Having enjoyed the film, and written about it before, I noticed with hopeful anticipation that, “Limitless” has a spin-off TV series from CBS, shown in the UK by Sky One. After having watched the first three episodes it seems like the writers have missed an opportunity and turned it into yet another crime drama that sees new lead character, Brian Finch working for the FBI. I haven’t completely given up on it, as there is a potentially interesting link with the film. U.S. Senator Eddie Morra (the main character in the film, played by Bradley Cooper) has, as-yet undisclosed, nefarious plans for Finch.
If you haven’t seen the film or TV series, the basic premise is that a secret drug called NZT-48 opens the full potential of the user’s brain. The drug essentially has three effects.
- It gives the user perfect recall of everything he has ever read, heard, or seen.
- It improves perception allowing the user to take leaps of intuition and make novel connections.
- It enables the user to assimilate information at an accelerated rate.
Could NZT ever exist in real life? Perhaps, but it’s a long way off. Drug use in sport had seen remarkable gains in performance, most notably for cheats in cycling and athletics. The mix of chemicals in the brain is far more subtle than in the muscles of the body. So far scientists have discovered around 100 different molecule types that act as neurotransmitters. So-called smart drugs are far from achieving the fictional results. They can improve concentration but often with bad side effects such as headaches, insomnia and skin rashes. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-35091574
If drug use isn’t the answer, can we achieve the miraculous gains some other way? Yes, to some degree. Let’s re-examine the three fictional effects:
- Perfect Recall.
It is possible to access ‘lost memories’. One way to do this is to create a quick fire Mind Map capturing as many associations with the forgotten thing as you can. For example, if it’s someone’s name you’ve forgotten. What was his/her gender and age? What did he/she look like and what was the sound of his/her voice? Where did you first meet? What were the person’s hobbies and profession? How would you describe his/her character? Do you know any other family members or mutual friends? The more surrounding information you have, the more possible connections are activated, each of which can link back to the desired information in your brain. This is not perfect recall of everything in the past but is a starting point. Going forward, it is easier to store new memories in a way that enables you to access them with less effort in the future. Use mnemonics to encode new memories in fantasy stories and mental movies. Review regularly to reinforce and sustain the memory trace
- Heightened Perception
You can develop your sensual intelligence. Art is mostly about developing you ability to see and observe your environment. Learning to paint or draw will improve your visual acuity. Notice and distinguish different shades of colour. Listen to a wide range of music. Lean to identify different birds from their song. Distinguish the scents of different flowers and essential oils. Notice the smells in nature. Experiment tasting different foods and wine in moderation. Wear natural fabrics with varying textures to stimulate the skin. Think of the different feeling between cotton, silk, wool and denim. Be aware of your intuition and when it is correct, try to analyse why and what led you to feel or sense that you did.
- Accelerated Learning
There is a lot of literature about accelerated learning. Briefly this can be summarised as follows:
Clear distractions and get into a relaxed but alert frame of mind. Typically producing alpha-brainwaves. Listening to music can help achieve the best state of mind for learning. Deeper relaxation into theta-waves is good for daydreaming and creative insights.
Use the full range sensory modalities. Typically visual, auditory and kinaesthetic stimulus. (see 2. above)
Develop your multiple intelligences (creative, personal, social, spiritual, physical, numerical, spatial, verbal and, as already mentioned, sensual) to process what you learn and take ownership of it.
Use memory techniques to store leaning effectively. (see 1. above)
Make use of what you learn. Actions reinforce skills, knowledge and confidence.
Review to retain (see 1. above).
Engage with the material. Plan and visualise how to put it into practice.
Whilst you may not match he movie’s fantasy of being limitless, if you employ the strategies above in the real world your brain will have no limits.