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Neurohacking - Tutorials
Written by NHA   
Sunday, 05 February 2012 12:46
Article Index
Neurohacking Tutorial 8 - Imagination, Memory and Prediction
Neuroanatomy of Memory - Structure and Function
Everywhere and Nowhere
How Memories are Made
What Happens if Things Go Wrong?
Core Skills for Memory Health and Improvement
Imagination and Prediction
NHA Guide to Methods & Technology
The Most Important Bits To Remember
Hacks & Exercices
Notes, References & Answers
All Pages



NHA Guide to Methods & Technology


Chemicals, supplements & herbs for memory

Traditional allopathic medicine relies heavily on the plant kingdom for its resources so from now on, think like a chemist... it's a bit weird when someone is regularly paying $50 for a jar of tablets whose chief active constituents grow (or could) in abundance in their garden. If you have nowhere to grow herbs it can still be a lot cheaper (and have fewer side effects) using dried herbs. Most herbs can be bought online. You can research further details of any herb online by yourself and also how to make herb teas or tinctures, so here we're just telling you which ones are useful for what.

Herbs for the brain

Nervine tonics [Strengthen and boost the nervous system. In cases of shock, exhaustion or nervous debility, the nervine tonics strengthen and feed the tissues directly; they can for many replace tranquillisers or other drugs to ease anxiety or depression.]


Oats, Damiana , Skullcap , Vervain , Wood betony


Nervine relaxants [improve anxiety reduction]


Black cohosh, Black haw, California poppy, Chamomile, Cramp bark, Hops, Hyssop, Jamaican dogwood, Lady’s slipper, Lavender, Lime blossom, Marijuana, Mistletoe, Motherwort, Pasque flower, Passion flower, Rosemary, St. John’s Wort, Skullcap, Valerian


Nervine stimulants


Kola Nut, Coffee, Mate tea, Black tea, Peppermint, Chinese Ginseng, Ginkgo Biloba


Throughout the day, your brain fills up with adenosine, a chemical connected with mental fatigue. Caffeine blocks the brain's adenosine receptors, countering the chemical's dulling effects. It also inhibits an enzyme that regulates cellular energy. To maximize alertness and minimize jitters, keep those receptors covered with frequent small doses rather than a onetime blast. Test subjects reported that periodic small shots made them feel clearheaded and calm, both of which enhance mental performance.

If you smoke tobacco the effects of caffeine only last half as long. If you’re on oral contraceptives, the effects last twice as long. Caffeine is addictive and does have withdrawal symptoms.


Rosemary may have an effect on the brain when the scent is inhaled. Some people swear that just sniffing rosemary wakes up their brain. We’re waiting to see research on this, but in the meantime, what can it hurt to try it? If you have rosemary in your spice rack or garden, go give it a sniff and let us know.


Cholinergics/ acetylcholinesterase inhibitors [stimulate production/ duration of acetylcholine]


Chinese Moss [Huperzine A], Nicotine [tobacco]


Hypnotics [hypnotics will induce sleep; not hypnosis]


Hops, Jamaican dogwood, Mistletoe, Passion flower, Skullcap, Valerian, Wild lettuce


Oxytocics [stimulate production of oxytocin]


Beth root, Blue cohosh, Golden seal, Rue, Squaw vine


Sedatives [Calm the nervous system and reduce anxiety throughout the body]


Black cohosh, Black haw, Bladderwrack, Blue cohosh, Blood root, Boldo, Bugleweed, Chamomile, Cowslip, Cramp bark, Hops, Jamaican dogwood, Lady’s slipper, Lobelia, Motherwort, Pasque flower, Passion flower, Red clover, Red poppy, Saw palmetto, Skullcap, St. John’s Wort, Valerian, Wild Cherry, Wild lettuce, Wild Yam


Serotonergics [stimulate production of serotonin]


Griffonia Simplicifolia



Supplements for memory


B Vitamins especially B3 [Nicotinamide belongs to a class of compounds called HDAC inhibitors, which have been shown to protect the central nervous system], Vitamin D has been shown to improve learning speed & memory [78], Gotu Kola, Lecithin, Omega 3


Foods for memory


Blueberries, Broccoli, Figs, White meats, Game, Oily fish, Raspberries, Strawberries, Walnuts, hazelnuts, most fruit & veg, unpasteurised cheese and on the whole, a low GI diet.


