Dr. Andrew Hill interview on meditation, neurofeedback and brain health – Podcast #31

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Dr. Andrew Hill talks about neurofeedback/biofeedback as a way to improve brain health. We also talk about meditation and brain supporting nutrients including piracetam, oxiracetam, and PQQ. Listen to this podcast or watch the video to learn how to improve your brain, learn how to meditate, or learn how trauma hurts your brain.

andrew-hillThis is a very informative podcast on neurological health and how we can use it to help repair from injuries, recover from injuries, and just perform better at our daily lives. Find out about the different EEGs and brain training and how much it costs. Dr. Hill also describes how brain training works in this interview. He also shared with us what he thinks a good diet in conjunction with supplements look like.

In this episode, topics include:

4:30 Using biofeedback or neurofeedback

14:05 Biofeedback and EEG devices

25:35 Psychostimulatants and ADHD

33:37 Nootropics, racetams, and compounds

1:00:00 About meditation and techniques

 

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Baris Harvey:  Welcome to another episode of Beyond Wellness Radio.  In today’s show we are talking about brain health.  We have a great interview coming up for you.  But before we dive into the show, let me tell you about our newsletter.  If you go to beyondwellnessradio.com, you can sign up for the newsletter.  There’s bright and orange, a newsletter sign up feed.  Signing up to the newsletter will give you the quickest access to all of our information.  We send you a newsletter every time a new episode comes up.  Also there are links to mine and Dr. Justin’s websites.  If you go up to the top, there’s a link for Just In Health and that’s where you can contact Dr. Justin directly and–and work with him virtually.  You can also go to my site, ReallyHealthyNow.com and to get information and work with me virtually.  We work in our independent locations, but we work with people all across the globe, so technology makes that possible and it’s super awesome that we could do that.  And for one more thing, make sure you guys go to iTunes and leave a review.  You guys can also send us any questions that you guys have straight through beyondwellnessradio.com/questions.  So with that being said, how’s it going today, Dr. Justin?

Dr. Justin Marchegiani:  Baris, it’s going great, and I’m actually really excited for this interview and going over–

Baris Harvey:  Yes.

Dr. Justin Marchegiani:  And going over some of the really key points in neurological health and how we can use it to help repair from injuries, recover from injuries, and just perform better at our daily lives.

Baris Harvey:  Yeah, definitely, so we do have Dr. Andrew Hill on the phone call today.  How’s it going?

Dr. Andrew Hill:  Great, gentlemen, Justin and Baris, nice to be here.

Baris Harvey:  Uh-hmm.

Dr. Andrew Hill:  Thanks for having me.

Baris Harvey:  Very well.  So, one of the–and so you have like this giant bio and I–I don’t wanna mess it up like you–you’re doing some awesome–because you’re–you’re the lead neuroscientist at the company, truBrain, but you also–you–you received you PhD in cognitive neuroscience from UCLA and you also teach courses there, right?  Like to just–

Dr. Andrew Hill:  I do, yeah.

Baris Harvey:  Yeah, everybody a brief like–

Dr. Andrew Hill:  Sure.

Baris Harvey:  A quick, yeah, exactly.

Dr. Andrew Hill:  So I’m a sort of a geek brain health guy.

Baris Harvey:  Yes.

Dr. Andrew Hill:  And I–I operate in that space across many different sort of activities.  As you mentioned I’m the lead neuroscientists for truBrain.  truBrain has developed a couple of products that blend different nutraceuticals, nootropics, brain health promoting supplements together.

Baris Harvey:  Uh-hmm.

Dr. Andrew Hill:  I’ve helped them architect their blends as well as doing research on the products we develop to sort of see what effects we can validate it and that’s more of a sort of consumer product if you will.  I also teach at UCLA, courses on psychology, neuroscience, gerontology, and then I run a–the Alternatives Brain Institute.  I’m the director of the Neurocognitive Services in Beverly Hills and then that’s a peak brain training center that does lots of things but in–now broadly speaking it helps you get the best brain you can get and that might mean–

Baris Harvey:  Uh-hmm.

Dr. Andrew Hill:  Helping you train away the ADHD or the depression and the anxiety or you know whatever else is going on in your brain.  So we sort of do individualized evidence-based brain training where we assess what challenges you’re experiencing and then help you resolve them using sort of high-tech biofeedback and mindfulness.  You know, high and low teach sort of approaches at the same time.

Baris Harvey:  Yeah, it’s funny that you mention the–the high and low tech at the same time.  I don’t know if the listeners notice like how–how giddy I was because I–I was rushing to travel to get back home but also I was so excited to get on this interview like I was–I was like missing my words.  I was oh–so right as you were speaking, I–I took a deep breath in just in to relax real quick, like “Okay, I know–

Dr. Andrew Hill:  Uh-hmm.

Baris Harvey:  You’re excited to talk about all these you know, brain geekery stuff,” but yeah, just like you mentioned, there are some–some low–low-tech techniques, too, but there’s also, you know, the really high end stuff that you can do to kind of get yourself to that place a lot quicker, right?

Dr. Andrew Hill:  Yeah, certainly.  You know, using biofeedback or you know, specifically neurofeedback which is–

Baris Harvey:  Uh-hmm.

Dr. Andrew Hill:   Simply biofeedback done on the central nervous system, you can make very rapid changes to stress level, attention level, sleep regulation, all kinds of things.  You know, many of these same changes can be achieved using meditation and mindfulness as a practice over you know many weeks or months, but the biofeedback process is very rapid.  You know, within a handful of training sessions, people experience shifts and you can produce, you know, improvements in attention, sleep, stress level very quickly, and with–within literally a few sessions of training often.

Baris Harvey:  Uh-hmm.  Definitely.

Dr. Justin Marchegiani:  That’s very cool and Andrew, this is Dr. Justin here talking as well, and again just pre-interview everyone, we just found out Dr. Andrew and I went to U-Mass, fellow alum together so that was kinda something that was very a–very much in common that kinda shocked me a little bit.

Dr. Andrew Hill:  That’s right, now I don’t wonder why it sounds like we have that Massachusetts’ accent so–

Dr. Justin Marchegiani:  I–

Dr. Andrew Hill:  We both escaped it.

Dr. Justin Marchegiani:  Yup, yeah, exactly.  It comes out from time to time but no doubt in that.  And one thing that was really–let’s say I’m on your sites right now.  I’m looking at some different things that you’re doing and I was actually doing some research because I live in Austin and I have a clinic here in Austin as well, and I was looking for–

Dr. Andrew Hill:  Uh-hmm.

Dr. Justin Marchegiani:  And I was looking for various biofeedback and EEG devices and you know, friendly with Dave Asprey and he’s a big fan of this program called 40 Years of Zen.  I think Dr. Hardt puts it on.  It’s called alpha brain as well.  And it sounds like some of the biofeedback that you’re doing is in the same–same realm.  Are you familiar with the 40 Years of Zen?

Dr. Andrew Hill:  I’m–I’m, I know the program.  I believe Dave Asprey flogs the neuro optimal system, which–

Baris Harvey:  Oh yeah.

Dr. Andrew Hill:  Is actually my least favorite of any possible option out there.  It’s the most expensive and it’s the most proprietary.  So I–I tend to think that, you know.  In the field of biofeedback on the brain, you know, neurofeedback–

Dr. Justin Marchegiani:  Right.

Dr. Andrew Hill:  Technology is proliferating–

Baris Harvey:  Uh-hmm.

Dr. Andrew Hill:  Dramatically and when, you know, I got involved in the field about 15 years ago, you know, it cost at least $10,000 to get set up and we were doing individual, you know, one or two channels on the scalp of training–

Baris Harvey:  Uh-hmm.

Dr. Justin Marchegiani:  Right.

Dr. Andrew Hill:  And nowadays that there, you know, both lower cost systems you get into it for much less–

Baris Harvey:  Uh-hmm.

Dr. Andrew Hill:  Expense but there’s also sort of the other end, you know, where there’s this elaboration technology where you can buy incredibly complicated high-end system supposedly, but no one really knows that the–that they work any better than the simple one or two channel EEG trainings we we’re doing.  And so there’s this rush to sort of com–city in the field that I think is a little bit unnecessary.  One thing that we do here at Alternatives that I do a lot for the research for truBrain is what’s called a qEEG, a Quantitative EEG.

Dr. Justin Marchegiani:  Uh-hmm.

Dr. Andrew Hill:  And that’s sort like, you know, Justin or Baris, you guys sat down and wanted a brain map, I would have you sit with your eyes closed for several minutes and then your eyes open for several minutes and I would take that sort of resting baseline data and compare it to a normative database that has thousands of brains in it and out of that, we would get a statistical sort of map about how your brain differs from typical–

Dr. Justin Marchegiani:  Right.

Dr. Andrew Hill:  From average and a whole bunch of different waves and then based on what statistical sort of unusual pattern showed up, we would start narrowing down, you know, what physiology was driving things you care about.  You know, disrupted sleeper or stress level–

Dr. Justin Marchegiani:  Right.

Dr. Andrew Hill:  Or inability to sustain attention or whatever it is you, you know, you would wanna focus on improving will show up as a statistically unusual, if you will, pattern in these brain maps.  And that does a few things.  It keeps the biofeedback process evidence-based. You know, we’re training based on your brain, not based on some–some arbitrary heuristic or clinical lore.  And that’s one thing that I think is very critical is–is keeping it evidence-based, always going back to literature, always going back to what brain patterns the person is demonstrating, and making your decision about what needs to be changed based on–on that.  Now, the literature has not yet caught up with biofeedback–

Dr. Justin Marchegiani:  Uh-hmm.

Dr. Andrew Hill:  All that well, I mean, we can do all kinds of things to the brain in the clinic that are powerful and provide–there’s only a few things that have been well-validated in the research literature for biofeedback.  One is ADHD.  One is seizures.  One is migraines.  These things all appear to be very tractable.  In fact, for things like attention management or ADHD when it’s bad–

Dr. Justin Marchegiani:  Uh-hmm.

Dr. Andrew Hill:  It looks like for the most part you can eliminate symptoms in 20 to 30 training sessions in most people, you know, about 90% of people, and the effects you get are largely permanent.  So you can take this, you know, some are hyperactive, they’re really distractible, or has a really hard time sustaining attention as they get tired in the afternoon and sort of fine tune the resources, build more strength, build more attending if you will–

Dr. Justin Marchegiani:  Uh-hmm.

Dr. Andrew Hill:  Add some inhibitory tone and very quickly within a few weeks you can take somebody with dramatically dysregulated attention and help them, you know, get more control over which mode they sit in, a sustained attention mode or a focus mode.

Dr. Justin Marchegiani:  Right.

Dr. Andrew Hill:  And literature is very robust now for attention management.  There’s been plenty of double-blind placebo-controlled studies done.  In 2012, the American Academy of Pediatrics which releases sort of, you know, state of the treatment reports every couple of years, they moved biofeedback up to what they call level 1 best support in 2012 for ADHD and the only other thing at that level is–is psychostimulants, you know, Ritalins and Adderalls, and things.  So they now consider neurofeedback or biofeedback a frontline intervention if you will and for other things, you know, the literature is very, very intriguing about what it can do to the brain and this is not simply cognitive health.  A colleague of mine in Torrance, California, Gary Schumer published a paper last year on some research he did about 20 years ago looking at HIV positive individuals and showed that doing some relaxation work and biofeedback could raise the T-cells, the CD4 cells–

Dr. Justin Marchegiani:  Right.

