Smart Drug/Nutrient Users

Measure Your Mental Fitness


By Will Block

H ow often have you sat down to work feeling alive, alert, sharp, focused — “in the zone?” If you’re like most people, your answer is probably, “Not often enough.”

To achieve this state, record numbers of people have been turning to “smart” drugs and nutrients in recent years. As authors John Morgenthaler, Ward Dean, M.D., and Steven Wm Fowkes pointed out in their two best-selling books on the subject, Smart Drugs & Nutrients and Smart Drugs II: The Next Generation, hundreds of scientific studies have demonstrated that many substances help awaken your consciousness, sharpen your focus, and lock you into your mental “zone” more deeply and more often than you ever thought possible.

But there’s always been one stubborn hitch with the use of drugs and nutrients that make you “smarter“: their effects are usually quite subtle. You don’t just wake up with brilliant new ideas spewing forth from your mind. Your typing speed doesn’t double overnight. Your creative juices don’t turn suddenly from a trickle to a torrent.

The effects may take weeks or even months to become apparent, and the increments may be so small that, like staring at an old-fashioned analog clock, you may not even notice the movement. The only time you notice the movement on a clock is when you take a step back and say, “Oh, yeah, a couple of minutes ago it was 5:20 and now it’s 5:23.”

Now how about your growing cognitive abilities? How do you look back and say, “I’m definitely smarter today than I was a month ago”?


There’s always been
one stubborn hitch with the
use of drugs and nutrients
that make you “smarter.”
Their effects are usually
quite subtle.


Certainly, there may be signs. You may find that you are more productive than you used to be, if you can measure that. Maybe you’re finishing your work faster or squeezing more into a day. Perhaps you find you can work longer hours at a level of alertness previously reserved for that clear-minded period of peak efficiency that usually occurs between 9 and 11 in the morning.

If you’re perceptive (or your perception has been improved), you may notice that you’re less prone to distraction than you used to be, that you’re procrastinating less and focusing more. If you’re really into self-examination of your mental state, you may become aware that your memory is better, that you’re remembering details, such as names and phone numbers that you used to forget all the time.

For most people, though, it’s very hard to make these kinds of subtle distinctions in their mental state. Still it would be nice to have a simple “IQ” test that you could take in a few minutes once a week or once a month that could tell you instantly how well your mental engine was running, and whether or not you needed to increase or decrease your dose — a device that would provide instantaneous, objective assurance that these substances were actually doing you some good — or not. Why waste your money on something that’s not helping?


How do you look
back and say, “I’m
definitely smarter today
than I was a month ago”?


Is there such a device? Yes, it’s a computer program called ThinkfastPRO, and it does for the mind what a medical instrument that measures everything from respiration to perspiration does for the body. In a few minutes at the keyboard, it runs a series of simple tests designed to accurately and objectively measure:

• Physical reflexes

• Perceptual reflexes

• Cognitive reflexes

• Working memory speed

• Working memory capacity

• Subliminal awareness

Never before has there been an instrument that allowed us to probe the subtle machinery of a single mind and figuratively take its temperature — in real time. But, basically, that’s what ThinkfastPRO does.

Never before has there been an instrument that allowed you to literally put a gauge on these vital mental processes, to monitor their levels on your computer screen — in real time. But, that’s what ThinkfastPRO does.

And, never before has there been an instrument that allowed you to monitor your progress on a program of smart drugs and/or nutrients. If you’re really getting mentally more fit, ThinkfastPRO will tell you right away, and the information gleaned will urge you to make the best of it. And if your mental fitness is suffering, it will tell you where to look for improvement.

ThinkfastPRO is marketed as a means of enhancing your brain speed and mental efficiency, a kind of “mental Nautilus machine”. And like an exercise machine, it not only monitors your progress, it also keeps raising the bar, always giving you a new target to aim at. It’s easy to tell when you’re at your peak and when you’re not.

