I read a NY Times article today about tDCS or Transcranial Direct Current Stimulation. Basically, it involves putting on a thinking cap. This thinking cap has external electrodes on it which will transmit electro-magnetic radiation directly into your brain. This causes the neurons in the targeted regions to fire. Result: Improvements on mental performance tests. As I recall, these technologies were initially conducted with deep brain implants for helping patients with chronic depression who did not respond to medication, and the results bordered on miraculous. Now they are testing these technologies to help the elderly forestall conditions like Parkinson’s disease. See: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/11/03/magazine/jumper-cables-for-the-mind.html?_r=0 Maybe they will come out with just a thinking cap for the rest of us who like to relax in the cool of the evening and consider the universe.
For what it is worth, there are do–it-yourself neurologists who are building homemade versions of these stimulators. That strikes me as inherently risky since it is important to know precisely where you are pointing the stimulation. However, just search on “Youtube DIY transcranial” and you will probably see some.
Finally, if you are looking for an over-the-counter brain booster, there are two no-prescription items that I can suggest. The first is a chemical compound known as Piracetam, and the Wikipedia article describing it is here. I don’t take any vitamins or prescriptions, but I have taken some Piracetam and can say that it actually works for me. The chemical enhances acetylcholine uptake which is necessary for memory formation. I have found that it not only helps with memory, but provides a “lift” like caffeine without any of the jitters, and for some people it seems to have almost an anti-depressant effect. Anyway, because the body tolerates the compound so well and is safe, the FDA deregulated it almost 10 years ago. It has had double blind placebo controlled studies as I recall that showed effectiveness for aphasia. If you buy some and take it, you may also want to buy some choline or lecithin (natural source of choline) which is the precursor for the acetylcholine which you will burn up. Note: You might ask how I found out about this compound, and the answer is simple. My mother had a stroke and she took this to help her overcome some of her aphasia and other loss. Years later, when I saw that the FDA had deregulated it and made it like aspirin, I decided to give it a try.
Second, a natural (i.e., not man-made) alternative is flower pollen. This is sold as “bee pollen” since the bees collect it, but it is simply pollen from flowers. It’s rich in amino acids. If you have pollen allergies, it would probably be a bad idea to consume it. A whopping tablespoon of that with some orange juice will enhance your thinking one to two hours later. Or, if you want to dream in technicolor, take a teaspoon about an hour before you go to bed. (Don’t take more than that or you may not get a good night’s sleep.) You won’t have an altered state, but don’t be surprised if you have a wonderful insight into a topic of consideration.