Dr. Andrew Hill:  Back up to–back up to typical levels, you know, average levels and these were, you know, HIV–

Dr. Justin Marchegiani:  Uh-hmm.

Dr. Andrew Hill:  Positive men with fairly profoundly impaired T-cell counts and this was sort of before the antiretrovirals hit the market.  So these were guys who were coming in essentially living under a death sentence, you know, 20 years ago and–

Dr. Justin Marchegiani:  Right.

Dr. Andrew Hill:  Many of them, I mean the statistics are fairly beautiful in the paper and it is a published article now showing that with this alpha training, relaxation training, you can really bring the T-cell counts back up, and so it works for all kinds of things.  Attention management, sleep management, immune status, you know, PTSD, OCD, major depression and anxiety, and these are all, you know, from my perspective–

Dr. Justin Marchegiani:  Uh-hmm.

Dr. Andrew Hill:  Viewed a little bit as sort of regulatory issues.  I mean, I don’t think of ADHD as a problem with, you know, as an illness or a disease–

Baris Harvey:  Uh-hmm.

Dr. Andrew Hill:  I think it is a tuning problem, you know, and some of this is informed by my perspective as a neuroscientist, as an educator, I tend to teach Psychology and Neuroscience from the perspective that everything that we have going on between our ears is largely a–an evolutionarily valid–like there’s a reason that we developed these things, the, you know, evolution is very costly and developing certain resources or abilities, it was usually done because of the pressures in the environment not because it was just some random thing.

Baris Harvey:  Uh-hmm.

Dr. Justin Marchegiani:  Uh-hmm.

Dr. Andrew Hill:  And you know, attention in that metaphor we needed people who could sit and weed and really pay attention to the small plants in front of them and we also need people who could scan the environment and–and notice the tiger or notice the small, you know, red berry that was hard to spot.  So we need people or we evolve, I–I believe, to develop sort of human brains that have abilities to sustain attention as well as ability to sort of scan the environment and notice everything that’s novel, everything that’s, you know, dangerous or interesting.  Nowadays in a modern, if you will, society we only really were reward the type of brain that can sustain their attention, sort of the cubicle mode as it were.

Dr. Justin Marchegiani:  Right.

Dr. Andrew Hill:  And we don’t reward the person who can process everything in sight and, you know, gets pulled off by every interesting idea or interesting thing in the environment.  But it’s not a very dramatic different brain ultimately speaking, you know, every–even the most distractible person in the world has moments where they can sit and sustain.  So you’re not unable to sustain, in fact, I would argue that, you know, frankly speaking ADHD, you know, the deficit of attention is not really deficit in the amount of attention.  It’s sort of a truism that the average ADHD teenager can sit and play video games all day long.

Dr. Justin Marchegiani:  Right.  So it depends on what–

Dr. Andrew Hill:  And that’s attending, that’s to stay in detention, you know.  It’s highly stimulating and they’re very motivated but you know, you have a kid who can sit and play video games 7 hours straight, it’s a little hard to conceptualize that as a deficit of attention.

Dr. Justin Marchegiani:  Exactly.

Dr. Andrew Hill:  Of resources.  It’s more about control of those resources.  So a lot of what we’re doing is giving you more control about which mode you sit in.  Oh, it’s important to stay attentive now at this classroom or to not interrupt my colleague in this business meeting.

Dr. Justin Marchegiani:  Right.

Dr. Andrew Hill:  And so we add a little more sort of, you know, control, inhibitory tone, and that mostly gives people just a little more ability to direct their your mind or thoughts, their attention.

Dr. Justin Marchegiani:  And on that note, you mentioned certain biofeedback devices or EEG devices out there.  Some are overpriced, some aren’t.  Which one in your opinion would be like, you know, one of the best units that could buy as like a lay person or maybe even a professional–

Dr. Andrew Hill:  Yeah.

Dr. Justin Marchegiani:  To get the benefit.

Dr. Andrew Hill:  So–so for a home consumer or a power user, I mean this stuff isn’t trivial to use but it’s also not, you know, it’s not rocket surgery.  It’s–it’s a–

Dr. Justin Marchegiani:  Uh-hmm.  Uh-hmm.

Dr. Andrew Hill:  You can stick wires to heads and measure brain waves, it’s–that’s not the hard part.  Knowing what to train, you know, what frequencies you want more of or less of, or where of the head you want to train is actually not trivial and you know, I do recommend folks that wanna home train to sort of take an approach where they, you know, find a professional, get a brain map, a qEEG to get a starting place, figure out–

Dr. Justin Marchegiani:  Uh-hmm.

Dr. Andrew Hill:  What brain you’re really working with and get some candidate protocols from that, you know, clinician and then in terms of low-cost, there’s really only one game in town for low-cost hardware–

Dr. Justin Marchegiani:  Yeah.

Dr. Andrew Hill:  That actually works.   I mean, this–there’s many, many more things out there recently that are being–flooding the market.  All these forehead dry sensors, all these headbands and things.

Dr. Justin Marchegiani:  Right.

Dr. Andrew Hill:  And unfortunately, none of those things actually work in my experience.

Dr. Justin Marchegiani:  Hmm.

Dr. Andrew Hill:  You know, the dry electro–or the forehead sensors–A, the forehead’s the wrong place to measure almost always for biofeedback into the regular quality signals in these very cheap sensors, so–

Baris Harvey:  Uh-hmm.

Dr. Andrew Hill:  There’s a company out of Australia, oddly enough–

Dr. Justin Marchegiani:  Uh-hmm.

Dr. Andrew Hill:  Called Pocket Neurobics.  N-E-U-R-O-B–

Dr. Justin Marchegiani:  Pocket Neurobics.

Dr. Andrew Hill:  Pocket Neurobics, yeah.  And it’s a small wonderful little company that makes interesting devices, interesting EEG devices and EEG–

Dr. Justin Marchegiani:  So PocketNeurobics.com–

Dr. Andrew Hill:  Dot com

Dr. Justin Marchegiani:  For everyone listening.

Dr. Andrew Hill:  Yup, exactly.

Dr. Justin Marchegiani:  Cool.

Dr. Andrew Hill:  And he actually sells kits in–and call this build your own, BYO kits.  And he sells 2-channel EEG devices, 4-channel EEG devices, HEG which is infrared blood training, blood flow dynamics and things, but I think he has a device currently called the Uwiz, which is his lowest cost device, add some electrodes, add a copy of BioExplorer which is a software to process this stuff and you can probably get yourself up and running for, I don’t know, like $1300, $1400.

Dr. Justin Marchegiani:  That’s great.

Dr. Andrew Hill:  Is about where it starts to come in and this is all PC-based software, too.  So you need a decent Mac–PC, not a Mac unfortunately.

Dr. Justin Marchegiani:  Got it.  And I–I know, Baris is itching to ask some questions.  I just wanna–

Dr. Andrew Hill:  Sure.

Dr. Justin Marchegiani:  Get your take on–I’m a patient, right?  I’m coming in.

Dr. Andrew Hill:  Yeah.

Dr. Justin Marchegiani:  Let’s say I have anxiety or ADHD.  How does this work?  So I–I–

Dr. Andrew Hill:  Yeah.

Dr. Justin Marchegiani:  Sit down in a chair and–what’s role as the doctor?  What’s my role?  How does this work?

Dr. Andrew Hill:  Yeah, you can almost think of me as sort of like a coach or a personal trainer, but I’m a personal trainer in a–in a realm where nobody may have ever seen the muscles you’re trying to work on, you know.

Baris Harvey:  Uh-hmm.

Dr. Andrew Hill:  Or the–the training gear you’re working on has to be completely built anew for every person’s specifics, you know, gains they wanna make.  So let’s say you have–you walk in, you say, I mean a very common cluster, if you will, of symptoms is “I get too anxious, I got some ADHD or distractibility, I’m not sleeping great.”  You know, those–those three things are often–come together.  And I would say, “Okay, great, let’s see.  Before you tell me too much about yourself, I don’t wanna get biased, we’ll look at your brain.”  So before we even really talk, you know, let’s–let’s do an assessment and I would sit you down, do qEEG, develop these maps, these patterns of activity that are statistically unusual, and then we’ll sit down and I’ll say, “Okay, look, this pattern here can mean hyperactivity or impulsivity, is that true for you?  I mean, do you have that experience?  This one here can mean hypervigilance.  This one here can mean a reactive mind.”

Dr. Justin Marchegiani:  Uh-hmm.

Dr. Andrew Hill:  “This one here can mean some experience of rumination.”

Dr. Justin Marchegiani:  Uh-hmm.

Dr. Andrew Hill:  “This one here looks like sleep onset issues.  This one here looks like sleep maintenance issues.”  And we sort of figure out of the 9 or 10 patterns that show up, you know, which ones are valid from your perspective, you know, subjectively.

Dr. Justin Marchegiani:  Right.

Dr. Andrew Hill:  And usually the reason I don’t do a–a large clinical history before talking about the results with a client is because I want to be biased and it’s also kinda impressive to sort of do a cold read on their brain.

Dr. Justin Marchegiani:  Right.

Dr. Andrew Hill:  And describe them mostly accurately, I mean, of–of the 9 or 10 things that I’ll find, usually they’re almost all–some of the client goes, “Yeah, how’d you know?”  And so once we figure out the–the big outliers in their brain statistically, what they really wanna be working on, what their goals are, then folks come in, sometime between twice a week and five times a week.  So let’s say, you came in, Justin, sit down.  I say, “Hey, how have things been? How’s your sleep, your stress level, your attention? Okay, great.”  Put a couple of clips on your ears, put one electrode on your head, maybe two, and then you’ll sit and watch a video game.  And whenever your brain is sort of trending in the right direction, the game will run and whenever your brain is trending in the wrong direction, the game stops running.  What I mean by trending is we’re making all these different brain waves.  Things called alpha, beta, delta, gamma, theta–

Dr. Justin Marchegiani:  Yeah.

Dr. Andrew Hill:  Theta, but we’re not making them as some static amount, you know, we’re not making X amount of theta all the time.

Dr. Justin Marchegiani:  Uh-hmm.

Dr. Andrew Hill:  We are making all of our brain waves all of the time.  People sometimes don’t–don’t know this when I start explaining the brainwave EEG landscape.  You know, delta we’re making a lot of when we’re deeply asleep and not dreaming.  Slow wave sleep is delta

Dr. Justin Marchegiani:  Right.

Dr. Andrew Hill:  We’re just not making other waves, even when you’re deeply asleep, and when you’re awake, you’re making all of the waves in various amounts moment to moment.  And so simply you sort of set up a measurement threshold and when the things you want to drop drift down, you make the game, you know, a Pacman eats dots or a spaceship, you know, flies to the sky or something happens.  And whatever your brain naturally normally drifts in the wrong the wrong direction, let’s say, you know your slow brain waves, your theta goes up, I make the Pacman stop.  And the next moment it drifts down, then the Pacman starts eating dots again. And then it goes up, then the Pacman stops.  And over, you know, half an hour of training, the–the session length, you might have a few hundred of those events of stopping and starting rewards or things happening on the screen or for audio events, and after a few sessions, usually 3, 4, 5 sessions in, you start experiencing some subjective shift, you know, they’re very–it’s very subtle.  We aren’t zapping the brain.  We’re simply applauding or withholding our applaud, if you will.

Baris Harvey:  Right.

