42 Different Ways To Build A Better Brain, The Problem With Modern Smart Drugs, Hacking Your Neurons & More.

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Click here for the full written transcript of this podcast episode.

My guest on today's podcast believes there's a big problem in the field of nootropics, smart drugs and cognitive enhancement: namely that the entire movement has followed some pretty extreme reductionist tendencies.

When it comes to popping pills and using biohacks and self-quantification to make your body and brain smarter, research has indeed proliferated. There is a dizzying plethora of scientific findings focused on individual neurotransmitters, mechanisms, parts of the neurotransmission cycle, cell walls, receptor sites, brain/blood flow, and hundreds of other isolated variables.

In other words, there are lots of parts and plenty of “findings” and “mechanisms.” But to date, there exists no prevailing meta-theory of the complex interactions that make up the whole of cognitive enhancement. Many various disconnected insights have so far fallen short of addressing the complex dynamics of all the interacting parts. For this reason, most nootropic, smart drug and brain biohacking products are developed to narrowly optimize one aspect of cognitive capability, only to have unexpected drawbacks, deleterious side effects and impacts on other areas.

By performing a principled meta-analysis and synthesis of existing research, we can better understand the complex dynamics and emergent homeostatic relationships within the brain and from these kinds of insights we can yield a truly advanced complex meta-theory of cognitive enhancement. Daniel Schmachtenberger, my guest on this podcast, wants to do just this.

Daniel began seriously studying health and neurology when he became afflicted with neurological and autoimmune illnesses that had no known solutions in either allopathic or complementary medicine. The insights that lead to his healing came from developing a new model for understanding physiology and pathology, which he then applied to helping many people address various forms of complex illness and optimize their capabilities beyond their previous healthy baselines.

Daniel was the academic dean for a college of mind-body medicine and has consulted for many cutting edge integrative doctors and medical clinics to help find novel solutions for complex cases. He created and ran a cutting edge think tank developing complex systems solutions for environmental and social issues, and has directed a transdisciplinary group of scholars on a philosophy of mind project addressing core questions of mind / brain interface and developed what he calls “an axiomatic reformulation for the epistemology of neuroscience”. He has a significant background with and love for psychedelics, nootropics, meditation, depth psychology, and all effective tools for evolving states and stages of consciousness and evolving the human experience.

Daniel focuses in bringing together the best scientific research on each individual mechanism and pathway supporting cognitive development, and integrating them into a whole systems view, a complex framework of integrative neuroscience and one of the most comprehensive nootropic stacks ever made called “Qualia“.

During our discussion, you'll discover:

-What a “dream nootropic” would look like if it were to target every single component of cognitive enhancement…[16:55 & 68:45]

-How nootropics can go beyond an acute effect and actually chronically change your brain structure or “wiring”, including neuron and synapse development, increased mitochondrial ATP, healthier cell structures and increased neural complexity…[21:00 & 49:30]

-How you can actually induce the creation of new brain stem cells to heal things like traumatic brain injury, excitotoxicity and oxidative damage to the brain…[24:54]

-Two easy ways to test how your central nervous system and memory recall is responding to certain compounds you consume…[27:45]

-My personal experience with the “God pill” that Daniel developed…[42:45]

-What makes something a “nootropic” compound vs. just a nutrient or a vitamin or a smart drug…[47:00 & 59:35]

-The little-known substance know as the “love drug” that can increase euphoria and empathy…[50:18]

-A compound that can be bound to caffeine to cause caffeine to last longer without a crash…[52:20]

-The little-known effects a nootropic can have that you may not know about, such as decreased tendency to procrastinate, increased stress resilience, lucid dreaming, and beyond…[55:20 ]

-How Vitamin D delivered in a form called “Microencapsulated Cholecalciferol” can act on specific brain targets…[61:25]

-Which form of magnesium is best for neural targeting…[74:55]

-Why it's absolutely crucial that you include something called “choline donors” when you consume a nootropic…[78:00]

-The actual clinical research behind the Qualia formulation that Daniel helped to develop, and why it must be taken as a 1-2 combo…[82:25]

-Whether this stuff safe to take if you compete in sports sanctioned by organization such as WADA, USADA, the Olympics, etc…[86:35]

-And much more!

Resources from this episode:

Qualia Nootropic Supplement

(use code GREENFIELD2018 for 10% off any single order or monthly subscription – and note that the subscription is already discounted 33%, so GREENFIELD2018 gets you an ADDITIONAL 10% off!)