The best foods for human memory (and mental health in general) are the foods your great-great-great-to-the-power-of-lots grandparents lived on, in hunter-gatherer times (ie, for 99.99% of human history), which paleoarcheology shows led them to live to a healthy old age before the advent of cereal farming (which more than halved human lifespan until modern medicine was able to offset the physical effects).

Fish is one of the brain foods that has both immediate and long-term benefits. The fish oils help keep arteries clean, preventing a major cause of brain problems: reduced blood flow to the brain. Many types of fish contain lots of omega-3 fatty acids. Plain tuna from the can may be the easiest and cheapest way to include fish in your diet. Otherwise, wild-caught salmon, trout or mackerel are a great source.

Be aware, though, that many fish - both wild caught and farmed - now contain mercury, which is a brain toxin. So unless you are eating trout caught from high mountain streams with pure water, you should probably limit your fish intake to no more than three times weekly. That amount has been shown to be good for the brain.


Vegetables are a great source of beneficial vitamins, fiber and antioxidants. Vitamins nourish the brain cells. Antioxidants prevent or slow oxidative damage to our body, including the brain. When cells use oxygen, they produce "free radicals," harmful by-products which cause damage. As "free radical scavengers," antioxidants prevent and repair the damage done. Finally, fiber reduces the build-up of toxins in the body (and brain) by keeping the body cleaned out.


Fruits are a great food for all the same reasons as vegetables. Some of the fruits that are richest in antioxidants are: blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, cherries, plums, figs, apricots, red grapes, peaches and nectarines. Though many do not think of them as one, avocados are a fruit, and in addition to being rich in antioxidants they contain a lot of protein.

Fruit can be expensive in some parts of the world. If that is true where you are, you may want to check out the prices of frozen fruit, which is often cheaper, growing your own or getting reduced price 'damaged' fruit and juicing it up for a morning "smoothie."


One of the best brain foods is plain water. Dehydration is more common than most think, with mild headaches one of the first symptoms. Your brain is about 80 percent water, and it needs regular small fluid intake to function at its best. Longer term, even slight dehydration can raise cortisol levels, damaging your brain over time.

Just as harmful is hyper-hydration which often happens to people unaccustomed to hot climates abroad, and nightclubbers high on 'E's. Over-hydration causes the brain to swell and is the cause of many deaths blamed on MDMA, as we explain in the section on MDMA below.


Chemicals for memory


Newest kids on the block:

Neuroprotectives & enhancers


Selegiline [deprenyl]

An irreversible and (relatively) selective MAO-B inhibitor. The enzyme Monoamine oxidase (MAO) has two main forms, 'A' & 'B'. They are coded by separate genes. MAO can be inhibited reversibly or irreversibly; and selectively or unselectively. MAO type-A preferentially deaminates serotonin & moradrenaline and also (non-selectively) dopamine. Type B metabolises dopamine, phenylethylamines, and anandamide.


At amounts up to around 10 mg or so daily, selegiline retains its selectivity for the type-B MAO iso-enzyme; but it is also a weak reversible inhibitor of the type-A MAO iso-enzyme.

Selegiline inhibits the catecholamine-releasing effect of tyramine. This ensures that low-dosage selegiline does not induce the hypertensive "deadly cheese effect".

2 x 5 mg daily of selegiline irreversibly inhibits over 90% of MAO-B in the basal ganglia, the location of over 80% of dopamine in the human brain. This level of MAO-B inhibition leads to a 40%-70% increase in synaptic dopamine.

Selegiline has immune-system-boosting and anti-neurodegenerative effects, it may also be neuroprotective and act as an antidepressant.

Its use increases the level of tyrosine hydroxylase, HGH, cerebral nitrid oxide and the production of key interleukins. Selegiline offers protection against DNA damage and oxidative stress by hydroxyl and peroxyl radical trapping; and against excitotoxic damage from excess glutamate. In addition, selegiline stimulates the release of superoxide dismutase (SOD). SOD is a key enzyme which helps to quench the production of free radicals. Potentially, selegiline may prevent or reverse iron-induced memory impairment.