Dr. Andrew Hill:  Applause.  For–for changes in the right direction and after several sessions, the brain is starting to go, “Hey, wait a minute.  I want input so I’m gonna start making, you know, more of this brain wave and less of this brain wave because that makes the game run a little more smoothly.”  And we start getting different experiences, either the beta drops, you get get more crystally attentive.  As your, you know, midline beta drops, you sleep better.  As your posterior eyes closed beta drops, you are less anxious, less hypervigilant.  And so we just kind of, you know, figure out a game plan based on what we see in your brain maps and what your experience is of having a brain and then from there we just slowly iterate and fine tune and, you know, it’s like going to the gym or physical therapist.  Most of my clients do about 30 sessions to stop–to start, and that’s, you know, between about 6 and you know, maybe 16 weeks after the whole training session and many clients at that point have made enough changes in their brain that they’re done.  You know, especially for things like attention, sleep, anxiety, the changes are–are largely permanent.  It’s where you make a change and the brain is now always sort of practicing its new mode, so there’s no real need to go back and train more for many people.  If there’s–if there’s an active disease process, you know, schizophrenia, HIV positive status, something that’s keeping things sort of awry, Alzheimer’s, you might make really good changes in someone’s experience but stopping training will often cause sort of a, you know, a wearing off of the effect.  But for things where it’s not an active disease process, you know, anxiety, ADHD–

Dr. Justin Marchegiani:  Uh-hmm.

Dr. Andrew Hill:  Major depression, I would even call it a tuning issue versus a major disease.  All of these things seem to resolve pretty, you know, reliably, you know, I would say the range of sessions is probably between 30 and 100 across the various types of things we work with and you really can, for the most part, eliminate ADHD, moderate anxiety, sleep issues, or anything else that is sort of, you know, a moderate regulatory feature just by training a few times a week for a couple months.  So, you know, in terms of clinical and making massive tailored specific interventions that one person needs, you know, that’s what we do, it’s the–it’s the biofeedback.  And then of course, I also do a lot of alternative therapies and training folks to meditate and, you know, help them and stay in shape, meditation and mindfulness practices which also builds brain health pretty dramatically in some folks.

Baris Harvey:  Yeah, that–that’s seems pretty awesome especially the fact like–like you mentioned when we started that the neurofeedback sessions can help get you to a certain prompt quicker.

Dr. Andrew Hill:  Uh-hmm.

Baris Harvey:  You–you mentioned, meditation and mindfulness can help and probably after these sessions, like if someone came in and might have–like for myself, if I’m–have mild ADHD and I come in there, I’m like saying, “You know what, I have a difficulty time–

Dr. Andrew Hill:  Yeah.

Baris Harvey:  Trying to meditate.”  Right?

Dr. Andrew Hill:  Right, absolutely.

Baris Harvey:  And either probably help me get there a lot quicker, and then now I can have that  practice and that can, you know, like you mentioned the 30 sessions sometimes for someone with–someone with ADHD, someone like that.  Maybe now for maintenance, all they need to do is have that–

Dr. Andrew Hill:  Is meditate, yeah.

Baris Harvey:  Mindfulness practice, exactly.

Dr. Andrew Hill:  For ADHD, I would say 20-30 is about average and in that time–

Dr. Justin Marchegiani:  Uh-hmm.

Dr. Andrew Hill:  You can usually eliminate all or most of the ADHD.

Dr. Justin Marchegiani:  Right.

Dr. Andrew Hill:  In a way that is largely permanent.  Across, you know, all presenting complaints, I say you’re talking between 20 sessions, you know, and then some things have been active disease process or active sort of, you know, more dysregulated brains, you might require more ongoing training.  But for the most part, it’s sort of a–an intervention that gets you back on track and you–you do it for a limited amount of time.  It’s not like therapy or, you know, anything else where you’re doing it for very, very long time.

Baris Harvey:  Uh-huh.

Dr. Andrew Hill:  So I’m–it’s kind of odd, I work with–work with clients for, you know, 2, 3, 4, 5 months and then they go on and, you know, live with their new brain and then I often don’t see them again unless I pull them back in for assessments, you know, after the fact which I do sometimes but–

Baris Harvey:  Yeah.  Yeah, definitely.  Because one of the things that I’ve always thought, as–as soon as I started to get into the–like the health when I–when I was younger, when I started getting into the health field–

Dr. Andrew Hill:  Uh-hmm.

Baris Harvey:  I noticed that they were always classified as disorders, not necessarily the diseases–

Dr. Andrew Hill:  Yeah.

Baris Harvey:  And so it always made me think like well, we should be to–to change these and–and there should be certain things and of course, now we have the technology to–to do a lot of powerful things and you mentioned a–a home device.  What are some–alright, because I know, right now currently what usually happens to the people is we give them a type of molecule, a chemical, to–

Dr. Andrew Hill:  Yeah.

Baris Harvey:  To change their behavior, a psychostimulant, but are there any–are there are any of that you think are safe or are there any exchanges that may be if someone has more mild, I know you work with truBrain and of course, it’s a supplement that I–

Dr. Andrew Hill:  Uh-hmm.

Baris Harvey:  That you recommend, but what are some of the–the alt–I guess it’s a load of questions, here’s 2 questions at the same time.  Are there some safe drugs out there and maybe certain people need them and if not or if so, what are they and what can they replace them with?  There you go.

Dr. Andrew Hill:  Yeah.  I–I don’t think that most of the drugs used for attention management and they’re almost all psychostimulants or some sort–

Baris Harvey:  Uh-hmm.

Dr. Andrew Hill:  I don’t believe that any of them are safe.

Baris Harvey:  Uh-hmm.

Dr. Andrew Hill:  Because they mostly–A, I don’t believe that ADHD is–again, I’m not a medical doctor or psychologist, I’m a neuroscientist, my perspective–

Baris Harvey:  Uh-hmm.

Dr. Andrew Hill:  May not be, you know, necessarily the same as everyone else’s–

Baris Harvey:  Uh-hmm.

Dr. Andrew Hill:  But I–I don’t believe that it’s–it’s a–it’s a disorder.  I don’t believe it needs to be medicated, you know, ADHD per se–

Baris Harvey:  Uh-hmm.

Dr. Andrew Hill:  Except in the most extreme cases, you know, where it’s getting dramatically in the way of life.  But beyond that I think that, you know, you can do a lot with scaffolding, with building in some accommodations in life, task lists, and calendars and things like that.  I also think that teaching people a 20-minute a day meditation practice will actually do more to support their attention long-term than psychostimulants will do.  And those effects start showing up within a few weeks.  Now getting an ADHD kid to start meditating is, you know, a hard ask sometimes.  And so getting over that initial hump of, you know, not–not knowing how to do it or not sure you’re doing it properly is–is a very big deal.  But I would say that I don’t really think that there’s a lot of good drugs out there that support attention just like there’s no drugs out there that make you go to sleep.

Baris Harvey:  Uh-hmm.

Dr. Andrew Hill:  You know, all the sleeping meds are not–actually sort of in this weird sedated state and then if you’re tired ideally your brain takes over with the sleep reflex then you go to sleep, but there’s no drug out there as far as I know still that actually causes sleep.  It just kind of drugs you up until you then, you know, fall asleep.

Baris Harvey:  Yeah, I know.

Dr. Justin Marchegiani:  And if you asleep, you actually never get into those deeper–

Dr. Andrew Hill:  Exactly.

Dr. Justin Marchegiani:  REM, you know, stage 3, stage 4 sleep where you’re really repairing and healing the body.

Dr. Andrew Hill:  Exactly, yeah.  I mean and we’ve discovered, there’s a study out last year that, you know, the brain is sort of washing itself with cerebrospinal fluid and all that–all the sort, you know, metabolic end products and toxins and things are being removed from the brain through this washing like a car wash at night and that only happens later on the second half of sleep.  You know, you need to sort of be in that deep slow wave sleep for that to really happen.

Baris Harvey:  Yeah, it’s funny that you mentioned that because I remember–I think it was Dr. Kurt Parsley I think his name is–

Dr. Justin Marchegiani:  Yeah, Parsley, yup.

Baris Harvey:  Yeah, I remember he–he mentioned something very similar saying, you know, you would never, you know, see someone in a UFC fight get knocked out and say, “Oh, he’s asleep.”

Dr. Andrew Hill:  Yeah.

Baris Harvey:  You realize, you know, he’s knocked out here–

Dr. Andrew Hill:  Yeah.

Baris Harvey:  And it’s the same thing with the drugs.  You don’t say, “Oh, that person’s asleep.”  It’s like, “No, there’s just unconscious.”

Dr. Andrew Hill:  Yeah, they’re sedated.  Exactly.

Baris Harvey:  Uh-hmm.

Dr. Andrew Hill:  And–and to some extent if you flip the metaphor, the same is true for drugs that–that are “attention drugs”.

Baris Harvey:  Uh-hmm.

Dr. Justin Marchegiani:  Yeah.

Dr. Andrew Hill:  They’re–they’re not really improving your control of attention.  They’re just ramping the gain up, so you have more sort of pressured attention.  You’re–you’re–you’re attending more.  But you don’t necessarily have more control and it’s not necessarily without consequence.  The psychostimulant class of drugs almost all have fairly significant side effects.  They suppress your appetite.  They’re habit-forming.  They–if you abuse them and a lot of teenagers and college students are abusing–

Dr. Justin Marchegiani:  Ah, yeah!

Dr. Andrew Hill:  Psychostimulants now, you know, high levels of psychostimulants leads to psychosis in some people.

Dr. Justin Marchegiani:  And a lot of these medications, too, aren’t they just methamphetamines?  Your Strattera, your Adderall–

Dr. Andrew Hill:  Yeah, well, the–the methylphenidate like Strattera and Ritalin are not methamphetamine.  They’re–they’re another molecule but Adderall has a molecule that’s very similar–

Baris Harvey:  Uh-hmm.

Dr. Andrew Hill:  To methamphetamine.

Dr. Justin Marchegiani:  Right.

Dr. Andrew Hill:  It’s a very low dose and so yeah, these–these are doing all kinds of crazy things to the brain.  They’re mostly given to kids and adolescents and at least some of the drugs out there in this class seem to change developmental trajectories, make your brain grow less or less quickly.

Dr. Justin Marchegiani:  Right.

Dr. Andrew Hill:  And many countries, the US doesn’t have this anymore but many countries, a lot of the psychostimulants carry what’s called a black box warning.  You know, Canada and the UK for instance, because kids suddenly fall over dead on psychostimulants.  The heart, you know, they have cardiac side effects and they have a heart attack and just–or the heart just stops working.  And so you know, there’s lots of side effects and anyone who’s tried a psychostimulant,  they don’t feel like you, you feel altered on them.  You’re–you’re pushed.  And that’s exactly the thing we’re trying to get rid of in ADHD.  It’s the feeling of being pushed, being out of control.  So I don’t–I don’t think that the–the psychostimulant class is very useful unless you are somebody who has massive, you know, sleep-wake issues, you know.  And then you’re probably better off with things that aren’t stimulants.  Things like modafinils and–

Dr. Justin Marchegiani:  Right.  Provigil–

Dr. Andrew Hill:  You know, narcolepsy drugs–

Dr. Justin Marchegiani:  Right.

Dr. Andrew Hill:  And I–and by the way, just the record, I hate Provigil.  I hate modafinil.

Dr. Justin Marchegiani:  Okay.

Dr. Andrew Hill:  It’s used a lot in self-hacking, biohacking circles as–

Baris Harvey:  Uh-hmm.

Dr. Andrew Hill:  A nootropic.

Dr. Justin Marchegiani:  Right.

Dr. Andrew Hill:  And I would argue it’s not a nootropic because it has side effects.  It’s not a nootropic because it has been very, very mild support for cognition and the–

Baris Harvey:  Uh-hmm.

Dr. Andrew Hill:  Side effects are non-trivial. I am–personally got the side effects you get from modafinil, ended up in the hospital for a while with a head to toe–

Dr. Justin Marchegiani:  Wow!

Dr. Andrew Hill:  Hives and my skin threatening to peel off, my lungs threatening to close up.  And this was taking it as prescribed, once a day for two weeks.  At the end of that time, I basically had a systemic histamine, you know, storm that cause major, major life–

Dr. Justin Marchegiani:  Wow.

Dr. Andrew Hill:  Threatening issues, and you know, not that common to have side effects on–

Dr. Justin Marchegiani:  Right.

Dr. Andrew Hill:  Modafinil–

Baris Harvey:  Uh-hmm.

Dr. Andrew Hill:  But they happen and, therefore, you know, if you’re in this space of nootropics, which means, you know, cognitive support–supporting compounds, drugs, supplements, whatever, you know, the–the threshold for cost-benefit should be very high.  You–you should–you should only entertain the risk of side effects and drugs if you’re trying to fix a problem.

Baris Harvey:  Uh-hmm.

Dr. Andrew Hill:  If you’re trying to just help yourself be more, more attentive, sleep better, more stress, more learning, whatever it is, then you shouldn’t tolerate any side effects.  The risks are just not there for small incremental improvements long-term.

Baris Harvey:  Uh-hmm.

Dr. Andrew Hill:  And so I really encourage folks to think of this definition of nootropics or  brain compounds, one of the very important part of that definition is not having any side effects or having very, very low or manageable–

Dr. Justin Marchegiani:  Uh-hmm.

Dr. Andrew Hill:  Side effects.  And psychostimulants don’t fall into that category, neither does Modafinil, neither does caffeine.

Dr. Justin Marchegiani:  Right.

Dr. Andrew Hill:  You know?  I’m a big fan of coffee.  I think there’s lots of things in coffee that really, really help the brain.

Dr. Justin Marchegiani:  Oh, yeah.

Dr. Andrew Hill:  You know, I’m somebody who wakes up in the morning with too much blood in my caffeine stream.

Baris Harvey:  Uh-hmm.

Dr. Justin Marchegiani:  And on that note, with the coffee,have you–

Dr. Andrew Hill:  Yeah.

Dr. Justin Marchegiani:  Have you tried the Bulletproof coffee where you’re adding the MCT and the butter in there, what’s your take–

Dr. Andrew Hill:  Sure.

Dr. Justin Marchegiani:  In that?

Dr. Andrew Hill:  I tend to add grass-fed butter and coconut oil, a little bit of coconut oil–

Dr. Justin Marchegiani:  Oh, great!

Dr. Andrew Hill:  I don’t–I don’t think there’s any need for refined MCT–

Dr. Justin Marchegiani:  Uh-hmm.

Dr. Andrew Hill:  I think coconut oil is a fine version.

Dr. Justin Marchegiani:  Uh-hmm.

Dr. Andrew Hill:  You know, I don’t–I don’t use Dave’s, his beans, his Bulletproof beans.  I’m not–not a big fan of them flavor-wise.

Baris Harvey:  Uh-hmm.

Dr. Andrew Hill:  And I also think that the mycotoxin reason for his beans is somewhat a manufactured issue.

Dr. Justin Marchegiani:  Uh-hmm.

Dr. Andrew Hill:  I don’t think it’s a real issue in this country.

Dr. Justin Marchegiani:  Hmm.  Interesting.

Dr. Andrew Hill:  And so, I’m–I’m more about finding, you know, small batch, single origin–

Dr. Justin Marchegiani:  Right.

Dr. Andrew Hill:  You know, where–where I know where it’s coming from–

Dr. Justin Marchegiani:  Right.

Dr. Andrew Hill:  Where it’s a small number of steps between the grower and my cup that can go in for a big change–

Dr. Justin Marchegiani:  And hopefully organic without the pesticides.

Dr. Andrew Hill:  Exactly.

Dr. Justin Marchegiani:  They’re mostly gonna hurt your–

Dr. Andrew Hill:  So I–so I–

Dr. Justin Marchegiani:  Nervous system.

Dr. Andrew Hill:  So I, you know, I have small roasters in LA that I work with or I have a couple up in Portland that I, you know, personally that send me coffee every so often and so I just make sure that my coffee is high quality.

Baris Harvey:  Exactly.

Dr. Andrew Hill:  I’m not concerned about toxins and things, but yeah, I, you know, I–I drink way more coffee than is probably all that health–healthy.  But I keep a nootropic compound on hand to take the edge off the caffeine.

Baris Harvey:  Uh-hmm.

Dr. Andrew Hill:  You’re–some of your listeners may know of a compound called L-theanine.

Dr. Justin Marchegiani:  Mmm.

Baris Harvey:  Uh-hmm.

Dr. Andrew Hill:   GABA which is a naturally occurring amino acid found in tea leaves.

Dr. Justin Marchegiani:  Uh-hmm.

Baris Harvey:  Uh-hmm.

Dr. Andrew Hill:  And if you’re a tea drinker you’ve experienced this–this interesting combination of both calm and focus–

Dr. Justin Marchegiani:  Yes.

Dr. Andrew Hill:  At the same time.

Baris Harvey:  Uh-hmm.

Dr. Andrew Hill:  And that’s a combination of caffeine and L-theanine, or the caffeine pushing up adenosine for the alertness–

Dr. Justin Marchegiani:  Right.

Dr. Andrew Hill:  And the L-theanine pushing up the GABA–

Dr. Justin Marchegiani:  GABA, right.

Dr. Andrew Hill:  And so I keep some L-theanine, you know, at hand in a bottle so when I–when I overdo it and get up above a gram of caffeine that day–

Dr. Justin Marchegiani:  Right.

Dr. Andrew Hill:  I can sort of, you know, downregulate but we also put L-theanine in the truBrain blend for the same reason, sort of buffer the over arousal effects you get when you’re seeking high performance states sometimes.

Dr. Justin Marchegiani:  I’m looking at the ingredients for that right now and you have some really–

Dr. Andrew Hill:  Yeah.

Dr. Justin Marchegiani:  Good things in there.  Now in my experiences, I’ve used piracetam.  I–I do it with my coffee, MCT, and butter in the morning sometimes.

Dr. Andrew Hill:  Uh-huh.

Dr. Justin Marchegiani:  About 800 milligrams.  I’ve gotten good experience with that.

Dr. Andrew Hill:  Yup.

Dr. Justin Marchegiani:  I’ve used aniracetam which is fat-soluble–

Dr. Andrew Hill:  Yup, that’s similar.

Dr. Justin Marchegiani:  And I noticed you have oxiracetam–

Dr. Andrew Hill:  Uh-hmm.

Dr. Justin Marchegiani:  And I haven’t heard too much of that.  Can you talk about these racetams?

Dr. Andrew Hill:  Yeah.

Dr. Justin Marchegiani:  Are they–are they an–an essential nutrient and–and what’s your take on it in general?

Dr. Andrew Hill:  Well, they’re not essential nutrient.  That–that sort of means the body needs it–

Dr. Justin Marchegiani:  Uh-hmm.

Dr. Andrew Hill:  But can’t manufacture it and these are really needed by the body per se.

Dr. Justin Marchegiani:  Uh-hmm.

Dr. Andrew Hill:  But the–the racetam class in general which was first synthesized, I think in the early sixties or late fifties, were synthesized from GABA.  So GABA, the neurotransmitter–

Dr. Justin Marchegiani:  Right.

Dr. Andrew Hill:  Is the only universally calming or inhibitory neurotransmitter, all the rest sort of, you know, are excitatory, inhibitory depending on which circuit they’re in specifically–

Dr. Justin Marchegiani:  Uh-hmm.

Dr. Andrew Hill:  But GABA is always is inhibitory, always making cells less likely to fire.  And–

Dr. Justin Marchegiani:  Right.

Dr. Andrew Hill:  GABA has this sort of very characteristic structural ring called the pyrrolidine ring and all of the racetams have this ring structure kept intact and so initially they were synthesized from a natural compound, if you will, GABA.  Nowadays, of course, they’re synthesized and piracetam was the first one.  It’s has the best study.  It has the longest story, the safety, and such it really why we picked it for the truBrain 1.0.

Dr. Justin Marchegiani:  Right.

Dr. Andrew Hill:  Any racetam I experimented with, I mean, actually at the truBrain ingredients where sort of a personal experimentation path for many–

Dr. Justin Marchegiani:  Uh-hmm.

Baris Harvey:  Uh-hmm.

Dr. Andrew Hill:  Many years before Chris Thomson and I came together to create truBrain the company and then you know, now–now there’s 20 or 30 people sort of always working, you know, everything from supply chain to research on–on new blends.  But–but way back when I was just still have self-experimentation and giving stuff to friends and family and any racetam I tried and any racetam has a very short window effect, like 90 minutes or less–

Dr. Justin Marchegiani:  Uh-hmm.

Dr. Andrew Hill:  And it’s also anxiolytic, more calming than most of the racetams and for me it was too calming.  It made me feel almost blue, you know, almost like–like I had no energy.  So because it didn’t act very long because it was sort of little bit anxiolytic, too anxiolytic–

Dr. Justin Marchegiani:  Right, too calming.

Dr. Andrew Hill:  We–we, yeah, we–we, or piracetam initially, and then oxiracetam is a very similar compound in terms of effect to piracetam.  They’re probably the two racetams that are the most similar and the biggest difference is that oxiracetam tastes sweet–

Dr. Justin Marchegiani:  Yeah.

Dr. Andrew Hill:  While piracetam tastes like battery acid.

Dr. Justin Marchegiani:  Got it.

Baris Harvey:  Yeah.

Dr. Andrew Hill:  And so when we–when we–substantiated truBrain as a drink, as a liquid format, which we call think drinks.  This little 1 oz tear off packets, the–the first iteration of the think drinks were piracetam-based and have a sort of, you know, energy drink flavor–

Dr. Justin Marchegiani:  Yeah.

Dr. Andrew Hill:  The sort of bitter, weird, chemically flavor–

Dr. Justin Marchegiani:  Uh-hmm.

Dr. Andrew Hill:  And I was also drawing a hard line.  I–I did not want us to include artificial sweeteners.  I didn’t want us to include too much sugar and those are hard things to do with horrible tasting things and we managed to make an okay flavor even with piracetam.  And then in–in the truBrain formulations, we always have it sort of a day format, I’m gonna boost our turbo, it’s a little bit different for those extra long or you know, extra week–weekend days or something where you need a little extra boost.  And we made the–the boost flavor of the drinks oxiracetam-based and the flavor was actually good.  It actually tastes fairly palatable and so we’re switching over time over the next few weeks, all over the drinks of the think drink formats are gonna be oxiracetam-based because the flavor is just so much better.  It’s also a bit more soluble.  I think oxi is one of those ones that’s both fat and water-soluble and ani–aniracetam’s fat-soluble and piracetam is water-soluble.  So I think oxi gets us both of those.

Dr. Justin Marchegiani:  Now regarding the oxiracetam, I don’t think there are many research studies like you mentioned as piracetam.  What’s your take on that and do you feel like it’s–if it was studied as much as piracetam you’d have the same kind of results?

Dr. Andrew Hill:  I think you would because subjectively, it’s very, very similar and the molecules are very similar, too, you know, like–like some the–some of the racetams are little bit unusual in configuration and the effects are very different.  The best example is probably levetiracetam which has a brand name Keppra, and it’s actually an anticonvulsant, a seizure drug.

Dr. Justin Marchegiani:  Ah.

Dr. Andrew Hill:  And it does not feel like taking piracetam or oxi or ani or per any racetam or–or anything else.  Those are all gently supporting attention.  We which think there’s a–an acetylcholine, you know, because of how it makes you feel checked in and visually–

Dr. Justin Marchegiani:  Right.

Baris Harvey:  Uh-hmm.

Dr. Andrew Hill:  Sort of attending but Keppra or levetiracetam makes you sort of sedated.  It’s do–it’s doing what a–a seizure drug does to try to make the brain less likely to fire.  So similar molecules, same derivation but very different effects.  So we’re–we’re in the nootropics space operating in all these, you know, supporting compounds we think it’s gonna improve your cognition, your memory, your attention, your learning, but we still don’t 100% know and you know one other things that truBrain is trying to do that’s a little bit different I think for most, you know, supplement or nutraceutical companies–is we’re trying to–we–we can’t be a–a big farm.  We can’t drop ten million dollars on a, you know–

Baris Harvey:  Uh-hmm.

Dr. Andrew Hill:  Clinical trial.  That’s just not the space for it.  We don’t have the money.  We’re still a startup, you know, 2 years in.  It’s still, you know, a little lean.  We–we don’t have vast, vast amounts of money to do huge amounts of research but what we can do is say, look, everything we’re putting in these blends has decades of safety and efficacy in the literature, so we’re making good choices for you.

Baris Harvey:  Uh-hmm.

Dr. Andrew Hill:  Sort of the–the curation play if you will and then secondarily we can actually do novel research on this blended compounds and sort of look at the actual brain effects that are being supported by truBrain and that’s the pace where we’re really sort of, you know, putting a stake in the ground to try to determine what the brain effects are of many of these nootropics.  So–

Baris Harvey:   You think that–that using something like a truBrain while–and of course, this would be something that you would have to test and be–

Dr. Andrew Hill:  Uh-hmm.

Baris Harvey:  Really save in doing so, but doing something like where we talked about the EEG and the–and the testing your brain and training it, could you think that this would enhance it by using–

Dr. Andrew Hill:  Yeah, I do actually.

Baris Harvey:  Supplements by truBrain.  Yeah.

Dr. Andrew Hill:  Yeah, piracetam certainly.  I mean, some of the things in truBrain also have some neurotransmitter effects.  The tyrosine is a precursor for dopamine which is learning and salient–

Baris Harvey:  Uh-hmm.

Dr. Andrew Hill:  Signal.  The choline in truBrain is a precursor for acetylcholine involved with memory attention.  Piracetam appears to work broadly and help cells be able to–sort of flexible and the mitochondria works better for more energy.  But in general it looks like it helps things work more piracetam per se.

Baris Harvey:  Uh-hmm.

Dr. Andrew Hill:  You know, a lot of the work we have done with testing the blend, testing truBrain is looking at EEG effects of people’s brains on versus off truBrain–

Dr. Justin Marchegiani:  Yeah.

Dr. Andrew Hill:  And I’ve done this, you know, with a little population of convenience, some interns.  We brought in–last year we brought in 25 stock traders from New York City and did a double-blind placebo-controlled version of on task activity.  They were doing training simulators and I’ve also done several case studies on individual people who, you know, took truBrain or did a baseline brain map and then took the truBrain for a few weeks then a baseline again.  And in all cases I’m seeing the same EEG changes.  There’s increases of fast alpha which is sort of a flow state rhythm and–as well as low beta which is sort of a visual attention and concentration and memory and things.  In the parietal and temporal lobes, so the areas involved with visualization and memory and drafting your attention are all slightly enhanced we think.  You know, it’s exciting to be doing this research with truBrain which is why I’m am working with the company because they–they do have this science first focus unlike, you know, any other supplement of the company that I’ve, you know, heard about.  But you know, it is still early on in spite of some these compounds having decades and decades of, you know, literature on their safety and efficacy.  You know, no big company has spent billions or millions determining how magnesium works in the brain per se.

Dr. Justin Marchegiani:  Right.

Dr. Andrew Hill:  You know, because they can’t make money on patenting magnesium.

Dr. Justin Marchegiani:  Right.

Dr. Andrew Hill:  So they don’t.  So, you know, I do feel that we’re–we’re adding some value to the space and our existing user base of truBrain subscribers, they’re getting the benefit of the stuff because we do iterate.  We do make subtle changes.  We improve ingredients, you know, so the folks who have been with us for the past 2 years have slowly been getting, you know, a better and better nootropic blend or stack as they, you know, continue to engage with our sort of cutting-edge blends.

Dr. Justin Marchegiani:  That make sense and I was actually surprised to not see in their–I wanted to get your take on this–

Dr. Andrew Hill:  Yeah.

Dr. Justin Marchegiani:  It’s the compound PQQ because I know that’s one of those mitochondrial enhancing, even mitochondrial repairing compounds.  What’s your take on PQQ?

Dr. Andrew Hill:  My take is it’s too new to know much about.

Baris Harvey: Uh-hmm.

Dr. Andrew Hill:   And then you have to understand with truBrain specifically, we–we have to really balance what we’re putting in it with efficacy and dosages.  I mean, we couldn’t put a gram of every high end compound in there because that would either be–

Dr. Justin Marchegiani:  Expensive.

Dr. Andrew Hill:  A double handle of fifty pills you wouldn’t wanna swallow–

Dr. Justin Marchegiani:  Yeah.

Dr. Andrew Hill:  Or too expensive.  And so the way most supplement companies finesse this is they put tiny, tiny, tiny amounts of buzzword compliant ingredients in the blend and then they hide the amount behind the word that says proprietary blends.

Dr. Justin Marchegiani:  I know.

Baris Harvey:  Uh-hmm.

Dr. Andrew Hill:  I was very anti–I mean, in–in–in the supplement world that’s called fairy dusting like, you know, Tinkerbell flying by and dusting your buttock.

Dr. Justin Marchegiani:  Yes.

Baris Harvey:  Uh-hmm.

Dr. Andrew Hill:  And I–I made sure that–that was not our approach.  We’ve worked really hard so that the anti-snake oil, and that’s a very snake-oily thing to do.

Baris Harvey:  Yeah, it–because oftentimes–

Dr. Andrew Hill:  And so–

Baris Harvey:  You’re–you’re taking in a bunch of like rice flour.

Dr. Justin Marchegiani:  Yeah.

Dr. Andrew Hill:  Yeah exactly or–or little, little tiny amounts but without knowing how much it is, you think you’re getting, you know, what’s–what’s a useful amounts of stuff–

Baris Harvey:  Uh-hmm.

Dr. Justin Marchegiani:  Not therapeutic.

Dr. Andrew Hill:  And so–

Dr. Justin Marchegiani:  Right.

Dr. Andrew Hill:  It’s not therapeutic and truBrain, you know, capsule format definitely in some of the liquids, too, had to decide, well, you know, what are the ingredients and how much of each.  And I only have, you know, 7 or 8 ingredients in the product because of that.  Because to get enough of the racetams, enough magnesium, tyrosine and theanine, carnitine, you know, and other things.  We had to only have a handful of ingredients.

Baris Harvey:  Uh-hmm.  So I–so it was it–that was very much a strategic decision not to make every single, you know, interesting compound be part of our–our blend just because it was in the news or just because it, you know, one biohacker had been flogging it, you know, more aggressively than other.

Dr. Justin Marchegiani:  And looking at here, I mean, I–I understand a lot of the nutrients there.  We have carnitine which is bringing fat to the mitochondria.  We have theanine that’s–that’s upregulating GABA.  What are the–the main, just to put it in layman’s terms so everyone gets it like with the truBrain, this product here we’re look–we’re talking about.

Dr. Andrew Hill:  Uh-hmm.

Dr. Justin Marchegiani:  What’s the main mechanism?  Is it more neurotransmitter?  Is it more mitochondrial?  What’s happening?

Dr. Andrew Hill:  It’s–it’s a mix.  It’s a mix.  I’ve really–I mean one other things you’ll find if you dig into the nootropics space, all these self-hackers, there’s a lot of fairly broad variability in how people seem to respond to the racetams.

Dr. Justin Marchegiani:  Mmm.

Dr. Andrew Hill:  And so I did a lot of, you know, head-scratching and digging into the research and tried to figure out why that might be.  And the sort of heavy lifters if you will in truBrain are really the racetams, you know, piracetam or oxiracetam–

Baris Harvey:  Uh-hmm.

Dr. Justin Marchegiani:  Right.

Dr. Andrew Hill:  And the choline source, which is either CDP choline or alpha GPC.  And that’s the one-two punch of a good nootropic stack to start for most people.  But then everything else is modifiers if you will to sort of make those work better, or–

Baris Harvey:  Yeah.

Dr. Andrew Hill:  To sort of support other ancillary issues in attending and to–through them tyrosine helps bring up dopamine–

Dr. Justin Marchegiani:  Right.

Dr. Andrew Hill:  So you feel like you’re more attending.  CDP choline not only helps with acetylcholine but helps the cell membrane build phosphatidylcholine so it’s really helping the membrane health.

Dr. Justin Marchegiani:  Right.

Dr. Andrew Hill:  Piracetam makes cell membranes much more fluid and flexible so signaling goes up.  Both magnesium and–and–and theanine are there to buffer the high end, the over arouse that you might get when you’re slamming down too much caffeine, you’re stressed out–

Dr. Justin Marchegiani:  Mmm.

Dr. Andrew Hill:  Because you’re, you know, you have too many balls in the air.  The carnitine again for mitochondrial health–you said.  And then DHEA in the–in the capsules, you know, fish oil initially was the product of DHEA.  Now we’re using an algae form so it’s a vegan-friendly form of DHEA.

Baris Harvey:  Uh-hmm.

Dr. Justin Marchegiani:  Right.

Dr. Andrew Hill:  That’s just Omega 3 fatty acids and, you know, we–we cut out the middleman or the middlefish in this case.  We’re getting DHEA from algae, I mean, if you wanna get it from fish oil, fish get it from krill, and krill get it from algae.  So you’re just eating, sort of 3 steps up the food chain when you’re getting DHEA from fish.  And to avoid the mercury and also the environmental impact of fishing, and you know, the–the issues we have with deep sea water fatty fishes these days, we decided for many reasons to go after an algae form in the product.

Baris Harvey:  Uh-hmm.

Dr. Andrew Hill:  So, you know, it–it’s only 8 things in the capsules and, you know, 7 in the liquids because we didn’t include the Omega 3s in the liquid for shelf–

Baris Harvey:  Uh-hmm.

Dr. Andrew Hill:  Stability reasons.  But we think that if you had to pick a starting place to get into this space and you do any research at all and you realize, okay, there’s all kinds of strange strings of letters and numbers and research chemicals and lots of conflicting information out there and not everything’s safes, not everything is truly a nootropic, you know, there’s a lot of drugs and other weird compounds out there.

