This is not meant to be exhaustively comprehensive so much as concisely heavy impact. I did not include logic puzzles, sleep, art and the like, because, frankly, after you do even a few of these seven practices, one of the first ideas that will come to mind is a desire to obliterate a sudoku puzzle, write a song, paint a picture, read and write a few books, speak a new language, and invent something that makes the Rubik's cube look like a prehistoric relic. Oh yeah, and you will sleep progressively better and better and better.
Complex large living organisms that don't move don't have brains. They're called plants. John Ratey, MD has created a great book, "Spark," which details numerous studies showing the cognitive benefit from movement and then the mechanics down to the cell level of how exercise makes you smarter. My favorite illustration driving this home concerns the Sea Squirt, an underwater invertebrate. This little critter roams about until it finds the place where it will live out the rest of its life; and then it eats it own brain. After all, if you sit still most of the time, why would you need a brain?
2.) Ketosis (not to be conflated with ketoacidosis)
Your brain will live longer if you can keep your blood sugar low almost all the time. Eat seldom; and when you do, make sure you get coconut oil, butter and fish oil. Your body will learn to live off of fat (again, since this is how it was meant to work and how it started working when you were born). Without elevated blood sugar, it is darn near impossible to get any chronic diseases, especially the ones affecting the brain.
There are numerous examples of people who reversed advanced Alzheimer's and dementia by simple ketotic regulation.
Via intermittent fasting and MCT and short chain fatty acid administration - d beta hydroxybutyrate can cross the blood brain barrier and is neuroprotective. Given that neural cell death will occur when energy is no longer uptaken, ketone bodies afford each affected cell within the brain additional longevity since they operate independent from insulin-dependent GLUTs.
J Clin Invest. 2003 Sep;112(6):892-901.
D-beta-hydroxybutyrate rescues mitochondrial respiration and mitigates features of Parkinson disease. Tieu K, Perier C, Caspersen C, Teismann P, Wu DC, Yan SD, Naini A, Vila M, Jackson-Lewis V, Ramasamy R, Przedborski S.
Prostaglandins, Leukotrienes and Essential Fatty Acids 70 (2004) 309–319. The therapeutic implications of ketone bodies: the effects of ketone bodies in pathological conditions: ketosis, ketogenic diet, redox states, insulin resistance, and mitochondrial metabolism. Richard L. Veech* Laboratory of Membrane Biochemistry and Biophysics, National Institutes of Alcoholism and Alcohol Abuse, 12501 Washington Ave., Rockville, MD 20850, USA
3.) Stop the Confusion: Eat Great Food
Your brain started out only hungry for its needs: vitamins, minerals and fatty acids. You starved it from its needs and became a drug addict. That is, you stopped eating foods dense in nutrients; and instead you began eating foods which have no nutritional value, leech nutrients out of your body and get you high. That's right, the nutritional value of grains and pasteurized dairy is less than nothing. Not only does their processing rob them of any nutritional value whatsoever, your body uncouples some of its own minerals (like calcium) to get them out of your body.
Add to that the fact that these foods create a euphoria from the blood sugar roller coaster and that they contain opioids: casomorphin and gluteomorphin.
Your brain is actually confused about what it wants and what it thinks tastes good, because you have starved it from its needs and been taking opiates for years. You are an actual drug addict. This is not a joke.
The good news is that as you begin supplementing, eating nutrient dense foods and turning away from your opiate addiction, you can actually regain normal brain function again. Believe it or not, when you have been flawlessly feeding your brain appropriately for a few months, you don't crave or think about the drugs anymore. I repeat, this is not a joke. I'm having an ever-growing number of executive and lifestyle coaching clients who don't even think about pasta or pastries anymore.
If you get an itch, it's only because you are nutrient deficient, and/or because you're still sneaking a little opium in (a piece of cheese, a bite of bread, or a sip of beer).
Be prepared for withdrawal. "Everything in moderation" is folly when talking about opiates. And that's to say nothing of the inflammatory sadomasochistic euphoria from blood sugar instability. You are sick; and the first step to recovery is admitting you have a problem. If you need some help during detox, don't be afraid to get more vigilant with your antioxidants and properly sourced caffeine (more to come on nicotine gum in the future).
4.) Rewire Neurons
Practice focused thought. You can do it with breathing, with guidance, with neurofeedback devices, and/or by running a low current across the brain. All of these increase levels of dopamine, norepinephrine, GAbA and serotonin. Depression, anxiety, pain and neurodegeneration can be stopped. The brain is complex; but it is still a series of many understood processes which can all be altered.