Sodium Butyrate (sodium phenylbutyrate/Buphenyl /Ammonaps.)

Much in the not-so-public eye lately, sodium butyrate has long been used in epigenetics research labs for prompting gene expression or inhibition. In 2011 sodium phenylbutyrate came up trumps treating both parkinsons disease and advanced alzheimers. It turns on a gene (DJ-1) that can protect dopamine neurons, and may be a good target for NH research into memory enhancement and longevity in the healthy.[66]


So new it doesn't have a name yet: NSI-189

Neuralstem, Inc. announced in late 2011 that it has been approved by the FDA to advance to Phase Ib in testing its new 'neuroregenerative compound', NSI-189, on humans for the treatment of major depressive disorder. NSI-189 is one of four proprietary new chemical entities that stimulate new neuron growth in the hippocampus, but corporate lips appear to be sewn shut with regard to its content.

NSI-189 stimulated neurogenesis of human hippocampus-derived neural stem cells in-vitro. In healthy normal adult mice, NSI-189 stimulated neurogenesis in the hippocampus and significantly increased its volume, apparently by increasing its synaptic network after 28 days of daily oral administration. In mouse models of depression, NSI-189 significantly improved behavioral responses associated with depression. In humans, NSI-189 may reverse the human hippocampal atrophy seen in MDD and other disorders and reverse their symptoms.

Bear in mind the neuralstem program has received significant support from both DARPA and the National Institutes of Health and it would very much like to continue receiving this support, so this is one to keep an eye on for side effects that may have been swept quietly beneath the underfunded carpet.


Other drugs that alter neurochemistry



What it does

Possible side effects


Thought to optimize levels of dopamine and norepinephrine, enhancing concentration and turning mundane tasks into wondrous ones. Often prescribed to ADHD patients.

Addiction, headaches, insomnia, Tourette's-like symptoms, heart attack


Seems to boost release of glutamate, speeding neurotransmission and improving memory. Not a ton of evidence, though.

Anxiety, agitation, insomnia, dizziness, epigastric heaviness (feeling full)


An Alzheimer's drug that may also enhance memory in healthy adults. Thought to reduce the breakdown of acetylcholine, a neurotransmitter that helps relay messages around the brain.

Nausea, diarrhea, fainting


Triggers the release of dopamine. Brief/single use can increase concentration and creative output. Prolonged/regular use can also make you stupid and crazy.

Parkinson's-like symptoms, addiction, stroke, psychosis, prison, death


A narcolepsy medication that improves focus, pattern recognition, and short-term memory. The exact mechanism of action is still unclear.


Chest pain, nausea, headache, life-threatening rash


Chemically similar to the neurotransmitter acetylcholine. Spurs faster interaction between nerve cells in the brain, aiding memory formation and attention.

Addiction, cancer, social isolation (depending on delivery mechanism)


Originally used as an antidepressant. May elevate levels of cyclic adenosine monophosphate to boost memory. Improves cognition (in rats).

Headache, nausea, intense vomiting


Produced naturally in the hypothalamus gland and used in the formation of new memories. Shown to help users learn more effectively. Prescribed as a drug for diabetes insipidus.

Angina, nausea, wheezing, belching, coma



  • Tobacco, amphetamines, modafinil.

If a bad memory is caused by difficulties paying attention and concentrating, some people have found certain drugs can help them, notably tobacco and amphetamines, also modafinil. The first two are seriously strong and if you don’t have to indulge it’s best not to, and all three work only in the short term. Amphetamines stimulate production of norepinephrine. Modafinil could be useful if the occasion demands wakefulness and alertness and you have to miss sleep time. (Missing sleep time is not something we would recommend, but sometimes shit happens.)