Baris Harvey:  Uh-hmm.

Dr. Andrew Hill:  You know, this is–this is the good starting place, is really our goal.

Dr. Justin Marchegiani:  And looking at this, if you’re gonna combine it in with diet.  So, you know, we have–

Dr. Andrew Hill:  Yeah.

Dr. Justin Marchegiani:  Supplements.  Supplements aren’t replacements.  They aren’t there to replace a great diet and lifestyle.  So let’s say, we have this and we have a good diet on board.  What does that good diet look?  Is there good amounts of fat in there?

Dr. Andrew Hill:  Yes.

Dr. Justin Marchegiani:  Proteins?  Can you-can you go over–

Dr. Andrew Hill:  Yeah.

Dr. Justin Marchegiani:  How that looks on a–on a practical standpoint?

Dr. Andrew Hill:  I would say the broad strokes are decrease or eliminate sugars–

Dr. Justin Marchegiani:  Mmm.

Dr. Andrew Hill:  In your diet, especially starches and grains are among the worst thing you can do as a human.

Dr. Justin Marchegiani:  Totally agree.

Dr. Andrew Hill:  Yeah, I–I would say no grains, no starches, and no fruit sugars.  Maybe only get your starches from vegetable formats–

Dr. Justin Marchegiani:  Uh-hmm.

Dr. Andrew Hill:  You know, it’s a safe way to get–to get starches coming from veggies.  And I don’t mean potatoes and corn, I mean, you know–

Dr. Justin Marchegiani:  Right.

Dr. Andrew Hill:  Vegetables.  But otherwise, you know, it’s about getting enough fat.

Dr. Justin Marchegiani:  Right.

Dr. Andrew Hill:  High-quality fats and enough Omega 3 fats and minimize Omega 6 fats, and beyond that, you’re fine.  I mean, you’re gonna get enough protein if you’re eating sufficient fat.

Baris Harvey:  Uh-hmm.

Dr. Andrew Hill:   But I would say fat is the–is this essential nutrient.  If you don’t eat carbohydrates, you have no problem.  Your body adjusts to it.  If you don’t eat fats, you die.

Dr. Justin Marchegiani:  Right.

Dr. Andrew Hill:  You know?

Dr. Justin Marchegiani:  And it sounds like your approach, Dr. Andrew, is you’re really going more to a ketogenic type of approach, is that correct?

Dr. Andrew Hill:  Sort of.

Dr. Justin Marchegiani:  Sort of?

Dr. Andrew Hill:  I would call it sort of, you know, it’s primal or Paleo or keto–

Dr. Justin Marchegiani:  Right.

Dr. Andrew Hill:  But I don’t think you actually need to be in ketogenesis to reap all the benefits.

Dr. Justin Marchegiani:  Uh-hmm.

Baris Harvey:  Uh-hmm.

Dr. Andrew Hill:  I just think you need to avoid spiking your blood sugar.

Baris Harvey:  Yeah.

Dr. Andrew Hill:  And so I tell folks when they ask for specific numbers.  Okay, I don’t have any more than 20 grams of carbohydrates at any one sitting and keep your overall carbohydrates to about 75 grams a day, and if you’re an athlete to about a hundred or a little more a day.  But basically don’t spike your blood sugar ever and that keeps the insulin system sensitive and signaling, and then you don’t really have to worry about all of the inflammation issues, all the oxidation issues, all the insulinogenic problems that come.  I mean, a lot of the diseases of aging are insulinogenic.  You know, cancer, diabetes.  These things can all be sort of managed by managing high-quality fats and keeping sugars out of your, you know, system and this is true of not even the–the, you know, the big ones like cancer and diabetes, but there’s at least some evidence Alzheimer’s is mediated by blood sugar issues in the brain.

Dr. Justin Marchegiani:  Really.

Baris Harvey:  Uh-hmm.

Dr. Andrew Hill:  A type 3 diabetes if you will.

Dr. Justin Marchegiani:  Yes.

Dr. Andrew Hill:  And so, you know, it’s really, really critical to, in my opinion, avoid spiking your blood sugar and get enough–enough high-quality fuel sources that really means fat.

Baris Harvey:  Uh-hmm.

Dr. Andrew Hill:  And I would say, you know, if you’re concerned about the quality of your fats and it’s too much to think about to do this kind of diet, then simply draw a hard line on carbohydrates and in the absence of any excess sugar, even low-quality fats won’t do that much damage, you know?

Dr. Justin Marchegiani:  Uh-hmm.

Dr. Andrew Hill:  You could probably be eating highly saturated fats, nothing but bacon all day long and if you had no sugar coming in, I don’t think you would cause any issues with like, you know, heart or–

Dr. Justin Marchegiani:  Right.

Dr. Andrew Hill:  Anything else, or even cholesterol.  I–I think it’s really the sugar that’s that, you know.  In the 70s, we–we vilified fat.  Everything became, you know, low-fat diets–

Baris Harvey:  Uh-hmm.

Dr. Andrew Hill:  From that point and if you plot the low-fat diet incidents in this country and the incidence in metabolic syndrome, diabetes, and other problems like that, the curve overlap perfectly just about, so it was essentially a poor marketing message that got into public minds by a couple of, you know, poor doctors in the 70s and 80s and we’ve been paying for it ever since.  I mean, I think the cost of–on Western health has been in the billions because we’ve been avoiding fat.

Baris Harvey:  Uh-hmm.

Dr. Andrew Hill:  And I think we made the wrong, you know, it was the wrong choice.  It was the wrong villain to paint and we would–we should have really pointed at sugar as–as the culprit and now we’re just starting to correct that, and I wouldn’t be surprised if the next 10-20 years we see a big drop in the metabolic syndrome that Westerners tend to have, so–

Baris Harvey:  Yeah, definitely.  So we–we went over like some of the training modalities, some of the chemical substances you can use such as the truBrain that you guys offer and know there’s some other things that the diet–

Dr. Andrew Hill:  Uh-hmm.

Baris Harvey:  I know that one thing that we talked about before was possible recovering from–from different disorders.  But what about brain injury?  So for example, I play college football.

Dr. Andrew Hill:  Yeah.

Baris Harvey:  I get hit in the head way too often.

Dr. Andrew Hill:  Yeah.

Baris Harvey:  It’s probably not making me any better–

Dr. Andrew Hill:  It’s not, yeah.  It’s not good for you.

Baris Harvey:  I’m pretty–

Dr. Andrew Hill:  Just–just laying it out there.

Baris Harvey:  I’m pretty sure just–just, if I grab the computer and shook it around, it probably wouldn’t fix things.  Things can probably can go wrong.  You–you have people that go in there and receive benefits, can you re-wire it, could you fix the problems that are caused by some of these–

Dr. Andrew Hill:  I have worked–

Baris Harvey:  brain injuries?

Dr. Andrew Hill:  With–I have worked with traumatic head injuries before, close head injuries and things, you can make changes in biofeedback and neurofeedback, absolutely.

Baris Harvey:  Uh-hmm.

Dr. Andrew Hill:  It’s a longer road, you know.

Baris Harvey:  Yeah.

Dr. Andrew Hill:  Your–your–it’s not 20 sessions and you’re done.  It’s more like like, you know, 60, 100, 120 and you’re working on the individual things like the fatigue that shows up in the afternoon and some of the, you know, maybe if it’s–if it’s frontal damage and the executive function stuff.  It’s a little bit more of a slog through sort of dysregulated tissue and you have to work a little harder, you know, more sessions, longer, but yes, you absolutely can make pretty big changes in brains that have received some injury, but just for you, let me–let me give you some advice here.  In terms of the concussions or getting your–your bell rung–

Baris Harvey:  Uh-hmm.

Dr. Andrew Hill:  Upon playing sports.  Getting a concussion, a mild concussion, or you know, having a mild injury like that, it’s not the worst thing in the world the first time.

Dr. Justin Marchegiani:  Mmm.

Baris Harvey:  Yeah.

Dr. Andrew Hill:  The danger comes from the next one.  You really need–because this is–there’s sort of inflammatory cascade in the brain and everything gets sort of, you know, inflamed and swollen and the damage that can then be caused is greater.

Baris Harvey:  Uh-hmm.

Dr. Andrew Hill:  And so, I forget–I forget the number of weeks is but I think it’s like 4 or 5 weeks after a–a concussion, that’s the danger window.  It’s at least 3 weeks long.  So, really–

Baris Harvey:  Wow.

Dr. Andrew Hill:  After getting even a mild concussion–

Baris Harvey:  Uh-hmm.

Dr. Andrew Hill:  You should not expose yourself to risk of impact for another few weeks.

Baris Harvey:  It’s funny because the concussion protocol, really if you have a concussion that they often do in sports especially football–

Dr. Andrew Hill:  Uh-hmm.

Baris Harvey:  Because I’ve had team mates that have concussions, and you’re supposed to sit out for at least 1 week but then of course next week you’re totally fine.

Dr. Andrew Hill:  Right.

Baris Harvey:  And–and so–so that–that’s a scary thing.

Dr. Andrew Hill:  But your brain is still swollen–

Baris Harvey:  Exactly.

Dr. Andrew Hill:  And that hit you get in practice 2 weeks later–

Baris Harvey:  Yeah.

Dr. Andrew Hill:  That doesn’t like concussion, just did more damage than–than the concussion did, one that did you received.

Baris Harvey:  Yeah, it’s almost like, like breaking–

Dr. Andrew Hill:  And that–I mean, this is long-term major, major, major damage if you’re a sports person, you know–

Dr. Justin Marchegiani:  Mmm.

Dr. Andrew Hill:  If you’re a fall guy receiving hits, you know, twice a week for many years.  You are going to be impaired–

Baris Harvey:  Uh-hmm.

Dr. Andrew Hill:  In 20 years significantly and you’re probably gonna have some very, very major drawbacks.

Baris Harvey:  Yeah.

Dr. Justin Marchegiani:  And I think that’s a really–

Dr. Andrew Hill:  If you receive–uh-hmm?

Dr. Justin Marchegiani:  Yeah, I think that’s a really important thing that I wanna just highlight there, Doc.  I think that we’re seeing a silent epidemic with a lot of these contact sports with football and I want you to comment–

Dr. Andrew Hill:  Yeah.

Dr. Justin Marchegiani:  This in a sec that, you know, people out there, league officials are saying, “Hey, it’s not a big deal,” but these–these guys, they’re–they’re bigger, they’re faster, they’re stronger, they’re hitting–

Dr. Andrew Hill:  Yup.

Dr. Justin Marchegiani:  Each other harder, and we have to remember, people listening about half of your brain are immune cells.  These microglia cells–

Dr. Andrew Hill:  Yeah.

Dr. Justin Marchegiani:  That when you get turned on, it’s very hard to turn them off.

Dr. Andrew Hill:  Exactly.

Dr. Justin Marchegiani:  So I want you to touch upon the–the microglia, the immune cells and also about this–the epidemic of these athletes and the head injuries.

Dr. Andrew Hill:  Yeah.

Dr. Justin Marchegiani:  Can you talk about that?

Dr. Andrew Hill:  Well, I mean, it’s really–it’s–it’s–it’s true, it’s real.  There is an epidemic of teen athletes who then end up sort of impaired in college and–and, you know, professional athlete who are then impaired in later life.  I would say the NFL is very aware of this.  Yes, coaches have been saying, “Not a big deal.  Not a big deal.”  But for the past few years, there have been studies showing that. “Okay, actually it’s a big deal.”  The NFL has a, you know, business incentives to not recognize it as a big deal.

