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November 1, 2021updated 05 Nov 2021 11:27am

How to improve brain function effectively — from exclusive biohacking clinics to simple age-old advice

By Alec Marsh

There are a few ways to effectively improve brain function — and thanks to exclusive biohacking clinics catering to clients willing to pay large sums to fine-tune their bodies, it’s more possible than ever now to actually “buy intelligence”, writes Alec Marsh

Can you buy intelligence? Of course, you can’t. Like or lump it, when it comes to the little grey cells, we are born with what we’ve got – and unlike breasts, lips or hips, we can’t make them bigger or better with a timely cash injection at a Harley Street clinic.

Or so I thought. Actually, the idea that our brains are static is increasingly out of date. Experts now believe we can increase our mental agility – and there are people who will help you achieve this goal, for a fee.

A case in point is Natalia Ramsden, the founder of Sofos Associates, who charges £30,000-£35,000 for a year-long, all-inclusive programme intended to improve brain function. This comes with a case manager and access to the KX gym in Chelsea (where there’s an infrared sauna), and even sessions in a hyperbaric oxygen chamber ‘to get more oxygen into the brain’.

Working with around six clients a year, Ramsden, an occupational psychologist by profession, describes the firm as sitting ‘between a quasi-medical facility and a consultancy’. Clients begin by submitting to assessments of their intelligence, psychological state, lifestyle and wider health (including tests on blood, urine, hormone levels and vitamin D). They also undergo a qEEG test, which creates a ‘brain map’ of their electrical neuro-activity and reveals whether one’s gamma waves (the ones that we create when concentrating) are up to speed.

Once they’ve got all this, ‘the team curates an enhancement process’ to optimise the client’s brain. At the heart of it are fundamental things such as getting more sleep – at least seven to nine hours a night is the sweet spot, depending on the person. That alone will do much to improve an individual’s ‘fluid intelligence’ – the smarts required, for instance, to read, process and recall a board report efficiently and accurately. According to the US National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, sleep serves a critical ‘housekeeping’ function for the brain, ‘removing toxins from the brain that build up while [we] are awake’.

However, Ramsden says, just knowing you need more sleep is meaningless, particularly for clients with high-powered jobs. So the Sofos approach is about ‘edging [clients] towards a better cognitive space and working with them as an individual as a whole’. In other words, helping them stick to the plan.

The company aims to support people through a transition to a lifestyle that helps them change their brain – and then works with them to embed those changes. This includes exercise, stress management and dietary changes (the brain consumes 25 to 30 per cent of our energy, so fuel is important) to help promote conditions for ‘neuronal growth’ which can lead to faster-firing synapses.

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Ramsden says that when clients repeat all the tests at the end of a year’s programme, she’s seen improvements of six to 13 points in fluid intelligence scores.

improve health brain function
Unsplash/Luke Chesser

California-based behavioural neurologist and Alzheimer’s specialist Dr. Sharon Sha puts ‘exercise, exercise, exercise’ at the top of her list of ways to improve brain function. She notes that scientific research on mice put on treadmills shows that those that exercise have better memories than those that have sedentary lifestyles. Additional research on mice, published in the journal Neurobiology of Disease, shows that a four-month treadmill programme ‘induced a significant improvement in spatial learning and memory abilities’.

In addition to exercise, Dr. Sha advises following the Mediterranean diet, which among other things is shown to be good for promoting gut diversity, thereby improving the microbiome, the kilo or so of bacteria in our bodies that are now known to be critical for efficiently working immune systems and can even affect ‘brain fog’.

So can you buy intelligence? Absolutely. But there are lots of things you can do to boost it free of charge, too.

Image: Unsplash/Alina Grubnyak

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