And like an exercise machine, ThinkfastPRO lets you monitor the mental benefits of your nutrient supplement program. Arginine may help you lift more weight and pregnenolone may improve your memory, but with ThinkfastPRO, you’ll see your progress displayed in easy-to-understand charts and numbers. The possibilities of ThinkfastPRO are mind-boggling.


ThinkfastPRO . . . does
for the mind what a
medical instrument that
measures everything from
respiration to perspiration
does for the body.


How To Know It’s Working

The scientific evidence for the efficacy (and safety) of most smart drugs and nutrients is overwhelming. As the Smart Drug books have reported, thousands of scientific studies from all over the world have been published during the last 40 to 50 years supporting the use of many substances for enhancing brain speed and efficiency.

In addition, there are large numbers of individuals who have achieved benefits from a supplement program. Such “anecdotal reports” make skeptics cringe, but before the relatively recent advent of the large, modern, computerized, randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study, these anecdotal reports were the major source of clinical information.

These anecdotes are like the seeds of clinical trials. Some will sprout, some will not. Certainly though, the more similarity among anecdotes, the more confidence one can have that clinical trials will show the same benefits individuals are experiencing.

ThinkfastPRO fills an important need for people who want more concrete information about the specific effects of their mental-enhancement nutrition programs. “How do I know it’s working?” is a frequent and obvious question.


If you’re really
getting mentally more fit, ThinkfastPRO will
tell you right away, and it
will urge you to make the best of it.
And if your mental fitness
is suffering, it will tell you
where to look for
improvement.


When Morgenthaler and Dean first published the first Smart Drugs book in 1990, they recommended paying more attention to changes in alertness, mental energy, concentration, and other functions. They also suggested asking friends and family to watch you a little more closely. As they pointed out, “This will get you a more objective measurement than you could get on your own.” Three years later, in Smart Drugs II, there was yet no major addition with regard to monitoring.

Now ThinkfastPRO finally gives you the objective tools you can use to monitor your progress.

How Does ThinkfastPRO Work?

Anyone who has ever been addicted to a computer game — especially an action game — knows how sensitive these programs are to your current mental state. When you’re feeling alert and focused, you invariably perform better than if you’re in a fog. If you could somehow record your reaction times, accuracy, memory, and alertness as you played one of these games, you’d have a pretty accurate representation of your mental state.


ThinkfastPRO is marketed . . .
as a kind of “mental Nautilus
® machine.”
Like an exercise machine,
it not only monitors
your progress, it also
keeps raising the bar, always giving you a
new target to aim at.


ThinkfastPRO consists basically of a series of five or six simple “games,” each of which is designed to exercise a different cognitive “muscle set,” in much the same way Nautilus® machines are used. As you play the game, (which involves simply pressing one or two keys per trial) the software records your reaction times and accuracy. In addition, it adjusts the presentation of stimuli to suit your current speed, adding “weights” as you adapt to each previous level. At the conclusion of a “set,” your responses are matched against your baseline, so you can easily see whether your performance is heading up or down.

Games & Goals

Game 1: Physical Reflexes. The first game is a simple reaction-time (RT) exercise, testing how fast you respond (by pressing the key) to a brief presentation of a randomly timed stimulus. You are scored on both your speed and efficiency (a function of response consistency and accuracy). The results provide an indication of how focused and clear-headed you are. When combined with Game 2, Game 1 is a gauge of how fast your brain and body can process and respond to anything that happens unexpectedly in your environment.


ThinkfastPRO fills an
important need for people
who want more concrete
information about the
specific effects of their
mental enhancement
nutrition programs.


Game 2: Perceptual Reflexes. Game 2 measures your alertness and visual acuity, which is expressed as your Perceptual Threshold (PT). Your PT tells you how fast you are seeing a briefly presented visual stimulus and then how fast you react to it. The results give you an indication of how good your sensory-motor (eye-hand) coordination is. They tell you how you might do in a fast reaction game like basketball, racquetball, or auto racing.