NeuroStem stem cell drugs

The Vielight Neuro device

The Muse meditation headband

Do you have questions, thoughts or feedback for Daniel or me? Leave your comments below and one of us will reply!

Ask Ben a Podcast Question

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64 thoughts on “42 Different Ways To Build A Better Brain, The Problem With Modern Smart Drugs, Hacking Your Neurons & More.

  1. Paula A Thornton says:

    Feedback on HelthIQ, after a 5-month process for a quote (massive time securing years of medical records), I was quoted high normal rates. My disqualifying event was the fact that over 7 years ago I had tested positive for sleep-apnea (something I consider questionable as it does not differentiate from Inflammation vs. real obstructive conditions). Having cleaned up my diet resulting in a healthier weight and minimizing massive inflammation, I no longer needed CPAP therapy. They needed a new test to prove this. Without insurance this was not possible.

    Just yesterday I got a flyer in my annual Costco statement for the same insurance carrier at significantly lower rates. If you’re a Costco member, save yourself a lot of time and grief.

  2. Stefanie says:

    Can you consume caffeine while taking Qualia?

  3. Ted Lynch says:


    Please advise on the effects of Qualia on blood platelet levels.

    I am considering to purchase for my sister who is a 34 yr old female who just had a stroke and lost motor skills in the left side of her body.

    We are monitoring her PTT closely and I need to know if you understand how Qualia will effect this.

    Her stroke was massive and we are desperate, please advise. Also any other suggestions on brain regeneration are much appreciated.


    Ted Lynch


  4. I very much appreciated Daniel’s emphasis on a more natural approach to getting where we wants to go. The bias towards patent-able medicine has left us with a thousand supplements of isolated and sometimes adulterated ingredients that just address a single pathway or symptom or ingredient instead of approaching things like nature does with a synergistic blend of ingredients that make it both safer and more generally beneficial. My hats off to Daniel and his efforts to approach a product that is more in line with natures synergistic modality.

  5. Stev Martinez says:

    Hey Ben,

    Little late, but I just listened to the podcast, very interesting. Since its been a few months since it aired, what are your thoughts now? Are you still taking it?



    P.s. Im also from the 509

    1. Yep, 2-3x/week quite regularly. I love the stuff.

  6. Rachel says:

    I have been waiting patiently to finish nursing my baby (now 18 months) just so I could try Qualia. The time has finally come!! I tried it today for the first time, and was super happy with the results. I felt very focused, did like 5 things I was procrastinating on for months and finally got all my seed starts planted after they sat on the counter for a week. Our oven even blew up (literally caught on fire), and within 3 hours I had it out of the house, has someone pick it up for free from Craigslist and had a new one to replace it. And bonus, our house didnt burn down! One final surprising side effect: I had to sing tonight at church, which has always come naturally for me. But tonight something was just different. I was totally dialed in, sang with more focus and freedom than I probably ever have, and literally had people crying all over the room. I say this not to be boastful, just to say I dont think its ever been so easy to be creative and sing the exact cool licks and runs that are in my head, but sometimes dont make it out for fear of screwing it up. It kind of blew my mind. I am sold on Qualia!! Thanks for the great discount too Ben!

  7. Garry says:

    Would you consider all-in-one products? I noticed experience nootropic users tell beginners to stay away from them because they are not as effective as creating your own stack. What are your thoughts?

    1. Hi Garry, Yes, this is the all in one I really like: https://bengreenfieldfitness.com/2016/11/what-is-…

  8. Judy Nanney says:

    Hey Ben,

    Just purchased this and am super pumped!

    Do you have any more information on that “god pill” you took at the biohacker conference? Sounds amazing

    1. Yep, you can read more about it here: https://bengreenfieldfitness.com/2016/11/what-is-… – let me know if you have any more questions!

  9. Susan says:

    I see a few older women are asking about hot flashes, trouble sleeping, low hormones, and other Menopause Symptoms.

    Some general advice for your readers:

    These are signs of low ATP in the hypothalmus and mild ME/CFS, which is believed to be viral based, & comes out later in life, just like Shingles. Men call it ‘Night Sweats’. Nootropics may help with the brain fog (everyone is different), but check out the late Dr. Martin Lerner’s Protocol of 5 supplements to help with the underlying cause of the other issues (low ATP), along with adding Iodorol (12.5mg iodine+iodide) and 200mcg Selenium per day if showing clinical signs of being hypothyroid. It is worth trying for a few months.

    Dr. Sarah Myhill in the UK has an excellent website on ME/CFS, and an ATP Profile blood test (by Acumen Labs) available for her patients in the UK; It is not yet available elsewhere.

