Tools to Enhance Working Memory & Attention
This episode explores the concept of working memory, its relationship with attention, and how it can be improved. The hippocampus and neuroplasticity play important roles in memory formation. Dopamine is a key neurotransmitter involved in working memory, and its effects follow an inverted U-shaped function. Non-sleep deep rest protocols and deliberate cold exposure can increase dopamine levels. Other methods to increase dopamine include playing video games, binaural beats, and supplements like L-tyrosine and macunipurines. Prescription drugs like L-DOPA and bromachryptine can also improve working memory.
Working memory is crucial for focus and attention
Improving working memory can help develop better focus and attention.
The hippocampus is essential for long-term memory
Damage to the hippocampus can result in difficulties accessing or forming long-term memories.
Neuroplasticity plays a crucial role in memory formation
Neuroplasticity allows the nervous system to change and adapt, facilitating the formation of short and long-term memories.
Dopamine levels influence working memory capacity
Higher dopamine availability in the frontal cortex is associated with higher working memory capacity.
Non-sleep deep rest protocols and deliberate cold exposure can increase dopamine levels
Yoga nidra and non-sleep deep rest protocols can increase dopamine availability in the brain. Cold exposure also increases circulating dopamine levels.
Other methods to increase dopamine include playing video games and binaural beats
Engaging in activities like playing video games and listening to binaural beats can increase dopamine levels.
Supplements and prescription drugs can improve working memory
Supplements like L-tyrosine and macunipurines, as well as prescription drugs like L-DOPA and bromachryptine, can enhance working memory.
- Working Memory
- The Hippocampus and Memory Formation
- Neuroplasticity and Working Memory
- Neural Circuits and Neurochemicals in Working Memory
- Dopamine and Working Memory
- Effects of Dopamine on Working Memory
- Dopamine and Working Memory Performance
- The Inverted U-Shaped Function of Dopamine and Working Memory
- Task Switching and Eliminating Distractions in Working Memory
- Non-Sleep Deep Rest Protocols and Cold Exposure
- The Effects of Yoga Nidra and Deliberate Cold Exposure on Dopamine Levels
- Deliberate Cold Exposure and its Effects on Working Memory
- Other Methods to Increase Dopamine and Improve Working Memory
- Prescription Drugs and Supplements for Working Memory Improvement
00:00 - 06:30
- Working memory is a special category of memory that allows us to hold small amounts of information in our mind for short periods of time.
- Working memory is closely related to attention and improving working memory can help develop better focus and attention.
- The podcast will discuss what working memory is, including the underlying biology, and provide tools to improve working memory.
- Working memory will be compared to other forms of memory such as long-term and short-term memory.
The Hippocampus and Memory Formation
06:13 - 13:10
- The hippocampus is a key structure in the brain that is essential for the formation and storage of long-term memory.
- Damage to the hippocampus can result in difficulties accessing or forming long-term memories.
- Short-term memory acts as a temporary memory bank for information that may or may not be passed into long-term memory.
- Creating short and long-term memories involves collaboration among different brain areas in a distributed manner.
- Neuroplasticity, the ability of the nervous system to change, plays a crucial role in the formation of short and long-term memories.
- Long-term potentiation (LTP) is one form of neuroplasticity where connections between neurons are strengthened through repeated firing closely together in time.
- Long-term depression (LTD) is another form of neuroplasticity that weakens or removes connections between neurons.
Neuroplasticity and Working Memory
12:46 - 19:32
- Neuroplasticity is involved in the formation of short and long-term memories, with neurogenesis being the formation of new neurons.
- Working memory does not involve neural plasticity; it is a reflection of a neural circuit running an algorithm repeatedly for different types of information, intentionally discarding stored information.
- Working memory is crucial for sequencing actions over a short period of time and then forgetting that sequence, allowing individuals to navigate their immediate environment and carry out daily activities.
- Diminished or lack of working memory can severely impact an individual's ability to sequence activities and requires significant assistance from others.
Neural Circuits and Neurochemicals in Working Memory
19:14 - 26:20
- Working memory and attention collaborate at a neural circuit and neurochemical level to allow individuals to function effectively.
- Challenges with attention, focus, or working memory can make it difficult for people to navigate through life.
- The baseline working memory capacity is a good indicator of dopamine levels in the neural circuits controlling working memory.
- A working memory test will be conducted to determine individual working memory capacity.
- Remembering information in the short-term is an example of working memory, while discarding non-critical information is also part of its function.
Dopamine and Working Memory
25:59 - 33:04
- Gut health is important for the immune system, neurotransmitter production, and brain functioning.
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- AG1 supports various systems in the body related to mental health, physical health, and performance.
- Working memory involves neural circuitry in different brain locations, with key hubs in the prefrontal cortex and dopamine-producing neurons in the brainstem.
- The amount of dopamine released strongly influences working memory capacity.
- Increasing dopamine transmission does not always improve working memory; there are specific criteria to consider.
- People differ in their working memory capacity, with higher capacity associated with more dopamine availability in the frontal cortex.
