Mike: Daniel welcome to the show. It’s good to have you on again.
Daniel: And happy to be on again.
Mike:So as your last episodes were quite popular but we talked about quite a different set of subjects and today we would like to talk with you about neurohacking so maybe can you give us like a brief introduction to[00:04:00]
what neurohacking is and why we should be doing it. If we should be doing it.
Daniel: Yes, neurohacking is a broad and kind of ambigous term related to biohacking and consciousness hacking. Generally we can think of it as the application of any tools, technologies or processes to modulate, augment, upgrade some aspect of psychological neurological function. And so we can think of ancient neurohacking technologies being meditation in sweat lodges and psychedelics and[00:04:30]
dancing around the campfire to get into trance like states and ecc. and obviously with advances in neuroscience and neurotechnology we’ve got QEG neurofeedback, we’ve got transcranial stimulation technologies, we’ve got more advanced microbiomic, genomic, you know biochemical technologies. So we think of neurohacking as how do we optimise the mind brain interface towards any positive purpose utilising[00:05:00]
whatever tools best serve them to give a purpose.
Mike: I love how you say mind-brain interface as if they’re very separate things.
Daniel: Well, the reason they were saying mind-brain interface together is because if you want to run the analogy of mind stuff as kind of like software and brains stuff that is kind of like hardware you realise that the distinction, the clear distinction in computers between software and hardware we don’t have such a clear distinction.[00:05:30]
And the human organism did any change in thought has a physical change in the brain that’s happening, any physical changes in the brain has some change in thinking, emotion, experience ecc.. And so they are dynamically cointeraffecting eachother all the time.
Mike: So I suppose alot of the thinking that we’ve done about consciousness has come from, well it’s come from a lot of different perspectives but the one that we land on quite often is the prospective from[00:06:00]
Hinduism and Buddhism which is you’re not the mind and the consciousness is not exactly localised in physical material in the brain. So do you have much to say from that perspective before we dive deeper into neurohacking.
Daniel: Yeah so we get right into whats famously known in neuroscience as the hard problem of neuroscience. How does consciousness and brain or in general consciousness and physics-what are they, how do they relate and is there[00:06:30]
causal interaction in both directions? This is the hard problem of neuroscience, but before that this was you know the kind of hard problem with the mind-brain problem with the dualism challenge that all the philosophic systems face as it seems like there is third person stuff. That we can all independently measure sciences and the method of knowing the third person reality, think of this third person objective reality. We can all measure it, we can cooperate it and[00:07:00]
if we’re going to make hypothesis about interactional dynamics we’ll be able to make predictions ecc. And third person stuff has weight and position and charge and length and spend and those kinds of properties. First person stuff doesn’t have any of those. It doesn’t have emotion and feeling and longing and impulse. It can’t be collaborated by anybody else at all. You are having a first person experience,[00:07:30]
we’re talking and I can empathetically imagine to feel what you’re experience is like. But that is different than actually having a first person access to it than you do. So when both of these realities exist, it has been acknowledged and there are philosophic systems that dont think that they’re both real,right. You have what are called idealism systems that say consciousness is fundamentally real because it’s the only thing we can know. I can know that I’m having an experience but I can’t know that what I’m experiencing about the world[00:08:00]
even through my scientific measurements is true because I could just be crazy person, right. This could all be a dream, it could all be the matrix and it could just be, you know contours within consciousness but i don’t, I only have first person experience, first person access to my experience of stuff. And so in those models what’s fundamentally real is consciousness and the rest of the universe, third person stuff are not real at all, maia or it’s an[00:08:30]
epiphenomenon of consciousness. Mind creates reality. You’ve got the other side which says, which fundamentally real is physical staff, material staff, physical stuff happened with the big bang, interactions occured that lead to complexity. Emergent properties have no complexity and somewhere around biology or maybe nervous system’s consciousness is an emergent property. What’s fundamentally real is physical stuff and then consciousness is either just not real at all. It’s called radical limitivism.[00:09:00]
So they and them and others can propose that and its kind of like an illusion. Or consciousness is real but it’s an epiphenomenon of complex neural networks, radical emergentism. So you’ve got different philosophic systems that dont see both of those as fundamentally real things or reduce them to the domain that seems moral to them or they’re stuck with ideas they both seem real and they seem to uncommensurate called dualism. Or[00:09:30]
attempts to try and reconcile them more deeply and so when you’re living your life, when you’re body is touched, interacted with, sensation happens. This is physical right be mediated by biology and physics and yet you have a conscious experience so it seems like physics can affect consciousness. There’s a causal movement, but you also experience yourself having some choice, and again we get deep into not just the topic consciousness but the topic of will and volition.[00:10:00]
And if your choice is real and that affects your hand moving, it would seem that consciousness has some effect on physics and for every branch where you say what what about that in each of these questions each of these things I’ve said and questions that come up. There is a whole branch of philosophy that goes down-is there really free will or not, is it compatible with deterministic universe or not, is the universe deterministic etc. But, most of what we’re gonna talk about today does not require these deep existential issues being solved.[00:10:30]
To say that we do know empirically both first person and third person that the things that we can do with our subjective experience so mindfulness, meditation, introspection etc. can actively affect the brain and affect the brain in ways that affects the minds predispositions and things we can do to the body AI changing its biochemistry, changing its microbiota,[00:11:00]
exercising differently, change cognitive and emotional, mental and the experience of the conscious creature. You can abstract and say : ok so you’re saying the mind thinking, feeling stuff is different than the body? Is consciousness different than that? Is the non dual witness different in Hindo, Buddhists philosophy. Maybe there is consciousness as a field effect that is interacting with this self-organising system.[00:11:30]
Fascinating questions and if you wanted to do a show where we just dive into existential questions of depth I’d be happy.
Euvie: I think that’s the plan for the next one actually.
Daniel: Yeah, cool.
Euvie: But yeah you bring up non duality and that’s exactly what I was going to say just now. Do you approach neurohacking from a non dualistic perspective whereas both ascending and descending in terms that Ken Wilber uses.
Daniel: Yeah so when Ken talks about the ascending pass he’s talking about the transcendent direction[00:12:00]
and the descending pass the eminent direction. The transcendent spiritual processes are around in some way having consciousness leave body, mind eccetera and go into higher states of witnessing universal consciousness etc. The descending pass around taking universal consciousness and embodying it morefully. And if you just want to talk about it very simply in terms of[00:12:30]
just having expanded states of awareness and then being able to integrate those expanded states as integrated stages. Yes! That’s a valuable way to think about it.
Euvie: Cool, so why don’t we move into the actual subject of neurohacking. You talked about the different tools that we can use, what are some of the currently available tools for neurohacking?
Daniel: Well, there’s alot of different goals, right. And so if someone’s wanting to decrease anxiety or[00:13:00]
brighten their mood or increase their cognitive function or have altered psychedelic numinous states or improve their sleep quality. Each of these goals are gonna have different tools that are more appropriate and then each of the goals are gonna have different tools that are different depending upon the person and what the person actually has going on. There are specific biochemistry, genomics etc. So I’ll speak broadly about categories of tools that are currently available.[00:13:30]
An then we can get into applications more. So think about first affecting the brain and body. And this is another important distinction. So we look at the intersection between the mind and brain but it’s not just mind and brain it’s your conscious experience and your body as a whole. And then we can say well, it’s actually the mind, brain body environment complex. cause’ the environment and the body are interaffecting each other inexorably realtime. So these are embedded complex systems.[00:14:00]
But lets just talk about the topic of embodied consciousness and conscious experience that is mediated beyond just the nervous system in the physiology. You know the first example that I think people getting pre-populate aware of is the gut brain axis and the gut-brain axis is mediated by a number of things. You’ve got the enteric neural system which is a whole branch of periferral system in the intestines where inflammation in the intestines can cause imbalance[00:14:30]
between sympathetic and parasympathetic, nervous system can cause neural information etc.. We’ve also got the microbiome digesting food and actually many of our nutrients are metabolic byproducts of the microbiota and obviously we evolved our microbiome over so many generations before we had chlorinated water and antibiotics and refined sugar diets. And the human genome doesn’t actually code everything necessary[00:15:00]
to make it human. The genome codes a bunch of stuff. But we got our genome and microbiome from our parents. And the babies microbiome comes : some in utero, some from the vaginal flora, some from breastfeeding. But if we damage that, a whole bunch of functions necessary to make an optimum human can be damaged so specifically regarding nervous system, some of the main neurotransmitters like gaba, dopamine, serotonin are primarily produced[00:15:30]
via flora in the intestines. and so for each of those three edges mentioned somewhere between 30% and 80% of these neurotransmitters are actually produced in the gut and move to the brain. And then if you think about losing 30% to 80% of your serotonin, gaba or dopamine that’s psychopatology, that’s a messed up brain. So then you start looking at how many people are eating food that is feeding some microbes more than others and changing the gut microbiome or have some[00:16:00]
GI disturbance. And it’s important that if we helped the microbiome of someone’s gut-that’s a neurohack. We can be changing their brain chemistry, the most critical kinds of signalling chemicals by changing the bacteria in their gut. The same is true if you want to look at lets say pain anywhere in the body, pain can create inflammation that can cross the blood brain barrier and cause neuro inflammation which creates depression and cognitive issues.[00:16:30]
Exercise, certain types of exercises can actually affect genetic transcription and change endogenous biochemical patterns in the brain. And so you know we’ll talk about technologies to affect the brain and nervous system directly, but some of them are technologies to affect the environment of the brain and the nervous system lives in which is first order of the body. So tools, let’s see about biochemical tools. So first line about biochemical tools is that you can put in your mouth.[00:17:00]
So we’re talking about vitamins and supplements and herbs and drugs etc.. So you’ve got anxiolitic biochemistry things that can decrease anxiety, you’ve got things that can help with sleep, you’ve got things that can help with cognition-all the neutropics and smart drugs. And then, you’ve got things that can create experiences that might not be where you want to live all the time but have a meaningful state experiences.[00:17:30]
So let’s take psychedelics and say are we optimising the physiology by taking the psychodelic or are we augmenting it moving it into a specific range of function that we might not want to live all the time but that has meaningful positive effects lastingly if done properly.
So you’ve got, you just think about all the biochemical stuff, and then you have the biochemical stuff that can be injected, can go intranasaly. There’s alot of different delivery methods for biochemical technologies for neurohacking.[00:18:00]
You’ve got the biological technologies, which is like mentioning, affecting the microbiome of the gut. But not just microbiome of the gut, but the microbiome of all the mucosa. Systems of body. It’s pretty common for people to have infections in their mouths, subclinical dental infections, or subclinical nasal infections. They are actually releasing biotoxins that affect the brain And so they’re the boundary between good integrative functional medicine and neurohacking, it kinda blurs. We’ve got genomic therapies.[00:18:30]
We can think about for neurohacking. So you know we’re at the edge of starting to think about CRISPR and looking at do people with higher IQs, do people that are happy or more depressive have different genomic patterns and can we actually do gene doping, splicing etc. to effect that and even before looking at a genomic level we look at a genetic expression level. Can we turn on or off or modulate certain gene expressions and there’s a bunch of things to do. And then to the degree that we know someone has[00:19:00]
a bunch of mutations on their MAO branches or COMT branches that code for certain neurotransmiter previous positions. Can we atleast just do neutrogenomics. Provide different nutrients for them to bypass where they have genomic deficiencies. You’ve got so many fun technologies, you’ve got biofeedback and specifically neurofeedback, EEG neurofeedback which can provide input about the brain to the brain that it doesn’t normally get, that teaches it how to regulate[00:19:30]
much more profoundly and quickly in many areas. We’ve got all the transcranial technologies so we can stimulate the brain with transcranial lasers, transcranial direct current or alternating current, transcranial magnets or ultrasound. Ultrasound has some fascinating studies and early studies in curing Alzheimers right now. TMS has had some great work and depression and[00:20:00]
some of the TDCS has been used for hyperclocking the prefrontal cortex up. There’s a bunch of fun things and there are transcranial lasers, low-level laser. Not just transcranial but sometimes they go up your nose-intranasal lasers can increase ATP production in the neurons. So increase mitochondria output. That’s a good example if you’re increasing ATP, output you’re not making the system more moved in a stimulatory direction, you’re not affecting, stimulating neurotransmitters or neurohormones.[00:20:30]
You’re also not doing neuro inhibitory runs, you’re just increasing the cell energy for it to do whatever it wants to do better which is kinda like a younger brain.
Daniel: There’s a bunch more but give me more questions otherwise i’ll keep going
Mike: So you brought up the gut brain, is there a feedback mechanism that you can train yourself to pay attention to so that you have better insight or thinking, sort of informed by the gut?
Daniel: We can take this a couple of different ways. We could say that we might be actually looking at[00:21:00]
the information processing of the enteric nervous system. That there is this gut brain, gut nervous system. That it provides a different kind of input or feedback. Just like there’s a bunch of neurons in the heart. We can talk about the heart as an information processing system, you know the neurons in at least. That might be true I don’t think we know enough to know for sure. We can also just talk about the benefit of tuning into different perspectives[00:21:30]
and being able to get different information. So let me give you a totally different example Napoleon Hills famous book “Think and grow rich”. He said that one of his favourite practices that he developed in there was he had this council of invisible advisors
Euvie, Mike: haha
Daniel: and his invisible advisors were he thought who he wanted to become and the quality is that mattered most and he thought about people that really represented emboding that[00:22:00]
quality well. And so maybe he didn’t want to become Genghis Khan holistically, but there were some aspects of cards that he wanted Genghis Khan’s insight for. And so he had his list Lincoln, da Vinci, Ford whoever i dont know who’s exactly on this list, but he studied people well enough that he could have some real sense of their personalities And then he would convene seeing them all at the councel table with his eyes closed in a meditative state And then he would bring life issues to them and ask for their feedback[00:22:30]
and go around and have Lincoln talk and then having a Napoleon talk and one of the things that he found was that when he was asking for Gandhi’s input he got insight that he would have never got just journalling his on thoughts. And he said alright so, is it because I am channeling Gandhi or is it simply because I’m looking at the universe through a different lens that I wouldn’t normally[00:23:00]
using my own brain and you know he said let’s assume that it’s the latter but it really doesn’t matter at all the net result is profound valuable useful empirically useful insights came from looking at the world through those lenses. You can do the same thing with parts of your body and it’s actually a really meaningful part of somatic psychology. You can tune into your gut. Say you want to use the shock resistant. And you tune into your solar plexus,[00:23:30]
or your hearth chakra or throat chakra. Does it matter if there are really shock risks? No, it doesn’t matter at all. Does it matter of the chakras correlate to Neuroplexies or the endocrine glands or are there nonsense. Is you’re just tuning into this part of your body what is it want to tell me? What does it think? What is it that you want me to know. And some information comes and then you step back in your normal state of consciousness and look at that might you be able to gain meaningful inshights from it? -Definitely.[00:24:00]
Euvie: Yeah I think that’s a really good way of looking at it because some people, you know, if they’re not used to or if they don’t believe that chakras exist they might just refuse to use that technique but actually the way you put it you can totally just use the technique without having any kind of belief about it. Does this work? -yes it does. Does it not work? -Ok well maybe I can try something else.
Daniel: And it doesn’t just have to be chakras for example you can just take the are of your body that’s hurt and tune in and say -What is this? What do you want me to know?[00:24:30]
Maybe you dont get anything and then you just kinda feel the pain, the tension or whatever it is. You say if this pain could talk,what would it say? And you see what comes up. It’s interesting how often that ends up being insightful. And when we talk about the mind-brain interface or mind-body interface there are a tremendous number of places where the top down regulatory system has huge effects on all other systems[00:25:30]
and so where specifically emotions, psychology end up affecting phisiology. When you think about why does placebo ever make anything better for anybody? It doesn’t even make sense why isn’t the body already healing at its optimum capacity as it is since it would be genetically programmed to do so. And it is allready healling at its optimum capacity and taking sugar pillows and its interesting it’s not even the belief that’s interesting. Say someone has a disease and they’re anxious about it. And that angst is mediated by cortizol and epinephrine etc.. And so their cortizol is taking the precursor hormone pregnenolone and shunting it into cortizol adrenols which means less is going to the DHEAs so the cortizol DHEA ratio gets higher and that ends up affecting everything from genetic transcryption[00:26:00]
to lean muscle mass to bone density to so many things. So then when a person believes they’re gonna get well, and they feel better their stress drops and their parasympathetic nervous system can kick on and sympathetic nervous system chills out and cortizol DHEA should move in the right direction. The actual repairative mechanisms of physiology are more available to them. So their body is healing as best as it can in the stressed state
and in a non stressed state it can[00:26:30]
actually heal better. Now one of the interesting things is placebo is not the only thing that can do that. You look at work like mormon cousins work where he just watched comedy cause’ he thought he was dying from cancer and the cancer got better not because he believed he was gonna get better, but because he was not stressed out and happy for the first time. And it ended up being stress was meaningful to process of pathology going on for him. This doesnt mean[00:27:00]
that it’s the only thing or that it will allways be effective. And sometimes placebo just affects how you sense something but not the underlying path of phisiology, but it’s a part of it. So when you tune into pain in the body for instance, retention in the body is it possible that there is some psychological action that’s happening where we can get insights often.
Euvie: Are there other ways of affecting cortisol in your body that are meaningful in the long term other than this kind of[00:27:30]
observing your body and releasing it consciously?
Daniel: Oh yeah so she’s like the first place the tonsil medicine doctors and naturopathic doctors talk to people it is understanding how the HPA axis works in the dysregulation in HPA axis usually starts at the age of the adrenal side roughly you can say the sympathetic nervous system innervates the adrenal cortex in the primary hormone-there’s many coming from that process it’s cortisol and the parasympatic nervous system[00:28:00]
innervates the inner madula and there are again many hormones that are coming out but the primary one is DHEA. So the ratio of cortizol to the DHEA hormones the endocrine system in the blood representing systemic effects is roughly equivalent to the sympathetic parasymathetic ratio of the system as a whole. You know, related to chronic stress.[00:28:30]
In early phases of chronic stress cortizol goes up and the precursor to cortizol in the brain is [inaudible]. After that’s been a case for a little while the DHEA starts to go down because cortizol and DHEA are both
made from the same precursor hormone called pregnenalon and it’s a rate limited hormone. There’s a finite amount of it. After a while if someone stays in chronic stress, cortizol starts to drop too simply because the adrenal glands are fatigued and now the DHEA is way lower.[00:29:00]
So you can see people with high and low level cortizol adrenal stress states depending upon how long they are in that patology. So you can give someone identical hormones or things that support hormones to get them in the right range quickly and make the person feel better. So say you do a blood or salivary hormone lab,with local adrenols you can do that but thing is it’s just gonna be dropping the stress load. And the stress load[00:29:30]
is the psychological and pysiological stresses. Too much sugar, and then unstable blood sugar cycle causes cortizol spiking, but it reads as stress and continues starvation cycle responses. Not enough sleep is a huge cause of stress. Both not enough exercise and exercising in a way that’s causing injury. Aswell as toxins and patogens that cause inflammation. So all of those can cause chronic stress, aswell as[00:30:00]
all the psychological sources. So one of the You know you can say that the first good part of no hacking is just house right health and well-being because so many people dealing with brain fog or low level anxiety, depression before they seek to optimise beyond baseline, just getting back to baseline. It’s pretty great so Identifying the things that took them below baseline and reversing those. That should be the foundation of stuff[00:30:30]
Euvie: Right, I think so many people are neglect that they’re trying to kinda go to superhuman levels rather than just trying to optimise for what’s missing or for whats kind of below normal levels. So what else is in that spectrum of words are people often overlook we’ve talked about cortisol we’ve talked about the gut microbiome. Are there any other important components of this equation?
Daniel: Sure this is not the sexy part this is the[00:31:00]
f****ng don’t tell us about the stuff again part but it’s critical. And then the sexy part is the stuff that seems like magic bullets that make you
have superhero powers. So will be more ended at the end of those parts really do there are some really exciting technologies that can be very partly augmenting that they really do functions radically better in a Welton System in an already dysregulated system does it mean they can help to get you back to function dysregulated system but we really want to be functioning on[00:31:30]
foundational well-being. So, first category is sleep. I say this because it ends up affecting more categories of [health and psychology faster than almost anything else. And it’s something that is just so easy for most of us to do a poor job with. By sleep i mean both enough sleep and good quality sleep. So even if it’s give or take a third of your life[00:32:00]
it’s 90% of all the repair to your phisiology. And we’ve got some very meaningful information consolidation and psychological consolidation happening in dreams and delta. Almost all of the phisiological repairs happens in delta. It’s also where the memory consolidation happens. So make sure we’re getting enough delta sleep, I would say is a huge foundation. Now we have neurohacks for helping that.[00:32:30]
You can,you know, one should make sure that the foundation of all things are in place so that environmentaly we have a good sleeping environment. Have a good bed. Is it dark? Is it quiet? Good air quality and not a room with mold or doc etc. And you dont have people or dogs waking up during the night. We should make sure we make an optimised sleeping environment. And it’s a pretty important thing factoring[00:33:00]
how big a deal it is. And then there are supplements that people can take that will help sleep better depending upon what’s wrong with their sleep. But if they’re not sleeping well because they’re waking up to pee or not versus their snoring,right. Those really need to be adressed in different ways, but adressim them is really important.
Euvie: And there’s also the amount of light that you received before sleep. So many people stay on their phone right before they go to bed and that can have really terrible implications because[00:33:30]
your brain doesn’t produce enough melatonin.
Daniel: Yeah so cortisol and melatonin are in a circadian rhythm with each other where cortisol is high in the day, low at night. Melatonin is low on the day and high at night and it’s a light stimulated cycle. So it’s actually important to get enough bright light during the day. If you don’t then your cortisol doesn’t actually go high,then it won’t come low enough and give you good sleep at night. But it is important to avoid bright and blue light before bed.[00:34:00]
Alot of people wear blue blocking glasses or the f.lux app on their computer to take out of the blue range. Thing like that. In general i would say a rundown routine before bed we’re you stop taking in stressful things, you stop blue and the bright light and start preparing your body for sleep whether it is through a bath or the right kind of reading or stretching. Super usefull. We’re working on some technology,[00:34:30]
some biochemical technology that induce better delta sleep and a number of different ones. One for which we’re most excited about is a new kind of brain inductions called phase-lock induction. And this was a DAARPA funded project originally with some people that were partnered with a university of northwestern. Rather than try to induce delta waves like using bineural beams or strobe lights or[00:35:00]
transcrannial stem. These researchers recognised that the brain actually resists having its brain wave patterns changed externally pretty strongly because its own process for regulating the frequency that it’s in. Just the opening and closing of the ion gates is very very sensitive, controlled by many factors. It’s really only susceptible to induction when the gates are open, when the channels are open. And so they put the EEGM on peoples head,
they found out when the people go into delta sleep they’re specifically trying to improve the efficiency of delta sleep. And then exactly when the gates were open they’ve put in a stimulus for the exact same wave pattern, the same frequency the brain was in where it was crest crest aligned. So they weren’t changing the wave pattern, they were just adding more of the exact same wave pattern that the brain was in to add amplitude. Which the hypothesis was[00:36:00]
if you increase the efficiency of everything that was happening, because you get more net communication per unit time happening. And this happened. And the first studies that were done were on memory. They found 400% increase in long term memory in healthy adults after a week of using this technology. That’s testing memory, but if delta sleep is going up that’s gonna be helping anxiety. It’s gonna be decreasing risk for alzheimers.[00:36:30]
It’s gonna be affecting oxidation and empty inflammation. So this technology is not far from being market ready. This is an example of really fun neurohacks or right on the brink of.
Euvie: That is so interesting it sounds like it’s almost tricking the brain into thinking that is doing a better job at whatever it’s already doing than it actually is and I wonder if it has a feedback loop where the brain picks up that, oh this is really working and then it knows how it arrived there because I was already doing that[00:37:00]
maybe just to a smaller degree and then it already knows how to do that and it does it better next time. Is that the case?
Daniel: Since there are some serapis where after you do them the brain continues to do the monitor because of worms how to do them just kind of the exact opposite of the way we usually think of say psychopharmacology drugs right which is that they create dependence and addiction you get off of my new brain can’t do that anymore because it overrode the natural regulatory system.[00:37:30]
This is one of our primary design principles so we wanna understand what the brains own regulatory process, bodies regulatory process is doing and support it rather than override it in a way that whenever someone stops with that particular technology you have a net-neutral, positive, lasting effect rather than a down regulation independance. I would say good neurohacking in general should have that as one of its criteria.[00:38:00]
With this particular one, I dont think it’s done yet on someone using it for a while and stopping and seeing if they continue to get that elevation from baseline. I wouldnt see it as much as it trying to trick the brain as it is supporting it by adding energy. Like if there’s three people pushing a car and one more person comes along to push just so it goes better, because there’s more force being added to what’s allready been happening so here[00:38:30]
the goal was as the brain is modulating its frequency and it’s at its max amplitude that it can generate if we can just add energy so we’re adding amplitude, we’re just gonna increase its efficiency of this process. There’s something very beautiful, it’s very [inaudible] about not we know what the brain should be doing better and we’re going to try and induce this specific frequency of delta, but we actually dont know why it is moving between the frequencies exactly the way that it does but we’re
gonna trust it and follow it and just add resource. I think stem cells is another way you can think about that. If you think about stem cells here we dont know how the stem cells differentiate into tissues fully and then all the metabolic functions that cells do but we’re simply adding resources to the system. In general I think the aproach to support the systems own regulatory proceses doing what they do better as opposed to trying to[00:39:30]
override them is a key distinction how we should approach tech interface with the body.
Euvie: Interesting, so when it comes to supplements is this also your approach that you’re trying to support what the body is already doing rather than kind of installing a new program or “this is how you’re going to do it body” “-ok “
Daniel: Yes, ofcourse. With the supplements we developed and more that we’re in process of developing.[00:40:00]
So lets take qualia as an example. It’s a nootropic product, cognienhancive product we made because there’s a good example here. Some of the ingredients are actually just nutrients, the nutrients that you should get from food. And if you’ve been eating a healthy diet you’ll be getting more of them than not. But there are nutrients that either are very commonly defficient even in good diets for a number of reasons. Certain traits that are important for brain function. They’re just defficient in soil[00:40:30]
and even organic soil is still very different than before the soil originally went through a bunch of monocropping. Plants can’t make minerals right, they’re gonna pull up the minerals that are in the soil. Simillarly if the soil is defficient in microbiota that’s gonna affect the plants chemistry. The plant has been hyberdized. If there are common defficiencies in certain nutrients that are necessary for cognitive capacity or sleep or something like that, making sure that there’s enough of them,[00:41:00]
that’s just augmenting eating. And then that doesn’t mean that you can eat poorly. It’s why we use the word supplement as it is to supplement, to be an adition to. Because when someone takes a few grams and pills compared to what they are taking of in food there’s no way that’s gonna replace the primary effect. But it can meaningly add to it. Also, if someone is going to be using some function alot more than the benevolish environment would’ve had[00:41:30]
him use that function. So athletically, someone is going to be sweating alot more, they’re going to lose electrolites faster. Give them electrolites and it actually makes difference. Whether they’re going to be using branched amino acids to build skeletal muscle more of there’s tearing down of skeletal muscles we supplement brain [inaudible] yes. There are nutrients that get used faster when someone is in a certain type of cognitive process so if they want to spend alot in peak cognitive process they’re gonna burn quicker so you wanna supplement them.[00:42:00]
And that is, the body is just going to conver those. Say the amino acids that can get converted to neurotransmiters. The vitamins and minerals that are involved in the conversion process. The body is going to convert them as it needs them, but you’re not going to have nutrition being a rate limiting factor. So that’s obviously working with indogenous pathway support. There are other things where say, we are looking at the acetylcholine pathway
and that has alot to do with memory, learning, senzory-motor function, speed of neural communication. So the body is producing acetycholine. It’s moving across synapses, it’s getting recieved in the post synaptic receptors. We can give plants or chemicals that modulate that process, but they modulate the process in a much more hollistic way than let’s say a traditional psychopharmacological approach which is a single[00:43:00]
drug intervention that’s gonna affect one part. Like adderal being presynaptic dopamine agonist and then not necessarilly looking at how that works in the whole dopamine cycle and how dopamine relates to epinephrine and serotonin and the whole rest of neurotransmition. So we wanna look at neurotransmiter, we wanna look at the entire cycle of that transmiter, we wanna look what the cellular process is of Of the pre and post synaptic neuron. Everyone look at all the other transmitters and signalling[00:43:30]
chemicals that it’s in relationship with and make sure they were actually supporting holistic process. And so you’ve got factor if you’re wanting to be able to run more acetycholine into the system, the bodies abiltiy to faciliate the coli so you have enough acetyl groups, you have choline certain sorts of choline can go to the peripheral neuron or to the central nervous system depending on what do you want to do, you do that differently. And then there are rate limiting[00:44:00]
co-factors like for that what happens to be B5 so you wanna make sure it’s not gonna be rate limiting. But then, the acetylcholine getting across the synapse you have enzymes that are breaking it down. Just like enzymes that are breaking down dopamine or serotonine. So, many of the pharmaceutical meds affect transmiter levels that are working by modulating what’s happening in the synaptic cleft, take inhibitor. So if someone has genetically high MAO levels, or[00:44:30]
COMT levels, or acetylcholine levels then they’re going to be subfunctional in that area and you’ll be able to have a neutrogenomic override to that area. If you’re going to be producing more acetylcholine and you aren’t getting it across the synapse, you know, help with the acetylcholine inhibitors and you actually want to get it up taken to the post-synaptic neuron. The NMDA receptors primarilly.[00:45:00]
There are things you can use to modulate that receptor. If you support the entire cycle of how the body is actually producing it you’ll get alot more optimum results and you’ll end up getting the body learning how to do that and be able to actually have plasticity effect. It’s actually going to rewire to that state. If it does that state a significant amount and then when someone gets off it will either have little effect or lasting positive effects because they rewired.[00:45:30]
One of the bigger ways you get lasting effects is by actually working to change brain structure in a positive direction. So this is things like can we help the brain develop more neurons and increase gray matter density, or develop more synapses. It’s called neurogenesis or the synaptic genesis. So we get more densly interconnected brain structures. And there do happen to be alot of things that are known about specific nutrients and[00:46:00]
specific chemicals that do support the brains natural process of neurogenesis happening more robustly. Or the brains process of neurotophagy, killing old synapses and brain cells as they cause problems allowing new ones to proliferate. And so these are exampels of ways you can get lasting benefit after a biochemical solution after stopping taking the biochemical solution because it’s actually seeking to : one, to tune the system better and[00:46:30]
two-rewire it to an unregulated state and three-actually support the development of new structures.
Euvie: This is really interesting I want to rewind slightly to when we were talking about neurotransmitters that regulate mood because there is a huge industry of selling drugs that regulate mood, that actually have adverse long term effects if you stop taking them or if you continue taking them they kind of lose their effectiveness in a way over time[00:47:00]
and for example I have experience taking ssris and I had both of those effects with withdrawal after coming off of them and decreasing effectiveness over time. But what you’re talking about is that it’s actually possible to have supplements or drugs that have a net positive effect over time even if you stop taking them. Can you talk about that a bit specifically when it comes to mood regulation?
Daniel: Yeah so let me say that then the ideal way to[00:47:30]
approach this is a personalized medicine and personalised wellbeing approach because so say the SSRI did some good for you, for a while. But then it had side effects and it had down regulation and you adapted to it. Did it do some good for you because you actually had a dysbiosis issue in your gut where you just were not producing half of the serotonine that you need.[00:48:00]
That’s an important question. Because if so, I wouldn’t even want to give you brain supplements that wanna fix your gut. Or, was there actually something where your diet was defficient and tryptophan into the raw amino acid necessary to make serotonin levels low and you just have to adress your diet. So, there’s so many things that can bi involved and we can say in general, if someone takes[00:48:30]
5HTP which is Five Hydroxy Triptophane – hydroxiated triptophane, just one conversion step away from five hydroxi tryptamine which is serotonine. And they take the phosphorated version of B6-P5B that it converts the 5HTP to serotonine. Since that just the stuff that is one step away from serotonine the body would be working with it anyways. That they’re less likely to[00:49:00]
give independance and downregulation from just having enough of those things then they would with the SSRI. That’s true, and ideally I would find out what’s going on first. Because, we also see so many people who they get on SSRI and then they get much worse. So many of the shooting cases that we’ve seen we’re after someone was put on SSRI who hadn’t been on it before and the suicidal, homicidal tendencies are true. Because, if someone is more dopamine defficient then their depression,[00:49:30]
they really needed something like wellbutrin instead. Like, this is what’s so crazy to me is we don’t really do any kind of testing to see if there’s a neurochemical imbalance before we give them chemistry rather then psychology. And to the degree that there even isn’t a chemical imbalance, we don’t know which one, or which ones. And to the degree that we even knew which one-we don’t know why at all. And the answer is just straight to the drug.
Mike: That’s just crazy.
Daniel: It is.[00:50:00]
And think about this.So your brain is as complex a system as we know of existing in universe you’ve got the number of neurones and glial cells in the number synaptic connections that are metabolic processes per individual one and feedback and feedforward processes is just completely mind bogling. So when you think about something like serotonin right,[00:50:30]
it’s a signalling molecule that’s the end of many steps of metabolic transform. So if its low, how likely is it that other things are lower or higher dysregulated or there’s something else off like it’s pretty high, right. We just go straight to let’s get more serotonin, right. Let’s keep it from re uptake. And because we have to in the drug industry has to use synthetic single molecules to be able to get them[00:51:00]
patented which is the only way that they can ever make enough money to go through FDA trials. And that’s FDA, but every country has some version but the us probably leads the way in some of the good and bad aspects of this. What’s the chance that a single celled molecule, meaning it’s not part of natural landscape at all, it’s just one molecule, could ever be an adequate solution to a complex chemistry disregulation in a self-organizing system like your brain.[00:51:30]
That doesn’t even make sense. It doesn’t make sense that that could possibly be the thing that’s really going to repair it.