    Dr. Jacob Teitelbaum has a great website and books about treating ME/CFS, too. He says if you are incapable of waking up refreshed in the morning, and don’t have sleep apnea, you most likely have ME/CFS.

    Most Natureopathic/Holistic doctors are familiar with this protocol, so ask your good doctor.

    Once the underlying fatigue & low ATP is cleared up, then a Nootropic will help a lot more!

  10. Ben says:

    Schmachtenberger says in your interview that the preferred ratio of Step One to Step Two is 3:5. This contradicts the 1:2 dosing directions on the supplement label itself. Can you comment on this discrepancy?

    1. Follow the labels. That is most updated version.

  11. Rick Macy says:

    How does your product compare with Freeman Formula? I used it for a while and found it sharpened my mind with no ill effect.


  12. Travis says:

    Any possibility that any of the ingredients could trigger a positive urinalysis on a drug test?

  13. Rene says:

    Another excellent podcast Ben- thank you!

    Qualia is now definitely on my buying list – will help me getting of the caffeine. As someone suggested, a podcast with your list of best biohacking tools would be awesome.

  14. Tim says:

    The instructions are a little bleak.

    I’ve tried it 6-7 times or more, haven’t really noticed much.

    I’m opting to return it.

    May give the vielight neuro a try. ( I know they have different purposes)

    Also, I highly agree with There’se.

    Obviously, those who follow your research know you are always trying things, products, supplements, techniques/habits etc.

    My question for you, of all the things you’ve tried / you try . What was so legitimate you had to continue using/continue doing? The things that had the greatest effect, and have stood for longer periods of time that you couldn’t give up. While I know this is your job there just doesn’t seem to be enough hours in the day to do all these hacks every day.

    A Christmas list or something with top hacks/products would be great too.

    Keep it up!

  15. Tim says:

    Ben, great interview.

    Question about a few products you mentioned.

    I bought the halo sport- I know you said you were experimenting with it, that said you get a 30 day money back guarantee. I’m just not sure in 30 days I can get an accurate measurement of if I got the benefits that make this purchase worth it – and when money is a concern want to make sure I’m making smart purchases. What are your thoughts on that and for brain purposes in general would you suggest that or the vielight neuro if you had to pick one for brain health.


    1. You'll know within 3-4 workouts, guaranteed. Just try it and follow instructions to the T. I noticed significant results on my very first workout with it.

  16. josh says:

    What would you say the purpose of qualia is compared to tianchi?

    1. One is a nootropic, and one is an herbal adaptogen. Learn more about adaptogens here: https://bengreenfieldfitness.com/2015/10/the-zen-…

      1. Dan Guzman says:

        As I read & am very jealous that when a women has the “hot flashes” she is undergoing the crone process the vital chi prana a woman holds in her womb to feed a baby know longer is required there & is being released to the head for illumination. There are serious Buddhist Zen Masters who meditate for many years to get that vital chi high in there head & women get it without extreme mind development & actually regret it. What a waste if it were me I would channel that “hot flash” into hands on healing!

  17. DJ Harrison says:

    I am a 50 year old active female who has been experiencing nausea and hotflashes in the morning to the point of getting sick. Does Qualia help with hormone balance ?

  18. Kipru says:

    If you’re already taking the Thorne AM/PM Multivitamin would adding Qualia grossly overdose on any of the overlapping ingredients? Cheers!

  19. Kirk Anderson says:

    I see that Qualia has 5mg = 5000 mcg of Huperzine A in step 2. Is that a typo? I ask because Huperzine A recommended doses are 50 – 200 mcg. Thanks.

    1. Ben says:

      Its a 1% concentration so what looks like 5000mcg is actually 50mcg



  20. Todd says:

    Daniel is certainly one of the more intelligent and credible individuals that I’ve heard speak in a long time. I tend to say away from products like this and instead simply apply a whole foods (ketogenic) approach with few supplements, but I think highly enough of Daniel’s presentation that I’ll very likely order this later today to try it out. Rational, balanced, not over-reaching and very much thought-provoking.

    Great interview Ben. Years ago your approach on interviews seemed to have a lot more sarcasm and I found that off-putting, but all of your interviews that I’m listening to these days showing you treating the material seriously and I greatly appreciate that. Having more people like Daniel on will only help bring more people to your site and it was great to hear Daniel’s comments at the end of the podcast about the credit that you very much deserve for your efforts.

