On one hand neurohacking promises a happier, healthier life, on the other, there is very little proof it actually works. Vogue spoke to the experts about the new rage
Consider the brain to be a piece of hardware, where therapies and technology can be applied to manipulate and upgrade it. This understanding is loosely the basis of neurohacking, which is simply any process that tweaks brain function or structure to improve a person’s experience of the world. Usage of nootropics, dopamine fasting, neurofeedback and brain stimulation are all different ways to change the way your mind functions. While these practises were relatively unknown until a few years ago, they’ve now become quite popular, especially amongst the in the Silicon Valley crowd or professionals in high-performance jobs. Vogue spoke to a neurohacking expert, a psychiatrist and a nutritionist to find out more about the trend. How does neurohacking work?
“My interest in neurohacking came from the search to create a better experience in the life I was creating and living,” says Ben Cote, a director at Neurohacker Collective in San Francisco. To put in simply, neurohacking is about taking control of your diet, sleep, exercise through a specific technology like nootropics, or practices like red light therapy and meditation . “The great thing about it is that there are so many entrances into discovering what is possible when you take responsibility for your own health. It has the ability to show that with a deliberate and thoughtful decision about one aspect of your life—and the amazing results that come from that—what all is possible in other areas of your life,” How safe is it to try new neurohacking protocols?
While neurohacking is usually safe, doctors suggest that is is best to check with a professional first, especially if you already have medical conditions, or are consuming medications that could alter the results. “Part of the world of neurohacking and biohacking is the notion of N=1 experimentation. N=1 is the nomenclature for a test with a single subject, which is yourself. It is important to experiment and see what works for you,” says Cote. “Try a new food routine, experiment with a new product or technology, and add in a new supplement or practice. Then, document your results. Tweak the experiment to see how those change the results, and then begin to stack those experiments on to one another,” he explains. If you’re nervous about trying something too complicated, clinical nutritionist Juhi Agarwal has a suggestion that might ease some of the stress. “Instead of resorting to extremes, I think simple practices like maintaining a gratitude journal could help you equally, as you also end up learning about yourself on the way. This can be a great first step,” she says. On the other hand, Mumbai-based psychiatrist Dr Kersi Chavda, is still wary. “There is still not enough clinical evidence backing it,” he says. What about protocols like nootropics?
While some non-invasive practices can be tested without too many side effects, doctors caution against jumping into oral medication or making other long-term changes before carrying out due diligence. They suggest that nootropics or other drugs won’t work like magic pills, but could be an upgrade for an already healthy system. “Taking few selective ingredients in high doses can cause the system to get out of balance, which can lead to down-regulation or dependence. We understand the body has an innate ability to self-regulate, and we want to support those pathways and processes that help this, and increase the capacity and resilience of the system towards that goal,” says Cote. “Many believe that nootropics make a lot of difference in cognitive abilities, concentration, attention span, memory issues, but the fact is that there is no definitive proof of how effective they are. There are no specific studies done to prove that they are as useful as they are made out to be. At best one can believe they are useful as adjuvants [an ingredient used to boost or modify the effect of other ingredients] but they certainly cannot take on the role of the main drug given for that particular disorder,” says Dr Chavda. Also read: