Nootropics: Week Two Testing Silicon Valley Smart Drugs

Our resident human guinea pig is spending four weeks seeing if smart drugs will turn him into Superman.

November 13, 2015

I’ve just finished week two of my Nootropics challenge.

The last week gave me ample opportunity to put its “brain changing” claims to the test. I was put in a couple situations that required quick and clear decisions, and I believe the smart drugs helped me come through on top (and alive). Let me explain.

Day 8

Today was quite normal. I’ve been doing cognitive games and tests to assess my progress (see week one) typically late in the day. Today, I did them straight after I woke up.

My scores suggested that I need to give some time to let my senses and the Nootropics kick in. My Visual Memory score plummeted to 15,203 after being over 30,000 — just a couple of days ago. And my Reaction Time was 353 milliseconds, far slower than most days during the first week.

The Visual Memory test from Human Benchmark

For reference, Reaction Time is measured in milliseconds. The Human Benchmark Test said the median reaction time is 258 milliseconds, and average reaction time is 269 milliseconds, based off 22,893,062 clicks.

I’ve found that I’m not as driven or as focused in the morning. I suppose it differs for each individual, but my brain seems to enjoy easing into the day, and not being challenged before I’ve eaten breakfast.

Days 12 & 13

These days were tricky. Circumstances meant I had to deal with mentally challenging events, and work on my focus and endurance.

My wife and I make wedding photos and videos together, and this weekend we landed back-to-back wedding shoots. That’s 10-12 hours of running around and documenting as much as possible. The days go by in the blink of an eye. As the person responsible for preserving the memory of the day, I’m constantly thinking on my toes to anticipate moments, so as not miss any opportunities.

Typically, I’m mentally wiped after just one full wedding day, so I was curious what two in a 48-hour period would do to me.

However, both couples were awesome to work with, and I found myself in high spirits both days… not running on empty. I felt the same way I had felt editing the films last week: a joyful alertness and consistent positivity to do my best. My thoughts never slipped to wondering when the day would be over, or how long until I got to eat food. Overall, I was simply in the moment and striving to create the best art I could.

Day 15

This is where it got interesting. I head into town every week day to help coach cross country at a local middle school. The practice finished without a hitch, so I headed home to join my wife for a home-cooked meal.

She greeted me with a big ‘welcome home!’ from the kitchen. She was standing by the stove, and I could hear something sizzling in the pan. I was taking off my shoes when my hungry self couldn’t help but notice the sizzling sound was getting louder.

And louder and louder.

In the reflection in the kitchen window, I could see giant flames towering from a cooking pan held in her arms.

I yelled, “Wow – sounds like you’re really whipping something up!” to which Jess replied with screams. In the reflection in the kitchen window, I could see giant flames towering from a cooking pan held in her arms. I sprinted in and grabbed the pan from Jess, who was frozen with fear.

I threw the pan into the sink, turned the water on (in hindsight, this was a bad idea) and the four foot flames were extinguished. Needless to say, we both were amazed that there was no harm done to our home or to Jess.

In part, we know angels were watching over us that day. And I thank the Nootropics for giving me mental clarity and alertness in that moment. I know without a doubt they helped me make a crucial decision in a moment of panic.

Josh and Jess, safe and sound

In spite of lackluster test scores, I ended the week on a positive note. My Reaction Time hit a new record of 309 milliseconds on Day 14, and I was also at 325 milliseconds and 320 milliseconds on Days 11 and 13, respectively. Compared to 367 milliseconds before starting the experiment, this is a significant improvement.

I also achieved recalling a 13-digit number in the Number Memory test. I started at 12-digits. However, scores here seem to depend on luck. I look for patterns, so if a number has something like a “333” or “5959” in it, it’s easier to recall. Completely random strings of numbers are much harder.

Also, in the Quantified Mind test, my Verbal Learning score raised to 632.542. This has to do with recalling words seen at the very beginning of the games, up to 10 minutes beforehand.

With the Peak app, I’ve seen my overall Brain Score gradually increase. My score in the Mental Agility category has risen steadily. However, I have not seen improvement in Language or Problem Solving. Those are not my strengths in general – even without Nootropics – so that could factor in.

I’m looking forward to seeing what the next few weeks will reveal in terms of improved mental stamina and recall. Stay tuned for episodes three and four on The Hustle.



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