Daniel: So, it’s usually gonna be not one molecule thats off but lots of them. From maybe lots of different processes. So how do we identify what’s going on and support the systems increasing it’s own internal resilience. The same is when you talk about cognitive chemistry. Is cognitive chemistry mediated via dopamine?[00:52:00]
or via acetylcholine or glutamate, sodium ion channels or long term potenciation. Complex interactions, lots of them. So, one of the key things is that when you’re wanting to work with a complex system like a brain you’ve really gotta have more complexity and formative approach than single-molecule interventions.
Mike: So you’re saying we’re mostly involved in the single-molecule interventions because that’s what’s profitable?
Daniel: It’s not just that what’s profitable.[00:52:30]
That’s the only thing that you can because it’s profitable it’s the only thing you can even afford to do research on.
Daniel: You know when you hear things like well there are not so many good scientific trials done on herbs-what the f*ck do we pay for? I mean you see little trust on herbs, but it costs a billion dollars give or take to take a drug through FDA approval. Who’s gonna put a billion dollars? And then when you take the drugs through you’re not even sure it’s gonna work in the market and then you have a class action lawsuit at the end.[00:53:00]
You’re gonna need 20 million dollars potential on that fruit to even make any sense even embark on.
Daniel: So ofcourse you have to have a patent on it. And so if you have something that’s not patentable and even in the drug space there are certain drugs that got published about in a way that makes them unpatentable and even though they’re super promising, they just don’t get developed because who would develop them?
Euvie: Right because if it’s not a synthetic chemical, if it’s already available in nature they probably can’t patent it. For example in in my case I’ve been using[00:53:30]
peganum harmala seeds for mood regulation and I’ve had a really excellent effects with them. Much much better than ever had with SSRIs also combined with meditation and diet adjustments. But you know, if something like that was patented as a mood regulation supplement, they probably couldn’t patent it.
Daniel: Well no, they definatelly can’t patent it. But even some synthetics can’t get patented because you know, the information was already released[00:54:00]
so now it’s part of the commons or after the patent life on a drug expires. And so now it’s not really profitable because it’s a generic drug. They’re all going to be really cheap. Then we need for a drug company to look for a new thing and that’s basically even if the new things are not better or even shittier than the previous thing simply because we just can’t make money doing that .
Euvie: So, what are the ways around it?
Daniel: Supplements don’t have to go through FDA approval. Think about it from a pharmaceutical industry what it means to invest[00:54:30]
something like a billion dollars of capital before you’ve made your first dollar back. That’s so far from Silicon Valley software tech thinking. It’s a lot of money to invest.before actually having revenue but yeah so supplements don’t have to do that but they can’t claim that they have any medical purpose or heal anything. So then that becomes a tricky thing if they want to claim it, they have to go through FDA process, if they wanna go through FDA process thats[00:55:00]
super expensive and they’re going to have to have a profit stream to be able to justify it so that’s the deal. Basically, to really fix that. The entire regulatory financial and intellectual property structures have to be changed. And realistically I can say “for profit medicine” is a broken system. Because when you have a “for profit” care system where people come in ill, pharmaceuticals or hospitals or insurance or[00:55:30]
anybody know any money that’s going to be made in the multi trillion dollar complex. Healthcare is only made when people get sick. So prevention would just obsolete that entire profit stream. And, then you start think of patients as customers. And every MBA’s first thing they learn is haw to maximise the lifetime value of a customer. And that should never apply to a patient. So you’re free of markets. A free market should[00:56:00]
apply two things one can choose in to choose out of. You can’t reasonably choose out of healthcare and so it should not be structured in the for-profit way that it is any more than a for-profit prison should be.
Mike: Yeah you’re optimising for what you don’t want.
Daniel: Exactly. You know I was talking to a group that was working on peace and reconciliation the other day and I asked them what’s the chance of having a world free from war or any militarised conflict[00:56:30]
while having a for-profit military industrial complex, lastingly? And they realised its supply and demand theory says zero percent chance. Those two could coexist indoor induringly. Because if there isn’t demand for that supply it’l shut down and stop existing. It won’t be a for-profit complex. Or it will have to do supply-side economics and create demand. So that means that you have the largest block of economics[00:57:00]
have its own survival antithetical to global peace. That’s a f***ed up structure for humanity. And for-profit prisons are the same in for-profit Healthcare the same when you start going through you see how many places the financial incentive, the game theory is exactly opposite to what the collective goal should be. So, what it takes to really fix medicine and healthcare and wellbeing care etc..[00:57:30]
The IP has to change to where we’re not focused on patentable things and then separate pattents that can be combined because different IP holders have them and only unnatural things etc.. But the whole IP process is broken and needs to move to maximum innovation, not ownership restriction. The financial models have to change where are all the financial incentive is aligned with what we actually want which is optimised collective well-being. Not otherwise in that doesn’t look like any[00:58:00]
physical health system we’ve had and the scientific model has to change rather than in a small number of variable reductionist approach to understanding a complex self-organising system. We have to actually get better at complexity science and understanding the body as a regulatory system. The body-mind complex regulatory system. What causes regulatory breakdown and how to support increased regulatory capacity of the system[00:58:30]
rather than just overwriting it all the time
Euvie: Right, it’s a whole different set of incentives.
Daniel: It’s a different kind of science It’s different incentives and its different legal structures and so yes there’s a lot of things we want to evolve in diagnostic medicine and therapeutics medicine and in the AI interpretation. But, deeper than all that are these metastructures that need to evolve.
Euvie: So going back to the kind of specific approaches that you’re taking,[00:59:00]
how are you building these metastructures in a different way than they currently exist?