Tobacco has complex effects on neurotransmission. In small doses it has a mood-elevating effect due to increasing dopamine and norepinephrine release, leading to better psychological performance and enhanced attention. It also increases efficiency of acetylcholine release, enhancing memory and attention. However, it contains many other chemicals that are local irritants and inflammatories (and this is true whether it is smoked, chewed, snuffed or otherwise imbibed. Marijuana offsets some of these irritants, so paradoxically it is safer to smoke a joint than a cigarette! A second problem with tobacco is that it increases the likelihood of blockages and problems in the circulatory system (heart disease, stroke etc). Small amounts of alcohol offset these problems, but the habitual smoker can find keeping things balanced and in moderation is complex, particularly if not on a low-GI diet.

What’s more, too much tobacco causes high levels of carbon monoxide in the blood, reducing the oxygen supply to the brain. This can be offset by taking digoxin or glyceryl trinitrate, but none of this solves the problem of extra free radicals created by almost all of these drugs.

None of this, however, is as harmful as anxiety. If you’re using tobacco as an anxiolytic, bear all the above in mind, and remember if you stop, you’ll have to replace it with something, otherwise the anxiety will kill you long before the tobacco would have.



Marijuana, cocaine, MDMA & psychoactives

The effects of many recreational drugs are far from simple. It’s simple to say ‘in a healthy brain, cannabis increases dopamine and some endorphin release’ but in fact it does a whole lot of other things as well and what's more, what it does to you it may not do to someone else!


With complex chemicals like tobacco, cannabis, SSRI’s and MDMA the effects are widely varied across individuals. MDMA is known to increase oxytocin, coke interferes with both dopamine and serotonin, and LSD can give you an awful time if your dopamine is too high. You really do have to make sure of purity too. One universal tip for all drug users: the less anxious you are the more likely it is to be a good and fun learning experience, as long as you’re sure of [a] exactly what it is and [b] how much is safe.

Research has found that specific elements of marijuana can be good for the aging brain by reducing inflammation there and possibly even stimulating the formation of new brain cells. THC joins nicotine, alcohol and caffeine as agents that, in moderation, have shown some protection against inflammation in the brain that might translate to better memory late in life.[61]

There are some substances that millions of people for thousands of years have used in billions of doses, and inevitably patterns emerge.
The brain's endocannabinoid system is involved in memory as well as physiological processes associated with appetite, mood and pain response. This research is also showing that receptors in this system can influence brain inflammation and the production of new neurons, or brain cells. Could people smoking marijuana help prevent Alzheimer's disease if the disease is in their family? More data from places where it is legal would be very useful!

It is already know that overuse of cannabis is a definite no-no for short term memory (not to mention the accompanying paranoia).




promotes the production of norepinephrine and oxytocin, but with overuse again leads to paranoia and confusion. A danger is under- or over-hydration, either of which is seriously harmful to the brain in general. The safe way is to sip small amounts of liquids regularly, not wait until you’re dying of thirst and then knock back several pints! Irresponsibility about hydration is responsible for most ecstasy deaths and users should wise up about hydration. The SAS survival guide tells us the following:


Symptoms of early or mild dehydration include:

  • flushed face

  • extreme thirst, more than normal or unable to drink

  • dry, warm skin

  • cannot pass urine or reduced amounts, dark, yellow

  • dizziness made worse when you are standing (head rushes)

  • weakness

  • cramping in the arms and legs

  • cracked lips, dry, itchy eyes

  • generally unwell, sleepy or irritable

  • headaches

  • dry mouth, dry tongue; with thick saliva.

Symptoms of moderate to severe dehydration include:

  • low blood pressure

  • fainting

  • severe muscle contractions in the arms, legs, stomach, and back

  • convulsions

  • a bloated stomach

  • heart failure

  • sunken dry eyes, with few or no tears

  • skin loses its firmness and looks wrinkled

  • lack of elasticity of the skin (when a bit of skin lifted up stays folded and takes a long time to go back to its normal position)

  • rapid and deep breathing - faster than normal

  • fast, weak pulse 

If you get any of these symptoms you should rehydrate slowly, drinking no more than half a cup of water at a time and leaving 15 minutes between sips. Stop all physical activity and sit somewhere cool. Do not go to sleep whilst dehydrated. It’s handy to keep a few dioralyte sachets in your med kit and take one if you have symptoms. These reset your electrolyte balance and make recovery quicker.


