that for some people, binaural beats do not work at all. I would recommend trying a free version of binaural beats first before you commit to a purchase. You could try this free iPhone app for example. When noticing results, you can always decide to pay for a specific version of binaural beats.

Since some time, I have been using binaural beats intermittingly during writing and studying. My first impression is very hopeful. The beats now occupy a place in my repertoire of studying music, next to Mozart and Bach.

Recommended Usage: Use binaural beats with stereo headphones during any mental performance related task.

Most important reason for use: Concentration creativity, memory.

 

10 Meditation

Meditation can is a form of deep rest that simultaneously has very positive effects on the brain. It slows down the brain aging process while at the same time improving cognitive performance. Furthermore, it also decreases the amount of stress hormones within the body and can even prevent some diseases like dementia.

During the last decades, a lot of research has been done in the area of meditation, especially regarding its effects on the brain. Meditation might increase plasticity within the brain [4]. In other words, meditation might cause new connections for communication between brain cells to emerge, and can even increase communication between different parts of the brain, that didn’t exist before someone started meditating. For those reasons, meditation can improve creativity, making insights possible at a level that didn’t exist beforehand. Meditation might especially influence “out of the box” thinking.

Another benefit of meditation is that it slows down the aging process, and, therefore, has anti-aging benefits. Certain functions of the brain, like short term memory and calculating social situations are poised to degenerate during the aging process. Areas of the brain that manage these processes decline in volume, and the brain functions that are associated with them will decline as well. Meditation can slow down this process.

Meditation also influences attention span [5,6]. One study showed that participants that followed an intensive meditation course for three months have longer attention spans than people that didn’t follow the meditation course and were part of a control group.

A final benefit of meditation is that it reduces stress levels [7]. Meditation influences the amygdala area of the brain. The amygdala is the brain area that is associated with the fight-or-flight response. Furthermore, our senses are connected with our emotions within this brain area. A lot of people have impulses or a propensity towards a fight-or-flight response in their daily lives. Either they have the propensity to “fight”, causing the creation of a lot of stress hormones, or they have the propensity to “flight” and create fear. Both stress and fear won’t benefit mental performance. Meditation can help reduce these “fight” or “flight” responses, by reducing the levels of stress and fear and anxiety.

My personal favorite form of meditation is a variation on the Transcendental Meditation. I try to use this form of meditation as much as possible within my daily life. Every day, I meditate for at least 20 minutes, but during stressful situations, that time only increases. It might sound counter-intuitive to meditate more often in stressful situations, especially when you already have a busy lifestyle. But as meditation will lower the amounts of stress within the body, it simultaneously allows you to use your time more efficiently. Contrary to popular opinion, stress won’t make you more productive or more efficient. Stress will cause you to lose a lot of energy. A good analogy of trying to work with lots of stress is trying to saw a tree, with a saw that is very blunt. If you take some time to sharpen the saw, then the end goal will be achieved in record time. Meditation sharpens your mental “tools”, to then use them more efficiently.

For more information, I would recommend listening to Bulletproof Podcast 224, where Dave Asprey interviews a meditation expert. Maybe the biggest advantage of meditation is that it is free to use after you’ve learned how to. A revolutionary tool for improving meditation is the Muse Brain Sensing Headband.

Most important reason for using Meditation: Creativity, stress reduction, anti-aging, concentration, lowering anxiety.

Recommended frequency: When possible, meditate daily, depending on the chosen form of meditation. The form of transcendental meditation that is made clear in Asprey's podcast has a recommended frequency of 20-minute sessions twice a day. Other forms of meditation might have different frequencies. I would recommend researching different forms of meditation, and choose the form of meditation that best fits your personality and character.

 

11 Zinc

Zinc is an essential mineral. Just like the magnesium above and iodine, a lot of people are also deficient in zinc. Sufficient amounts of zinc are necessary for optimal cognitive performance. Without zinc from food or supplements, optimal attention and concentration are not only impossible, but our memory will not work perfectly either. In the same way that iodine was very important during pregnancy, zinc is also important for forming a healthy brain [8]. Zinc fulfills an important function for creating an optimal environment for the communication between brain cells [9]. Within the human brain, zinc mainly has an effect on memory. The process that grounds the formation of long-term memories and communication between brain cells that is called, “long-term potentiation.” Zinc optimizes this long-term potentiation effect. Furthermore, zinc even improves learning abilities, and finally, zinc also has anti-aging effects within the brain [10]. We can conclude that zinc is a quintessential factor for cognitive performance because it has such a wide array of benefits.

Zinc with good absorbability is in meat, fish, eggs, and fermented pumpkin seeds. You can reach your recommended daily allowance of zinc by eating 10 ounces of red meat, eight eggs, or 4 ounces of soaked or fermented pumpkin seeds. I would recommend buying a high-quality zinc supplement when you do not get enough zinc from your food. A zinc supplement that has a very high absorption rate is Life Extension Zinc Caps.

Personally, I do not supplement with zinc, as I get 2 to 4 times the daily recommended allowance of zinc from my food. If you get too much zinc from your food, and too little copper, then it would be recommended to use a copper supplement. Most important reason for supplementation: Memory, concentration, nutrient that is a precondition for a well-functioning brain.

