Are We, as a Species, Crossing a Mental Watershed?

June 26, 2009

    I mentioned yesterday that I have my own personal story to tell. Here it is.
    Over the years, I've tried to monitor the state-of-the-art in age retardation and partial age reversal techniques as best I could. Beginning in August, 2003, I put myself on calorie restriction, lowering my weight about 35 pounds. For the past decade (and, possibly, longer), I've taken supplements that purport to alleviate the problems associated with aging, as well as supplements that, we can hope, defend against cancer, cardiovascular disease, Alzheimer's and Parkinson's diseases, Type II diabetes, arthritis, and so on. I've also engaged in aerobic exercise... swimming, hill-climbing, and running... for most of my adult life (or at least for the past forty years). So what's the box score? Of course, one person's experience doesn't have a whole lot of statistical significance, but:
(1) Exercise: For the past 5 years, I've run 2.5 kilometers a day. (I could presumably run farther, but I don't want to spend more time that way, and 2.5 klicks should be enough to get sufficient aerobic exercise.) Although I didn't know this until recently, aerobic exercise generates new neural stem cells, and increases the mitochondrial count in all the cells of your body. (It seems to me that I'm about as supple as I've been in the past.)
(2) Good Nutrition and Extraordinary Nutritional Supplements: So far, (knock on wood), as far as I know, I have no degenerative disease such as arthritis, cardiovascular disease, cancer, Parkinson's disease, Alzheimer's disease, elevated blood sugar levels, etc. Thanks to calorie restriction, my blood lipid profile and my fasting blood sugar are (or at least were the last time they were tested) at teenage levels.
(3) The Mental Dimension: The most notable anomaly lies in the mental domain. I've taken a couple of IQ tests over the past five years, including the Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale-Revised, which was administered to me last August. (The latest Wechsler Test is the WAIS-III, but the psychologist who gave me the test only had a copy of the next-to-latest revision, the WAIS-R.) My score on that test was high enough that it qualified for admission to the Prometheus Society (at the 1-in-30,000-and-up level), which I joined this spring. Now this shouldn't be possible. Normally, IQ's drop at least 25 points as we age from 25 to 75. 

But recently, I encountered an Australian paper that may help to explain what's happening: Technical Report for CeretrophinTM Clinical Study. This double-blind, placebo-controlled study found a 6-point average increase in IQ on the Raven Progressive Matrices over a four-week period when they were administered a combination of herbs and supplements consisting of
(a) R-alpha lipoic acid and acetyl-l-carnitine,
(b) rhodiola rosea,
(c) huperzine-A,
(d) vinpocetine, and
(e) biotin.
    I've been taking R-alpha lipoic acid, acetyl-l-carnitine arginate, and biotin (since acetyl-l-carnitine depletes the body's store of biotin) since at least 2001, as well as numerous other supplements. I haven't subscribed to them for "brain boosting", but in fact, that appears to be one of their side effects. For the next few weeks, I'm adding rhodiola rosea, vinpocetine, and Huperzine-A to my daily regimen to see what happens.
    This isn't to say that I'm not continuing to age. I'm sure I am, but possibly slower than might otherwise be the case. For example, I can't jump more than a few inches off the ground. On the other hand, I haven't been on the current program more than a few years.
    The one improvement I've noticed that's been dramatic has to do with actinic keratoses... sunlight-induced, pre-cancerous lesions on the top of my scalp. Five years ago, these were coming thick and fast. Every few months, my dermatologist would have to freeze off a fresh crop of keratoses. Then I began to drink three cups of green tea a day, in addition to green teat extract in my 9-pill "multivitamin" formulation. Within months, the actinic keratoses vanished, and haven't recurred since. (This is consistent with various in vitro and in vivo studies of the effects of green tea on skin cancer, and with at least one other member of the Calorie Restriction Society.)
    Six points of IQ isn't earth-shaking, but four weeks isn't a very long time, either. And this is just one protocol. For example, acetyl-l-carnitine arginate is between three and four times as effective at stimulating the growth of dendrites as acetyl-l-carnitine. 
    Allan Jackson has sent this 2003 report that shows a dramatic improvement in cognition in vegetarians who don't get creatine in their diets. On the other hand, a September, 2008, study of the influence of creatine on cognition concludes that Creatine supplementation does not improve cognitive function in young adults.. My  review of these results may be found here
    Also, ritalin is reputed to be a potent nootropic. 
    But beyond this: it would seem that nootropic IQ boosters may have come of age, and if so, that would seem to me to be a game-changing happening
    Brain Boosting: Quo Vadis, Dominie?