Of all the aspects of the human body, the brain is arguably the most important and least understood. While researchers and scientists have made great strides in the past decades, self-tracking your cognitive abilities as they change throughout the day and through variable manipulation can teach you a lot about yourself.
Maintaining the best practices to optimize your cognition can have profound impacts for your professional and personal lives. Clarity of thought, focus, attention, and memory are all aspects most people wish they had more of. If you plan on using nootropics to manipulate these variables, self tracking is the best way to check results.
By using a wide variety of cognitive assessment tasks, biohackers can better understand which practices improve cognitive abilities. While neuroscientists still have more thorough examinations to quantify cognitive abilities at a given moment, web and smart phone based tools are practical to use for everyone.
Web Based Cognitive Tools
For those with regular access to a computer and the willingness to fulfill cognitive tests online, there are two ideal solutions. There are many web-based cognitive tracking tools, but these two provide the most scientific and time effective methods.
The Quantified Mind website offers a wide variety of existing experiments which users can join immediately. This option is perfect for those who want to get started with the least set up. Make sure you check the session duration and number of sessions to see the required time investmet. Even though this is convenient, it leaves out a customized aspect.
In order to customize a study to your liking, scroll to the bottom of your page (whether you have created an account or not) and click the blue “Design Experiment” button for yourself. This will allow you to customize the variables and even share with others.
The tests on Quantified Mind are straightforward and typically time-effective. Once you finish a test, click on “save this result” to archive the data for later assessment. Over time, you will accumulate enough data within your experiment to see a difference in cognitive performance.
Cambridge Brain Sciences
For more advanced cognitive tests, the Cambridge Brain Sciences website is the best web-based option. The tests on the program assess four main areas, but I will focus on only three:
When testing memory, there are four main exams to take. The “digit span” test exercises verbal working memory (often used for remembering telephone numbers, names, etc), which is one of the most useful memory tests. The “paired associates” and “monkey ladder” tests require working memory, but are similar. The final “spatial span” memory test is also useful as well. For those in a time-crunch, “digit span” is a good place to start.
For reasoning, “odd one out” seems to be the best place to start. The “double trouble” test seems to overlap into concentration and the other two are useful, but perhaps not the best place to start. I encourage you to try them all if you have the interest and the time. You may find different results with varied tests (as is the case with more data collection of any kind).
There are three concentration tests and they are equally useful. The tests all have various different video and text instructions to get started.
Both Quantified Mind and Cambridge Brain Sciences are excellent resources, but are both computer-bound. I found myself struggling to maintain the daily data collection on the computer as it was easy to get sidetracked or lazy. Until these programs create smart phone applications, there are other alternatives that can be more practical for biohacking during your daily activities.
Smart Phone Application Cognitive Tools
The Cognition App is one of the most comprehensive cognitive self-tracking applications available. The app comes with dozens of different tests that can help measure hand-eye coordination, color/shape recognition, timing, and many more. This is the ideal practical biohacking app considering most of these tests only take about a minute to complete.
Once the test is complete, data is stored in a table. Unfortunately, there is no way to export the data so you may want to use a manual resource for collection. It costs $1.99, but you might find it worthwhile to track via smart phone.
Mind Metrics allows you to track alertness, attention, memory, and a combination of the three. The app creates a “alertness score” that is quantifiable, but functionality is rudimentary compared with the Cambridge Brain Sciences and Quantified Mind options.
The alertness tests utilize a “psychomotor vigilance test” while the attention and memory utilize an “n-back test”. Both are scientifically sound tools for tracking cognitive performance, but they are not robust through this smart phone app.
There are a wide range of variables that you can manipulate in order to improve your cognition. Trying intermittent fasting or cold shower therapy might do the trick, but it is your responsibility to track them one at a time. If you start adding too many changes, it is impossible to know whether your biohacking efforts are working!