  • LSD

    binds to serotonin receptors in the brain. It can be useful for enhancing eidetic memory, imagination and creativity, but is hopeless for declarative memory. An excellent guide to it in detail is here:


and we recommend the erowid site in general if you need to know anything about plants, herbs & drugs in detail.

  • Alcohol

Good for the circulation [breaks down cholesterol] in small doses, but usually not a good drug of choice for NH. Widely varied results depend on current brain chemistry and environmental stimulus, make us prone to misunderstanding, and generally dense when it’s drunk in excess. It encourages wallowing in sentiment in those who are anxious yet can inspire courage and strength in those who are not. In public bars, be careful that the problems of others on alcohol don’t become yours! - Enjoy with caution, moderation, and preferably at home or with trusted friends.



Assignments & assessments


Practical Assignment 1

  • To augment/improve congruous association generally

Part one:

You will need a small box, a shoebox or cookie tin is a good size. Fill it with a random collection of small objects from inside your home and around the nearby area (say 50).

Pick out any object. What associations does it suggest to you? Keep that association, preferably your first thought, in your working memory. Look through the other objects and connect this association to another object. Pick it out. What new association does this second object offer you? Connect it with a third object, and go on like this until all the objects are connected. As you connect each object take them out of the box and place them in line on a table top. Repeat this 3 times with the same objects, but in different orders and making different types of connections.

If you find this difficult to understand: start by associating objects via their concrete properties such as similar color/size/shape/texture/weight. Progress to associating them by location/use concepts like 'used for similar tasks' or 'normally kept in same room', then advance to 'reminds me of the same kind of images'.


Part two:

(Using the same box of objects)

Conscious categorisation: consider the following types of animal behavior:

hygiene & self care, grooming

seeking food or mate, exploring

forming good relationships with allies, modeling

building, creating, nurturing, playing

assessing, displaying, analysing

planning, strategising, interaction


Pick out individual objects from the box one at a time and decide which types of animal behaviors they associate with most, and place the objects in groups according to these associations.

For your consideration: this last type of conscious categorization you did was probably the closest to how the unconscious mind does it.


Practical Assignment 2:

self assessment & troubleshooting memory

These tests may help give you a better idea of whether your memory problems are out of the ordinary or cause for concern. Keep in mind that this is just a simple overall test and does not indicate diagnosis. If the results give you concern, take steps NOW to address the problem; start memory exercises, check out your lifestyle and input, reduce anxiety, and seek an in-depth diagnosis if improvement doesn't occur within a week or two. Don't forget about memory problems!


Self assessment –memory

Grab your NH diary, and start a page with 6 sections, labeled as follows:

N1 sensorimotor

N2 spatial

N3 eidetic

N4 procedural

N5 declarative

N6 working


We’re going to go quickly through the areas of your memory and assess strengths [‘S’].

First, go look at the scores from your main Functional Assessment in tutorials 3 & 4.

Find the three networks with the highest ‘F’ [functional] scores. These networks are likely to have an advantage in memory so write one ‘S’ next to the relevant ones on your page.

Now, read the statements below and follow the instructions after each group of statements.


  • I have a good attention span

  • I practise sports, dancing, martial arts [or any sensorimotor skill] regularly

  • I make sure I get good quality sleep and nutrition

  • I don’t drink much alcohol and I don’t take sleeping pills


[For each statement in the section above that describes you, put one ‘S’ beside ‘N1 sensorimotor’, then continue]


  • I can remember faces really well, I always recognise people I’ve met before

  • If you show me a shape, I can usually also recognize it upside down or sideways

  • I remember stuff from long ago more clearly than recent stuff

  • I spent most of my time playing outdoors as a kid, and I still like to be outdoors now (‘Outdoors’ means feet on the earth, head beneath the sky. Being in a vehicle does not count as ‘outdoors’.)


