Many of us are fascinated with the idea of increasing our intelligence, our focus and our memory. If we could increase our capabilities in these areas, then we could solve more problems, we could succeed in our careers, and we could gain the respect of our peers.
But can the brain really be upgraded? Is there such thing as a real ‘Limitless’ pill?
And do all these brain training games really work?
The Hidden Potential of the Brain
You’ve probably heard claims that we only use a small percentage of our brain and that we have lots of untapped potential. Well the latter point is true, but the former is a complete myth and misunderstands the way our brain works.
Likewise, many ‘brain training games’ have been shown to only really improve the specific task that they present us with. Counting penguins makes you better at counting penguins and that’s about it.
But that is not to say that there aren’t ways we can enhance our brain function and get more from our various mental faculties. It is possible to upgrade such things as focus, memory and attention, but in order to do that we need a better understanding of neuroscience, the biology of our brain and how our brains respond to stimulus.
The key to all of this is something called brain plasticity. This is the ability of the brain to grow and change shape in response to experience and training. We are capable of growing new neuronal connections and altering our chemical makeup but only when properly stimulated.
Why Train Your Brain?
But what is truly exciting is that the capabilities of the human mind go far beyond merely upgrading your ability to retain information, or to be witty in conversation.
Brain plasticity shows that the brain can adapt to incredible demands and changes. This is how some blind individuals have managed to develop sonar. It’s what allowed some people to develop synaesthesia and to visualize complex mathematical equations. It allowed Dennis Rogers to recruit more muscle fiber during exercise and to stop an aircraft from taking off with his bare hands.
It allows gymnasts to move with fluidity, memory masters to recite pi to tens of thousands of decimal points (the record is 31,811) and it is what allowed Einstein to decipher the secrets of the universe simply by picturing the movement of light. It allows Whim Hof to raise his body temperature and survive exposure to extreme cold. Plasticity allows autistic savants to create perfect sketches of cityscapes they’ve seen for seconds.
It’s how I personally managed to train myself to write 20-30,000 words in a single day.
And ultimately it means you have the ability to design the brain you want, to become optimized for the challenges you face in your life and for the goals you are working toward. You can become more highly focussed, more creative, more confident or even upgrade the speed of your thought.
You can train your brain just as a bodybuilder trains their muscles. And the potential that this represents is something that has not even been fully explored. Your mind is limitless, it is the final frontier.