Dr. Justin Marchegiani:  Absolutely.

Dr. Andrew Hill:  And in fact there’s this organization that sort of helps players sue for money–

Dr. Justin Marchegiani:  Mmm.

Dr. Andrew Hill:  When they’ve been injured and I believe, I–there’s a–there’s a football player whose name escapes me who actually is an adviser to a brand new neurofeedback company that does some really nice, you know, technology and I–he was giving a talk at the big neurofeedback conference called ISNR this last fall and he said, “Okay, look.  In the NFL when a player sues, the NFL organization just delays, delays, delays, delays, and the strategy of delaying for years until the person dies.”  Because these guys with head injuries die young.  You know, die at 45 and 50 and 60, not 80.  And so there’s been a strategy and how.  It’s just simply delaying those legal battles until the person dies.  And you know, I–I would–I would argue that the NFL is–is being forced to face the massive epidemic of head injuries and this is being discussed, you know, at–at high school sports levels, too.  They’re talking about maybe making college a–a touch or flag sport at the-at the high school level or even college level.  So I think they we’re becoming more and more aware of what’s happening with repetitive head injury like that, but I don’t think it’s yet, like you said, yet fully gotten into the, you know, acceptance because if a person gets a concussion playing football, they should set out for a few weeks and that’s not happening, right?  So–

Dr. Justin Marchegiani:  And also the conventional responses, “Oh, put on some sunglasses and sit in the dark.”  Where it’s like, “Hey, like, maybe we can do some high dose, you know, nutrients to help attenuate the inflammation?  Maybe we can add in some curcumin or some turmeric or some fish oil.

Dr. Andrew Hill:  Yup.  Yeah, very possibly.  Very possibly.  I mean, of course, we’re now in the medical space but there’s lots of things that are anti-inflammatory.  There’s lots of things that can be done.  And I think in general when you talk about the brain, when you finally deal with an issue, you nee to, you know, be aware of the idea that the more interventions you bring in, generally the faster changes happen.  So there should be a diet intervention and a neurofeedback intervention and anti-inflammatories, and and maybe specific drugs to shut down the inflammatory cytokines and post-concussion states.  So, you know, many things are often useful to bring to bay are not simply, you know, monotherapy is when talking about the brain.

Baris Harvey:  Uh-hmm.  Definitely.  It–it’s funny because if Ali were to–to break their leg, you went in just like, “Okay, you’re–you’re about good, run on it, and then, you know, jump on it again.”

Dr. Andrew Hill:  Yeah.

Baris Harvey:  And all of a sudden, yeah. And then the second time comes around it’s much, much worse or it’s very sensitive but because we can’t directly see it–

Dr. Andrew Hill:  We can’t see it.

Baris Harvey:  Yeah.

Dr. Justin Marchegiani:  Right, exactly.

Baris Harvey:  People push it under the rug.

Dr. Andrew Hill:  And this is also why we don’t, you know, treat people have mental illnesses very positively.  “Oh, you know, you’re depressed, get over it.”

Baris Harvey:  Exactly.

Dr. Andrew Hill:  Well, if you have a broken arm–

Dr. Justin Marchegiani:  Right.

Dr. Andrew Hill:  You wouldn’t get over it, it would be like, “Hey, let’s take care of you.”  But in terms of, you know, dramatic ADHD or anxiety or PTSD or depression or even just mild, “I’m having a day.”  You know, there’s this lack of understanding that there’s real physiology behind that and that you can do things and, you know, just like you have oral hygiene, brush and floss your teeth.  You kinda need mental hygiene.  You kinda need to be developing a meditation practice or, you know, other, you know, kinds of things to keep your brain health up, so to speak.

Baris Harvey:  Uh-hmm.

Dr. Justin Marchegiani:  I think what you just hit there, doc, but–with the meditation.  So we get people at home that get a little bit confused with how to meditate or what the best way is.  There’s a cool app–

Dr. Andrew Hill:  Uh-hmm.

Dr. Justin Marchegiani:  Out there called Headspace which kinda really makes meditation really simple for people.  Check that out on the–at the iTunes store.

Dr. Andrew Hill:  Sure.

Dr. Justin Marchegiani:  What’s your–what’s your take on meditation?  Like Meditation 101, t his is my first time doing it–

Dr. Andrew Hill:  Yup.

Dr. Justin Marchegiani:  How do I do it?

Dr. Andrew Hill:  Okay, so yeah, meditation, you know, what it’s not is getting to a mind to a blank state.  Folks often think that, “Oh, you know, meditation, it’s about being blank-minded, about having no thoughts.”  It’s not the goal nor is it the practice.  It’s true that as you learn to do it and become better at meditating, your mind does become a little more spacious, but the practice of meditation is actually attention-training and by that I mean you pick some object, some–something static like the sensation on your upper lip as your breath passes it or your belly rising and falling with your breath or so–a spot of color in the wall or the sound of, I don’t know, car passing by out the window.  Whatever it is, you pick some stimulus and you hold your attention on it.  So I would–I would say as a definition that attention is paying attention–

Dr. Justin Marchegiani: Mmm.

Dr. Andrew Hill:  Sorry, I would say as a definition mindfulness is paying attention in a specific way to the present moment on purpose and operationally, the active meditation mindfulness is simply picking something to focus on and focusing on it, holding it in your attention and then when you notice that you’ve gotten distracted, you know, you have a mind, so it starts to fantasize or dream or wish or want, whenever you notice you’ve drifted away from your focus as in the meditation object, you put down the distraction and bring your attention back to that object and–and that is simply the rep of meditation is, “Oh, I’ve gotten distracted, back to the object, back to watching my breath or back to watching, you know, a spot of color or thinking of a sound or something.”  It doesn’t really matter what the object is per se, and if you think about sort of classic forms of meditation, historical forms, then you can kinda correlate or, you know, a translate modern versus ancient techniques and they’re all just attention-training.  So focusing on the present time, sort of like a fluid, you know, watching the breath rise and fall.  That’s just present time awareness or Vipassana classically.

Dr. Justin Marchegiani:  Uh-hmm.

Dr. Andrew Hill:  Also known as insight meditation.

Baris Harvey:  Uh-hmm.

Dr. Andrew Hill:  Samatha which is single point awareness, would pick a more–a very narrow focus, and where Vipassana is helping you train up the flexibility of your attention.  Samatha or single point awareness helping you train the stability, the–the precision, the focus aspect of your attention.  Now the classic technique called Metta is loving-kindness and that’s about picking a feeling tone, an emotional state that you’re focusing on.  But in all of these cases, you’re really just sort of training your, you know, stability, flexibility, concentration of your attending resources and getting more control over what is normally for many people more of a reactive process internally and making yourself, you know, the–the phrase I use is more intention, less momentum–

Baris Harvey:  Uh-hmm.

Dr. Andrew Hill:  Internally.  But it’s not getting your mind to a blank state.  That comes a little bit as you learn to do it but the rep, the practice is attending, noticing when you’ve distracted and then re-attending.  It’s not as you have to sit in, you know, an ashram for 6 months at a time to get the benefits here.  20 minutes a day is probably sufficient to reap the vast majority of benefits that are showing up in the literature for–for meditation, and those benefits start to show up within a few weeks.  So, you know, 15-20 minutes a morning, in a few weeks you’re gonna have a different brain.

Dr. Justin Marchegiani:  And when you do it, doc, are you just sitting there and breathing and just focusing on the breath or–

Dr. Andrew Hill:  Yeah, when I do, I am–and the way that I often teach, and if folks go to the Alternatives Brain Institute website, I have a cheat sheet on there with this instruction.  But what I do is I set a timer for 20 minutes.  It plays three bells at the beginning and the end, and one bell at five minutes and I sit upright with my back unsupported, so nice and balanced, I’m not gonna fall sleep or anything, and I watch a very narrow sensation of breath crossing my upper lip.  I don’t follow the sensation into the body.  I simply feel breath tickling the little hairs in the upper lip, you know, and watch that very narrow, very precise point, and I do that for about 5 minutes, and then the single bell rings.  When that bell rings I switch my attention to a more open focus of Vipassana where I’m watching the rise and fall of the belly.  And what I often do for the belly or for Vipassana is I’ll sort of breathe in, breathe out, and then count that cycle one.  And then again, holding my attention on the sensation of breathing, I breathe in, I breathe out, two.  And I continue that as long as I haven’t gotten distracted but the moment I notice I’m, you know, dreaming, wishing, planning, fantasizing, getting hungry, whatever it is, I go, “Oops,” I put down the distraction, go back to the breath and I start my count over again.  And it’s rare that I can get to 10 by the end of about, you know, 20 minutes of meditation.  So, it’s–it’s work, you know, it’s–it’s effortful control of the attention, that’s really what I’m trying to accomplish, not getting to any particular state.

Dr. Justin Marchegiani:  That makes a lot of sense.

Baris Harvey:  Uh-hmm.

Dr. Justin Marchegiani:  That makes a lot of sense.  Baris, do you have any questions you wanted to follow up with?

Baris Harvey:  Yeah, I wanted to redirect to one specific question.

Dr. Andrew Hill:  Uh-hmm.

Baris Harvey:  And I–I don’t know if you’ve done any–anything with this but there might be a possibility being that you are in California, correct?

Dr. Andrew Hill:  Yes.

Baris Harvey:  So I wanted to get a quick take and I know there are some stigma in–in political views behind the use of–of cannabis.

Dr. Andrew Hill:  Uh-hmm.

Baris Harvey:  But have you had the chance to measure that maybe what’s happening at the time cannabis is being used with the work you’ve done?

Dr. Andrew Hill:  It’s funny we’re actually about to launch a big research study here at the Alternatives Brain Institute looking at cannabis users.

Baris Harvey:  Uh-hmm.

Dr. Andrew Hill:  One of the really strange things we discovered in neurofeedback–

Baris Harvey:  Uh-hmm.

Dr. Andrew Hill:  Is that just a few sessions of neurofeedback abolishes the tolerance to cannabis.  It’s just gone.  Like done, like–like you’re a teenager again with your first joint.  And a lot of people in California, Southern California especially are, you know, hard-core recreational, you know–

Baris Harvey:  Uh-hmm.

Dr. Andrew Hill:  Users.

Dr. Justin Marchegiani:  Mmm.

Dr. Andrew Hill:  And I tell them, “Hey, be really careful, we’re now returning your brain.  You’re gonna have no tolerance.”  “Ah, I don’t believe, I don’t believe, I don’t believe, you have an expert, leave me alone.”  And they come back the next day, “Oh, man, you weren’t kidding.”

Baris Harvey:  Oh, yeah.

Dr. Andrew Hill:  You know, so this sort of making the brain more flexible, more plastic, it really rolls back all the tolerance you’ve–you’ve acquired.

Baris Harvey:  Uh-hmm.

Dr. Andrew Hill:  But yes, I have looked a little bit of brain activity.  When you smoke weed, your brain goes into alpha and alpha is used for lots of things in the brain.  There’s really 4 or 5 different types of alpha functionally.  But we think of it in general as an idling rhythm.  You know, the other cars in the driveway, it’s running great but not going anywhere.

Baris Harvey:  Uh-hmm.