Daniel: Yeah so probably you within the within the confines of those metastructures to begin with so where our first products are supplements. The reason why we chose to do supplements is to be able to bring things direct-to-consumer, that’s what it’s going to be called. Rather than to go through FDA process and a doctor process. And specifically since were working with some synthetics but largely[00:59:30]
you know, synthetics and natural compounds. Both show a lot of unpatentable things and combinations of them, you know, moving towards customisable combinations as a patentability. So, for all those reasons that made sense and because we wanted to be able to control the integrity of the company, we wanted to take on very little capital and only very values of lion capital. So, we wanted to build one of the best things that we could actually build ourselves first to then be able to grow the company and continue.
For instance, the first product we brought to market-qualia are cogs on there. Just our cost of goods is higher than the retail cost of most other cognitive enhancers on the market. And all the investors were like down there we got to get the cards and then like there is no way to get it down until we get to huge economies of scale and bird in running around supply chain without cutting quality because I run a bunch of addition steps of testing to make sure that there’s you know[01:00:30]
optimised purity and potency. No mycotoxin or whatever got into the supply and manufacturing and use forms that are more expensive forms of all the ingredients and you know amounts that are actually meaningful which is expensive. So part of it is you working within the structures knowing what your mission is very clearly so your mission is not delivering returns to shareholders first it’s actually delivering meaningful technology to enrich people’s lives and if you don’t have something that’ll do that[01:01:00]
then just don’t do it. That’s really first part of it right and then being able to Grow while maintaining control of that mission is a key part of it. How else we work with as many structures? Well, we open source our information. So as far as IP we just don’t believe in it. So rather than say, we have a proprietary blend of this number of milligrams of things. We just have the exact number of milligrams[01:01:30]
of the exact sources and all the sourcing info. So if anyone wants, just go by there on and greet themselves, they’re welcome to. If someone wants to try make a bit of formula there you can. Because we just want to support the field advancing for optimised human well-being as best as possible and so that’s why we have a strong open source take on everything IP. And then reinvesting our capital and developing new technologies and really focusing on[01:02:00]
not where is the highest profit margin technology, but what are the technologies that will really make the biggest difference in addressing the things that cause most suffering that are the least one adressed currently.
Euvie: Alright on this bright and shiny note were going to end this episode. We’ve still got an hour left in this interview, but that’s going to be in the next episode.
This is the second time we have Daniel Schmachtenberger on the podcast. We also did several other interviews with him.
Daniel Schmachtengerber is a scientist, complex systems designer, and evolutionary philosopher. He is the founder of Emergence Project, a futurist think tank, and the co-founder of Neurohacker Collective , the company behind the cognitive supplement Qualia.
In this episode, we talk about neurohacking.
What is Neurohacking?
Neurohacking is any kind of technology, tool or technique for improving our psychological or neurological functions. In the ancient times, this involved things like meditation, sweat lodges, and psychedelics. In the modern times, neurohacking draws from several fields like biological psychology, epigenetics, bio/neurofeedback, and psychopharmacology (like smart drugs). People can use these tools and techniques to increase mental performance, decrease anxiety, regulate sleep, and to produce meaningful states of consciousness.
Tools of Neurohacking
The tools of neurohacking can be biochemical; such as vitamins, supplements, herbs, drugs and nootropics. They can be technological, such as the EEG Neurofeedback, transcranial lasers, magnets and ultrasound. They can also simply be techniques like meditation and other physical or mental exercises.
However, before getting into serious neurohacking, it’s important to have a stable starting point. The fundamental factors of getting good sleep, eating healthy food, and getting enough exercise cannot be overlooked. This can be seen as the base layer of neurohacking.
On top of general optimizations done to the cognitive functions and the body, certain neurohacking techniques can also kickstart the process of neurogenesis, which is the formation of new neurons.
We discuss Daniel’s work with Neurohacker Collective in creating Qualia, a smart drug stack designed to upgrade human capacity by increasing mental performance, mood, and general wellbeing.
After trying Qualia ourselves, we decided to arrange a special deal for our listeners who also wanted to give it a try. When you get an ongoing subscription to Qualia at Neurohacker.com, just use the code FUTURE to get 10% off.
In This Episode of Future Thinkers Podcast:
- [03:57] – Neurohacking, consciousness & non-duality
- [14:12] – The gut biome’s affect on the brain
- [20:47] – Listening to your body & the “Counsel of Invisible Advisors”
- [25:09] – Why does the placebo work?
- [30:07] – First step of neurohacking
- [39:59] – How does Qualia work?
- [46:45] – Mood regulation: SSRIs vs. Personalized Supplements
- [52:20] – Why are we only developing single molecule synthetic drugs?
- [55:13] – How different incentives can restructure healthcare, warfare & economics
“Supporting the system’s own regulatory processes doing what they do better, as opposed to trying to override them, is a key distinction in how we should approach the tech interface with the body.” – Daniel SchmachtenbergerSleep is a 1/3 of your life, but it's 90% of the repair that happens to your physiology. Click To Tweet
Mentions and Resources:
- All of our interviews with Daniel Schmachtenberger
- The Illusion of Consciousness by Dan Dennett
- Norman Cousins: The Man Who Laughed In The Face of Death
- EEG Neurofeedback
- Transcranial Laser Stimulation
- Blue Light Blocking Glasses
- Peganum Harmala seeds
- The Field: The Quest for the Secret Force of the Universe by Lynne McTaggart
- Tools of Titans: The Tactics, Routines, and Habits of Billionaires, Icons, and World-Class Performers by Timothy Ferriss
- Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert M. Pirsig
- Bold: How to Go Big, Make Bank, and Better The World by Peter Diamandis & Steven Kotler
More From Future Thinkers:
- Daniel Schmachtenberger on The Global Phase Shift (FTP036)
- Jordan B. Peterson on Archetypes, Psychedelics, and Enlightenment (FTP039)
- Psychedelics Changed My Life (FTP021)