[For each statement in the section above that describes you, put one ‘S’ beside ‘N2 spatial’, then continue]


  • I’m very good at navigating without a map, and I rarely get lost

  • I totally “get” magical and mystical stuff

  • I have perfect pitch

  • I remember recent stuff more clearly than stuff from long ago


[For each statement in the section above that describes you, put an ‘S’ beside ‘N3 eidetic’, then continue]:


  • Once I’ve had a go at performing a task, I rarely forget how to do it

  • I’m methodical, tidy and organized and I rarely lose things

  • If I don’t use a machine or a tool for a while, I still don’t forget the instructions

  • I learn pest if I’m shown, rather than told, how to do things


[For each statement in the section above that describes you, put an ‘S’ beside ‘N4 procedural’, then continue]:


  • I can remember most facts I read, even if I read them only once

  • I usually feel confident about the accuracy of my memory

  • I’m better at remembering written or verbal instructions than demonstrations

  • I’m aware that my memory of facts seems better than most, and I have a higher than average IQ


[For each statement in the section above that describes you, put an ‘S’ beside ‘N5 declarative’, then continue]:


  • I always remember people’s names, from right after we’re introduced

  • I can usually remember a phone number long enough to call back without writing it down

  • I rarely worry about anything

  • I’m aware of what sort of things I might forget, so I write them down


[For each statement in the section above that describes you, put an ‘S’ beside ‘N6 working’.]


Now look at your list, and see which networks have the most strengths. You can use strong networks to help out weaker ones, as we explain in the hacks below. You also now know which networks need the most work. Of the three networks with the lowest ‘S’ score, start working on the lowest numbered.

Troubleshooting Memory Test: (make a copy of the text below. Where direct answers are required, type or write them in on your copy.)

1. Read these words, but don’t try to memorize them: peach, computer, crow.

2. Read this address, but don’t try to memorize it:

Yoko Ramani
1643 Broadsway Crescent,
Kenmare, Eire.

3. [Type/write in your answer ‘Y’ or ‘N’.] Have you had more trouble than usual remembering what you've done for the past few weeks? [ ]

4. Has it been harder for you to remember lists recently? [ ]

5. Have you noticed a decline in your ability to calculate arithmetically in your head, such as adding a series of different quantities or making correct change? [ ]

6. Have you recently been forgetting to keep arrangements? [ ]

7. Have you suddenly had trouble remembering names? [ ]

8. Have you suddenly had trouble recognizing people you should know? [ ]

9. Have you had a hard time lately finding the right word you want to use? [ ]

10. Have you had recent trouble remembering how to do simple tasks such as using a kitchen appliance or a remote control? [ ]

11. Do memory lapses interfere with your functioning at work? [ ]

12. Do memory lapses interfere with your functioning at home? [ ]

13. Do memory lapses interfere with your functioning in social situations? [ ]

14. [type in the answers] Name the last three new people you met. [ 1 ] [ 2 ] [ 3 ]

15. Name five different foods & what areas of the world they are traditionally associated with. [1 ] [2 ] [3 ] [4 ] [5 ]

16. What was the main food you had for your biggest meal on each of the past two days? [1 ] [2 ]

17. What were the last two movies you watched? [1 ] [2 ]

18. Without looking back, write down the three words you were asked to read at the beginning of the quiz. [1 ] [2 ] [3 ]

19. Without looking back, write down the name and address you were asked to read at the beginning of the quiz. [ ]

20. Without going to look, what color is the floor in your bathroom? [ ]

Now check the answers to the last three questions.



Give yourself 1 point for each "no" answer for questions 3-13 (maximum 11 points)

Give yourself 1 point for every individual blank you correctly filled in for questions 14-20 (maximum 22 points)

Overall maximum score possible: 33

If you scored:

28-33 Congratulations! You have a better-than-average memory. Great potential for augmentation!

22-27 Pretty good, but you could probably benefit from some memory exercises.

15-21 Your memory is a bit weak; memory exercises should help you improve your memory.

0-14 Your memory may be compromised and you may want to consider getting a diagnostic evaluation. If you need help, there are contacts in the 'when things go wrong' section above.

For further testing for memory problems, check out the warning signs and what to do about it in the ‘WHEN THINGS GO WRONG' section above. 



Last Updated on Sunday, 17 October 2021 11:28