Dr. Andrew Hill:  If you’re trying to be in neutral, that’s wonderful, you know.  But if you’re trying to drive down the highway, not so good.  And so with your eyes closed, the brain also produces lots of alpha especially in the visual cortex because there’s no input, it’s idling cortex.  When you open your eyes, that alpha should get suppressed and be replaced with beta as your processing stuff coming in through the eyes.  If you stay in alpha mode when you open your eyes, we call that inattentive ADHD.  But it looks identical to me subjectively for folks that are long-term chronic stoners.  That–

Baris Harvey:  Uh-huh.

Dr. Andrew Hill:  Like a half a beat slow, a little checked out, slow detention, hard to shift into gear.  The brain looks the same.  I can’t really tell the difference between an inattentive, you know, ADHD person and a long-term chronic stoner–

Baris Harvey:  Uh-hmm.

Dr. Andrew Hill:  Without asking them, “How long have you been like this?”  Because if they’ve been like this since birth then they’re inattentive ADHD, and if they’ve been like this for the past 3 years they’ve been smoking pot, then it’s an acquired issue from cannabis.

Baris Harvey:  Uh-hmm.

Dr. Andrew Hill:  So, you know, I–I do see some negatives in that way of producing a, you know, an executive function sort of deficit, almost an acquired ADHD a little bit, in many people.  But I also think there’s many, you know, there’s good reasons people use it as well.  I don’t vilify the substance per se, and I certainly don’t vilify people’s use of substances.  People have used substances to alter brain since we have had brains.

Dr. Justin Marchegiani:  Right.

Baris Harvey:  Yeah.

Dr. Andrew Hill:  You know?

Baris Harvey:  It’s part of being human.

Dr. Andrew Hill:  Yeah, it’s about how you get control.  You know, I–I haven’t mentioned this in the podcast yet but we have another half of alternatives that does non 12 step outpatient work.

Baris Harvey:  Uh-hmm.

Dr. Andrew Hill:  And we actually teach people to drink.

Baris Harvey:  Yeah,

Dr. Andrew Hill:  So if you’ve been somebody who’s been abstaining from alcohol because you don’t think you can control your behavior, we actually will help you reintroduce it in a structured fashion and get control of behavior.  We haven’t done that in California for cannabis because it’s not legal recreationally for cannabis.

Baris Harvey:  Uh-hmm.

Dr. Andrew Hill:  But you know, there’s some things you can’t abstain that are hard sometimes to have a relationship with.

Baris Harvey:  Uh-hmm.

Dr. Andrew Hill:  Food is one.  You know, you can’t abstain from food.  I would never say, “Oh, you’re an addict,” you know, because you’re eating food.  No, no, no, no, no.  You got a problem with your relationship with a substance.  It can be food.  It can be sex.  It can be cannabis.  It can be alcohol.  It can be anything.  Your use of the substance or whatever it is, as my business partner here Dr. Kern says your magic elixir–doesn’t really matter what the elixir is that you’re using to alter yourself.  If you’re using it to avoid, you know, handling your–your reality, that’s a problem.

Baris Harvey:  Uh-hmm.

Dr. Andrew Hill:  If you’re using it to enjoy yourself at the end of the day, you know, I think it’s–that’s a human thing to do to some extent and I–I think that we need to not, you know, brand you as an addict just because you have a substance, you know, routine as long as the relationship with that substance is not compromised.  And you know, cannabis, yes, it has some drawbacks, but it’s–as substances that humans use go, not all that dramatic.

Baris Harvey:  Uh-hmm.

Dr. Andrew Hill:  I mean, your judgment is much less impaired on cannabis than alcohol, let’s say.  You know, no one’s ever died of liver failure from cannabis.  In fact, I don’t think anyone’s ever died from smoking cannabis, period.

Baris Harvey:  Yeah, exactly.

Dr. Andrew Hill:  And how many people died last week from smoking, alcohol?  You know, it’s–it’s a fairly dramatic difference.  So yes, I–I do think there’s things that can be done.  You know, but–but I wouldn’t worry too much about the–the healthy, moderate recreational or medical use of these things.

Baris Harvey:  Uh-hmm.

Dr. Andrew Hill:  I don’t think they’re necessarily anti-brain health.  It’s when you get outta control either in the amounts sort of changing your brain dramatically or you get outta control in why you’re using them.

Baris Harvey:  Uh-hmm.  Why that would be–

Dr. Andrew Hill:  To escape pain, boredom, you know–

Baris Harvey:  Yeah, that–

Dr. Andrew Hill:  That’s–that’s a problem.

Baris Harvey:  That–that–that–that’s a big issue, it’s the why.  I–I guess one more follow-up question.  Would it also be due to like the–because there’s so many different breeds of it and I know, in today’s age, people like stoners, they just enjoy that kind of idle feeling whereas some people want more pain or more–

Dr. Andrew Hill:  Uh-hmm.

Baris Harvey:  Help with.  Maybe some of the things I’ve mentioned before like the anxiety and ADHD maybe that’s–for some people, that might just be a small-term solution.  Could it also be some of these that they breed, they breed in a lot higher THC content than they did before in the past?  In the ratio of–

Dr. Andrew Hill:  What’s your–Yeah, and–and you know, this is a big deal.  I mean, I was having my technician, my lead tech here go through the literature on cannabis to help design our new study and a lot of researches on the 70s and it shows, okay, you know, the brain activity effects of smoking pot lasts about 40 minutes, and we look into this data and it just didn’t make sense based on what we know about pot and people’s subjective experience, and we dug a little bit deeper and most of the studies in the 70s use cannabis with about 2% THC.

Baris Harvey:  Yeah.

Dr. Andrew Hill:  I don’t know if you’re aware but in–in the average dispensary now–

Dr. Justin Marchegiani:  15 or 20, isn’t it?

Dr. Andrew Hill:  Yeah, that’s the average, is like 15–

Dr. Justin Marchegiani:  Hmm.

Dr. Andrew Hill:  But there’s been plenty of high end 20, 21, 22% strains.  So we’re at the point now where the average recreational user can use pot that is 10 times as much THC–

Baris Harvey:  Uh-hmm.

Dr. Andrew Hill:  As the–as like our parents did, let’s say in the 70s.

Baris Harvey:  Uh-hmm.

Dr. Andrew Hill:  And you know, it’s much more prevalent because if you were a pothead in the 70s you were still kind of a fringy person.  And nowadays, you might be a Grandma who has glaucoma, you know?

Baris Harvey:  Uh-hmm.

Dr. Justin Marchegiani:  Right.

Dr. Andrew Hill:  It’s not necessarily as the same relationship with society as it did, you know, 40 years ago.  So yes, major differences, we don’t really fully understand I think what’s happening with all these new strains and the effects in the brain, so Alternatives is definitely gonna do some work this spring on trying to quantify what those changes are in the brain.  And we’re gonna do full head EEGs, while people are smoking weed–

Baris Harvey:  Uh-hmm.

Dr. Andrew Hill:  To see what happens and see how we can affect their tolerance and try to have them, you know, do several weeks of neurofeedback to look in how their–their sense of being altered changes because, you know, for the most part, it’s a pretty innocuous drug.  It does seem to have some drawbacks the way people use it–

Baris Harvey:  Uh-hmm.

Dr. Andrew Hill:  Specifically smoking.  You know, smoking’s not the healthiest thing in the world.

Dr. Justin Marchegiani:  Uh-hmm.

Dr. Andrew Hill:  No matter what you’re smoking.

Baris Harvey:  Exactly.

Dr. Andrew Hill:  It does look like, you know–

Baris Harvey:  Burning something, right?

Dr. Andrew Hill:  Yeah, the carbon and coal and tar, whatever else, I mean I call the tar and other resins, now there’s something in cannabis that appears to be anti-carcinogenic even when you smoke it.  So it both causes the lung changes you get from burning things and re–and reduces the risk of them turning into cancerous cells.  So it’s a bit of ahead.  So it’s not as bad as smoking nicotine or, you know, anything else.  But it’s still not great.

Dr. Justin Marchegiani:  Yeah, right.

Dr. Andrew Hill:  And so, you now, talking to a dispensary here and they were like, “Yeah, man.”  You know, some–some users can only go after the absolute highest and most strong strain because they’ve been using, for like–

Dr. Justin Marchegiani:  Right.

Dr. Andrew Hill:  The medical reasons.

Baris Harvey:  Yeah.

Dr. Andrew Hill:  For so long that they have incredibly high tolerance.

Dr. Justin Marchegiani:  Tolerance, right.

Dr. Andrew Hill:  And you know from my perspective as a substance abuse professional, getting someone to reset their tolerance is key in helping them learn to become moderate in use.

Baris Harvey:  Yeah, that seems like the–

Dr. Andrew Hill:  And so we’re trying to validate this new technique for dropping this, you know, new technique for dropping tolerance for cannabis in the future.

Baris Harvey:  Yeah.  That would be–that would be awesome, because then you’re gonna have someone, like you said, too, smoking isn’t good, like if they can somehow, you know, maybe vaporize it and then have–if they had–went back to I guess the quote would be being a rookie again or lower their tolerance–

Dr. Andrew Hill:  Yeah.

Baris Harvey:  And then you’re now gonna have–

Dr. Andrew Hill:  Maybe you smoke 10% as much and you know, we get, you know, one-tenth of the smoke-inhaled or whatever, you know?

Baris Harvey:  Exactly.

Dr. Andrew Hill:  So–

Baris Harvey:  Exactly.

Dr. Justin Marchegiani:  Well, excellent, doc, and we really appreciate the interview here.  There’s some great information for all of our listeners.  Can you give us some websites at where our listeners can go to get more about you?  I think you also have a free trial on–on the truBrain products.  Can you talk about that?

Dr. Andrew Hill:  Yeah, sure.  It’s the truBrain.  T-R-U brain dot com.  We have 2 products, the original which is capsule.  It’s a regimen.  You take it twice a day and it’s sold on a subscription because it works better and better the longer you do it.  And then we have drinks, little 1 oz liquid drinks for folks that didn’t wanna swallow pills.  The other companies I’m involved with, Alternatives Behavioral Health.  The best place for your listeners to check that out is probably AlternativesBrainInstitute.com and you can sort of get more information about neurofeedback and EEGs there, about what I do.  And the folks who wanna check me out on social media, ask questions, you know, give me a hard time, whatever you feel like.  AndrewHillPhD at Twitter is my Twitter handle, @andrewhillphd.  So you can find me on Twitter, probably the easiest one to remember, and I’m happy to answer questions about brain health, neurofeedback, meditation.  You know, I’m sort of, I–I guess I’m the science guy who’s a brain hacker in the space now.  Most of the other brain hackers or biohackers out there are really interesting guys who’ve done a lot of work on themselves but–

Baris Harvey:  Uh-hmm.

Dr. Andrew Hill:  I think I’m kinda coming out of from the other perspective of doing the science validation, and I’m–I’m always happy to hear what people’s, you know, own bio hacking or, you know, brain fitness strategies and successes are.

Dr. Justin Marchegiani:  And Dr. Hill, thank you so much.  We appreciate your time and everyone listening, feel free and go to beyondwellnessradio.com/updates to get this episode as soon as it airs.  Thanks, Doc.

Dr. Andrew Hill:  Great.

Dr. Justin Marchegiani:  Appreciate it!

Dr. Andrew Hill:  Thanks, guys.  Appreciate it!  Nice talking to you.

Baris Harvey:  Thank you.

Dr. Justin Marchegiani:  Thanks.  Bye now.

Dr. Andrew Hill:  Take care.

 

 

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