Effects of Dopamine on Working Memory
32:41 - 39:26
- A study conducted by Brzoski, Brown, Rosvald, and Goldman showed that introducing small amounts of dopamine directly into the cortex improved working memory capacity.
- Working memory tests consistently show that people are good at remembering short spans of information but struggle with longer strings of information.
- Other neuromodulators like norepinephrine and serotonin had no effect on working memory when introduced to the prefrontal cortex.
- People with high working memory capacity have higher levels of baseline dopamine in their brains.
- Performance on working memory tasks can indicate the levels of dopamine available for release in the prefrontal cortex.
Dopamine and Working Memory Performance
39:07 - 46:16
- Increasing the amount of dopamine does not always improve working memory performance.
- People with high working memory capacity may experience a decline in performance when their dopamine levels are increased using pharmacology or other methods.
- Working memory capacity follows a normal distribution, with some individuals able to remember more final words of sentences than others.
- Low working memory span is associated with lower amounts of dopamine in the prefrontal cortex, while high working memory span is associated with more dopamine available for release.
- Research has explored the effects of increasing dopamine levels in typical populations using pharmacological methods such as bromocriptine, a dopamine agonist.
The Inverted U-Shaped Function of Dopamine and Working Memory
45:54 - 52:30
- The drug bromocriptine increases dopamine levels in the brain.
- In a study, individuals with low baseline dopamine levels showed improved working memory performance after taking bromocriptine.
- Individuals with high baseline working memory did not experience further improvement when taking low or moderate doses of bromocriptine.
- However, when individuals with high baseline working memory took the highest dose of bromocriptine, their working memory performance actually decreased.
- This suggests that the relationship between dopamine and working memory follows an inverted U-shaped function.
Task Switching and Eliminating Distractions in Working Memory
52:13 - 59:01
- Task switching and eliminating distractions are important aspects of working memory and attention.
- People with ADHD or focus challenges struggle with task switching and getting back to their original focus.
- Dopamine neurons projecting to the prefrontal cortex play a role in eliminating distractors.
Non-Sleep Deep Rest Protocols and Cold Exposure
58:35 - 1:04:59
- Non-sleep deep rest protocols, such as yoga nidra, can increase dopamine stores relevant for working memory performance.
- Cold water exposure also increases circulating dopamine levels, as shown in studies where subjects were submerged in low 60-degree water for extended periods.
- Deliberate cold exposure induces a positive shift in mind and body, leading to improved feelings afterwards.
The Effects of Yoga Nidra and Deliberate Cold Exposure on Dopamine Levels
1:04:30 - 1:10:49
- The speaker collaborated with Matthew Walker and colleagues to study the neural activity during yoga nidra and a similar protocol called non-sleep deep-rest (NSDR).
- NSDR is a modified version of yoga nidra without intentions or mystical language.
- Yoga nidra and NSDR scripts are available for free on apps like Waking Up and YouTube.
- A study showed that performing a yoga nidra protocol increased dopamine levels in the brain by up to 60% compared to a different protocol.
- Other data suggest that yoga nidra improves cognitive performance, particularly tasks involving working memory.
- NSDR and yoga nidra are low-risk protocols that can increase dopamine availability in the brain without any ingestion or significant effort.
Deliberate Cold Exposure and its Effects on Working Memory
1:04:46 - 1:17:02
- Deliberate cold exposure induces a state shift of mind and body, resulting in a pleasant feeling for most people.
- Cold showers or cold plunges can potentially increase focus and working memory capacity.
- Cold exposure increases catecholamines, including dopamine, which can reduce the need for caffeine to maintain alertness.
- The specific temperature and duration of cold exposure may vary depending on individual tolerance and adaptation.
- It is important to ensure safety while practicing deliberate cold exposure and avoid combining it with hyperventilation breathing or breath holding.
Other Methods to Increase Dopamine and Improve Working Memory
1:10:25 - 1:23:09
- Playing video games, engaging in sexual activity, and consuming chocolate can increase dopamine levels.
- Binaural beats, which involve listening to sounds of different frequencies in each ear, have been shown to improve working memory performance in some cases.
- L-tyrosine and macunipurines are over-the-counter compounds that can increase dopamine levels and potentially improve working memory.
- L-tyrosine supplementation has been shown to increase dopamine and improve working memory in a multitasking environment.
- Mecuna puriens, similar to prescription drug L-DOPA, can also increase dopamine levels and improve cognitive performance.
Prescription Drugs and Supplements for Working Memory Improvement
1:22:54 - 1:29:40
- Mecuna Purians is a supplement that acts as a bridge between over-the-counter supplements and prescription drugs like L-DOPA, which is known to improve working memory.
- Bromachryptine, another prescription drug, increases dopamine levels and improves working memory in individuals with low baseline dopamine levels.
- Traumatic brain injury, Parkinson's disease, dementia, and ADHD are conditions that involve deficits in working memory and attention. Bromachryptine has been prescribed off-label for the treatment of these conditions with some success.
- Drugs like Adderall and Ritalin, which increase dopamine and norepinephrine levels, are commonly used to treat ADHD.
- Daphanil is a different category of drug that can improve cognitive performance in some cases of ADHD.