Game 3: Cognitive Reflexes. Your cognitive reflexes are a measure of your brain’s data-processing speed and efficiency in making a choice decision. Focus is essential to good performance, because the (conditional) tasks involved are especially susceptible to distraction and wandering attention.

Game 4: Working Memory Speed. Working memory is analogous to thinking speed. It is a complex function that reflects the “activated” information drawn from long-term memory, combined with information held in short-term memory (relating to the task at hand), and the decision process that manages to access both. A good working memory will help you perform tasks such as arithmetic, reading, and general problem-solving. Because working memory is also an indication of whole brain integration and is extremely sensitive to inner “noise,” your performance on this task is revealing of how fatigued, distracted, fuzzed or frenzied, or how clear, focused and “zoned” you are.

Game 5: Working Memory Capacity. Working memory capacity is measured by the number (quantity) of letters and symbols from a briefly flashed set that you can hold in very short-term memory and accurately compare with a second displayed set.


ThinkfastPRO can be an
extraordinarily sensitive
instrument for measuring
the effects of cognitive
performance-enhancing
substances, but, to make
best use of it, you need
to establish a baseline.


Game 6: Subliminal Awareness. Game 6 tests your ability to discern a brief, random, and subtle stimulus. It is a measure of your athletic acumen.

Brain Speed and Mental Efficiency

ThinkfastPRO places a great emphasis on speed, but never at the expense of efficiency. Your Efficiency score derives from how accurate and consistent your responses are. A low error rate may reflect how focused and diligent you are, but it may also indicate excessive caution. A high error rate may reflect distraction and lack of focus, or it may suggest that you’re anxious, impulsive, or perhaps pushing too hard. As a measure of Efficiency, ThinkfastPRO gives you a “sigma” (s) score that is based on the consistency of your responses. It is an indication of the level of variation in your performance, which is often caused by neural noise, or “static in your wires” that is helping to divide your focus.

Getting the Most from ThinkfastPRO

Let’s get back to that basic question about smart drug/nutrient regimens: How do I know if it’s working? ThinkfastPRO can be an extraordinarily sensitive instrument for measuring the effects of cognitive performance-enhancing substances, but, to make best use of it, you need to establish a baseline.

Establishing a baseline on ThinkfastPRO is simply a matter of going through the exercises for a few days before you start taking a particular substance. First, use ThinkfastPRO at the same time each day until your performance levels off, or “plateaus.” Then begin taking the substance and continue to take it, noting any improvement to (or decline in) your performance. If the supplements are helping, you should see a change. If they’re not helping, perhaps you need a higher dose, or even a lower one. You’ll need to experiment.

What if you’re already taking a smart drug/nutrient and want to see if it’s helping? Since you may have already enhanced your mental performance, one way to see if it’s working is to establish a baseline while taking it and then stop taking it for as long as it takes to notice an effect. If your performance starts to fall off, simply start taking it again and see if you improve. If you see no difference when you stop, it’s possible you were taking too little to begin with, so try increasing the dose and see if anything happens.

As Dean, Morgenthaler and Fowkes wrote in Smart Drugs II, “Every smart drug we’ve studied seems to have an inverted-U-shaped dose-response curve. This means that enough is enough, too little is too little, and too much may have an effect opposite of what you desire. We would like to be able to tell you the exact dosage needed for each smart substance. Unfortunately, we can’t. The effects of smart substances are highly individualized. Only you, working with your physician, can determine the exact dosage that is right for you. And only you can determine which smart drugs and nutrients enhance your performance.”

Until now most of those determinations had to be based on vague feelings and guesswork. ThinkfastPRO promises to change all that. As data begin to accumulate from smart drug and nutrient users, it may turn out that ThinkfastPRO is the most important development in the objective measure of cognitive enhancement so far.


Will Block is the publisher and editorial director of Life Enhancement magazine.

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