How To Make Your Brain Work Better In Three Hours
    By Seth Roberts | August 22nd 2007 03:31 PM | 2 comments | Print | E-mail | Track Comments

    I did this experiment yesterday. It took the whole day but the results were clear by noon.

    At about 7 am I took 4 tablespoons of flaxseed oil (Spectrum Organic). I measured my mental function with a letter-counting test. Here is what happened.

    effect of flaxseed oil on reaction time

    My reaction times decreased 2-3 hours after drinking the flaxseed oil. Over the next 6-8 hours they returned to baseline.

    For cognoscenti, here are the accuracy data:

    effect of flaxseed oil on accuracy

    Accuracy was fairly constant.

    These results resemble earlier time-course measurements (here and here). What pleases me so much is not the confirmation — after the earlier two results I had found the dip a third time and had found that olive oil does not cause a dip — but how fast and clear the main result (the dip) was. I could have done a mere four tests (7, 8, 10, 11 am) and found interesting results — I knew that the 8 am test was too early to see a difference so it would have been two tests “before” and two “after”. Six hours of testing can say something interesting about what we should eat and how to make our brains work best.

    If you’ve been reading my blog ( you won’t be surprised that flaxseed oil helps; what’s new is how easily I can test a big wide world of foods. Salmon, trout, herring, fish oil, olive oil, canola oil, walnut oil, soybean oil, and so on. All sources of fat. Not to mention eggs.

    I take 4 tablespoons of flaxseed oil most days; I am not suffering from too little omega-3, as most people are. This improvement is on top of the improvement produced by getting enough omega-3 most days. If I stopped taking flaxseed oil, my mental function would slowly get worse, as an earlier experiment (here and here) showed.







    Georg von Hippel
    Are those numbers corrected for circadian changes in mental function? People tend to function better in the morning than in the afternoon, and not doing terribly well at night isn't a real surprise either. It would be more convincing to see a plot of the improvement that you obtain over the same time of day with no flaxseed oil.
    circadian function is a good point. also practice effects. how would you manage a placebo on yourself? And stats.

    I think there's something to self-experimentation, but it must be held to the same standards as other science.

    of course, blogging is a different matter :)