Some studies on current applied across brain:
Researchers attached an electrode to the upper incisor in rabbits to stimulate the trigeminal nuclei via the infra orbital nerve with only 10hz @ 5v, resulting in over 15% increase in cerebral cortical blood flow.
Int J Neurosci. 2009;119(9):1292-302.
Assessment of the outcomes of cerebral blood flow measurements after electrical stimulation of upper right incisor tooth in rabbits.
Gulturk S, Gedik R, Develioglu H, Oztoprak I, Cetin A.
Department of Physiology, School of Medicine, Cumhuriyet University, 58140 Sivas, Turkey. email@example.com
Another 10hz study showing safe increased blood flow with brain stim:
Acta Physiol Scand. 1990 Mar;138(3):307-16.
Effect on cortical blood flow of electrical stimulation of trigeminal cerebrovascular nerve fibres in the rat.
Suzuki N, Hardebo JE, Kåhrström J, Owman C.
Department of Medical Cell Research, University of Lund, Sweden.
Safe, among the longest studied so-called "nootropics" or smart drugs, they boast alleged IQ improvements in adults.
In rat models, they have proven to be specifically neuroprotective in the substantia nigra, including pars compacta.
There are about 3000 favorable studies on pubmed for the racetams, although I found the following one among the most recent and interesting.
Indian J Pharmacol. 2012 Nov-Dec;44(6):774-9. doi: 10.4103/0253-7613.103300. Piracetam and vinpocetine ameliorate rotenone-induced Parkinsonism in rats. Zaitone SA, Abo-Elmatty DM, Elshazly SM. Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology, Suez Canal University, Ismailia, Egypt.
It's a drug. It's controversial. It's basically NZT from the movie "Limitless." It makes people smarter, better at problem solving and extremely focused for very long periods of time. If you are a depressed, anxious, unhealthy and addictive personality, it is inarguably a bad idea. Moody people and the emotionally immature beware. That's most of you, even the adults who aren't in college anymore. However, if you are happy, smart, relaxed, healthy and very controlled, prepare to have the best day of your life. On modafinil, sleep is deep, recuperative but totally unnecessary. Daily longterm persistent high dose use, like with any drug, isn't smart. But limited irregular use, like with many drugs, has some significant upsides. One of them is the protection of brain cells.
Clinical trials have proven its benefit in improving concentration. Unfortunately, most of the studies with Modafinil for Parkinson's were focused on finger tapping, not mental acuity, and therefore had minimal statistically significant outcomes. Mental fatigue is much less with modafinil, even if body fatigue is under affected.
Aviat Space Environ Med. 2012 Jun;83(6):556-64.
Modafinil as a replacement for dextroamphetamine for sustaining alertness in military helicopter pilots. Estrada A, Kelley AM, Webb CM, Athy JR, Crowley JS.
J Neuropsychiatry Clin Neurosci. 2010 Spring;22(2):130-54. doi: 10.1176/appi.neuropsych.22.2.130. Psychopharmacological neuroprotection in neurodegenerative disease: heuristic clinical applications.
Lauterbach EC, Shillcutt SD, Victoroff J, Coburn KL, Mendez MF.
The above six takeaways should be substantial enough to help 99% of people A LOT. However, in the case of Parkinsonism, there is at least one more big trick.
This is some of the heaviest artillery for people deep into neurodegeneration. The layperson need not apply. Although selegiline has fallen largely out of favor, even for early-onset Parkinson's among American medical practitioners, it has a track record of netting the patients much greater overall benefit than dopamine therapy alone. More recent reviews argue that the fears once associated with selegiline had too many confounding factors.
J Neural Transm. 2013 Mar;120(3):435-44. doi: 10.1007/s00702-012-0899-3. Epub 2012 Sep 12. Rasagiline and selegiline, inhibitors of type B monoamine oxidase, induce type A monoamine oxidase in human SH-SY5Y cells. Inaba-Hasegawa K, Akao Y, Maruyama W, Naoi M.
Source: Department of Neurosciences, Gifu International Institute of Biotechnology, Kakamigahara, Gifu, Japan.
Clin Neuropharmacol. 2012 May;35(3):134-40. doi: 10.1097/WNF.0b013e318255838b.
Selegiline: a reappraisal of its role in Parkinson disease.
Fabbrini G, Abbruzzese G, Marconi S, Zappia M.
Source : Department of Neurology and Psychiatry and IRCSS Neuromed Institute, "Sapienza" University of Rome, Rome, Italy.