Recommended Dosage: 50mg of zinc, preferably taken with a meal. When you supplement with magnesium during the evening, then I would recommend taking the zinc with the magnesium, as they work synergistically.

 

12 Phosphatidylserine

Phosphatidylserine is a relatively unknown substance, just like PQQ (tip 4). Small amounts of phosphatidylserine are in meat; greater amounts are in fish, shellfish and organ meats. Besides these food sources, there are no other viable sources that contain a lot of phosphatidylserines. Not only does phosphatidylserine keep our nerve cells healthy, but it also optimizes the conduction of our nerve sheets [11]. Hence, phosphatidylserine has an anti-aging effect on both the nervous system and more specifically: the human brain.

The most important effect of phosphatidylserine consists of suppressing the stress response and lowering the amount of stress hormone within the body, that is called cortisol [12]. Phosphatidylserine not only lowers cortisol levels within stressful situations but also increases the bodies’ testosterone levels at the very same time. Because phosphatidylserine has such large effects on both cortisol and testosterone levels, it will manifest great levels of relaxation within the body. During feelings of relaxation, high mental performance becomes easier to achieve.

Another benefit of phosphatidylserine is that it improves memory functioning. Phosphatidylserine can even improve memory functioning in Alzheimer patients [13]. As shown by all these benefits, phosphatidylserine has an all-encompassing effect on the brain. I don’t supplement with phosphatidylserine because it is present in large amounts in my food. Everybody that doesn’t eat large amounts of seafood or shellfish would be recommended to supplement with phosphatidylserine. Phosphatidylserine is expensive to supplement, however, and a cheaper way to take it in would be to eat fatty fish. My opinion is that phosphatidylserine is very underestimated and that it will become a popular staple supplement within the coming years. The reason for this is that phosphatidylserine has large effects on many areas of human performance.

Most important reason for intake: Stress reduction, memory improvement, general well-being, anti-aging.

Recommended Dosage: 100-600mg phosphatidylserine per day, depending on the amount of stress that is present in your life at that particular moment.

References

[1] Reedijk SA, Bolders A, Hommel B. The impact of binaural beats on creativity. Front Hum Neurosci. 2013 Nov 14;7:786. doi: 10.3389/fnhum.2013.00786. eCollection 2013.

[2] Chaieb L, Wilpert EC, Reber TP, Fell J. Auditory beat stimulation and its effects on cognition and mood States. Front Psychiatry. 2015 May 12;6:70. doi: 10.3389/fpsyt.2015.00070. eCollection 2015.

[3] Padmanabhan R, Hildreth AJ, Laws D. A prospective, randomised, controlled study examining binaural beat audio and pre-operative anxiety in patients undergoing general anaesthesia for day case surgery. Anaesthesia. 2005 Sep;60(9):874-7.

[4] Xiong GL, Doraiswamy PM. Does meditation enhance cognition and brain plasticity? Ann N Y Acad Sci. 2009 Aug;1172:63-9.

[5] Lutz A, Slagter HA, Rawlings NB, Francis AD, Greischar LL, Davidson RJ. Mental training enhances attentional stability: neural and behavioral evidence. J Neurosci. 2009 Oct 21;29(42):13418-27. doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.1614-09.2009.

[6] Colzato LS, Sellaro R, Samara I, Baas M3, Hommel B. Meditation-induced states predict attentional control over time. Conscious Cogn. 2015 Aug 27;37:57-62. doi: 10.1016/j.concog.2015.08.006.

[7] Taren AA, Gianaros PJ, Greco CM3, Lindsay EK, Fairgrieve A, Brown KW, Rosen RK, Ferris JL, Julson E, Marsland AL, Bursley JK, Ramsburg J, David Creswell J Mindfulness meditation training alters stress-related amygdala resting state functional connectivity: a randomized controlled trial. Soc Cogn Affect Neurosci. 2015 Jun 5. pii: nsv066.

[8] Sandstead HH, Frederickson CJ, Penland JG. History of zinc as related to brain function. J Nutr. 2000 Feb;130(2S Suppl):496S-502S.

[9] Pan E, Zhang XA, Huang Z, Krezel A, Zhao M, Tinberg CE, Lippard SJ, McNamara JO. Vesicular zinc promotes presynaptic and inhibits postsynaptic long-term potentiation of mossy fiber-CA3 synapse. Neuron. 2011 Sep 22;71(6):1116-26. doi: 10.1016/j.neuron.2011.07.019. Epub 2011 Sep 21.

[10] Gómez-Pinilla F1. Brain foods: the effects of nutrients on brain function. Nat Rev Neurosci. 2008 Jul;9(7):568-78. doi: 10.1038/nrn2421.

[11] Glade MJ, Smith K. Phosphatidylserine and the human brain. Nutrition. 2015 Jun;31(6):781-6. doi: 10.1016/j.nut.2014.10.014. Epub 2014 Nov 4.

[12] Starks MA, Starks SL, Kingsley M, Purpura M, Jäger R. The effects of phosphatidylserine on endocrine response to moderate intensity exercise. J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2008 Jul 28;5:11. doi: 10.1186/1550-2783-5-11.

[13] Zhang YY, Yang LQ, Guo LM. Effect of phosphatidylserine on memory in patients and rats with Alzheimer's disease. Genet Mol Res. 2015 Aug 10;14(3):9325-33. doi: 10.4238/2015.August.10.13.

 

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