    1. Ben says:

      thank you!

      so glad you enjoyed it



  21. Josh says:

    Hi Daniel,

    Great Podcast – I’ll be sure to pick up a bottle or two of Qualia when it makes its way to the UK.

    I’d be interested to know how you decided to address the issues with “cleansing” and rebuilding your mucosal layer, as discussed in the beginning of the video.



    1. Ben says:


      We will be writing more about gut and mucosal layer health in the future, but for now check out these articles on our blog:
      http://neurohacker.com/psychobiotics-bacteria-bri… http://neurohacker.com/neurohackers-toolbox-psych…



  22. Stephen matejov says:

    Would like to drive to your store, pick up a bottle, pay cash and leave.

    1. Hey Stephen. We used to do this, but don’t do it any more – we just can’t handle that many people coming into the office (we aren’t a store).

  23. Mike K says:

    Thanks Ben. I notice the Qualia site says to take 3 x Step 1/6 x Step 2 if you weigh 150 lbs, and 4 x Step 1/7 x Step 2 if you weigh 200 lbs. Unfortunately the bottles only contain enough for the 3/6 protocol; the bottles leave you about 4 days short each month on a 4/7 protocol. Since I take it you are closer to 200 lbs than to 150 lbs, are you concerned that you are not receiving all the effects you can by utilizing the 3/6 protocol? Also, perhaps you can put a bug in Qualia’s ear to produce bottles that contain enough for the 4/7 protocol.

  24. Ben says:

    Hey Joel,

    we are working on a caffeine free version as well.

  25. Joel says:

    I’m super on board with supplement Qualia if we can ditch some or all of that caffeine. THANKS FOR THE GREAT WORK GUYS!!!

  26. There'se Hartmann says:

    Hey Ben…

    You have so many really great bio-hacking tools/toys that are so interesting. How about publishing your 12 best toys for Christmas as an eblast. It would have a brief description, dollar range, discount code and embedded with a link. Folks are always looking for good holiday gifts. I know I am!

    Great job on the podcast, by the way. I used the intermittent fasting to help heal my badly fractured ankle last year. A schoolteacher hit me on my bicycle and I ended up with a plate and 8 screws and was told I would have to wear a cast for at least 8 weeks. Being the HORRIBLE patient that I am – I actually attempted to saw the cast off with a bread knife – I needed to heal the fractures quickly. With intermittent fasting, acupuncture, Reiki, Rife machine and a few other tricks, my fractures were fully healed in under 3 weeks. This stuff works!

    1. That's a great idea There’se – I will look into it.

  27. Jordan K says:

    Hey Ben – looking for a doctor who is knowledgeable and open to the “hacker” lifestyle. Recently been experiencing some decline and want to begin healing, correcting, improving, and supplementing to combat this.

    Do you have any recommendations in the NYC area? Would GREATLY appreciate your help.


    All the best


    1. Here are a few directories that may help you find a good functional medicine or naturopathic practitioner in your area:

      • HealthProfs.com
      • FunctionalMedicine.org
      • Naturopathic.org
      • PrimalDocs.com
      • PaleoPhysiciansNetwork.com

      That will ensure you find someone who I would likely vouch for!

  28. Manny says:

    Hey Ben,

    Saw the new podcast. Got super excited as usual. Got even more excited with Qualia only to find that they don’t ship internationally to Australia. :( Sadness.

    Let these guys know to make it available to the world ASAP as I would love to try Qualia and quantify the results.

    Love your work man,


    1. Ben says:


      We are working hard to expand distribution outside of the United States.

      Please click the link below to fill out the form so that we can keep track and notify you when we begin shipping to your country.

  29. Wendy says:

    I just took a look at the Qualia with only a “few” ingredients and I was floored to see that it contains 90 mg. of caffeine. 90 mg. of caffeine will put me through the ceiling! I don’t see me taking this product anytime soon unless the caffeine is removed or reduced severely. Up until that point I was very interested. Too bad. I need more brain power!

    1. Ben says:

      Yes Step 1 does have caffeine in it as you noticed.

      we are working on a formulation that does not contain caffeine for those that are sensitive to it.

  30. Chris K says:

    Any hunts into ingredients included in the god pill?

    1. Ben says:

      All the ingredients can be found here here on our formulation page: http://neurohacker.com/formulation/?ref=18

      1. Chris K says:

        I meant the R&D version :-)

  31. Todd says:

    Hey Ben, appreciate what you do. I have a question about quaila. I’m 53 have been taking Adderall for ADD. Would like to try and find some better alternative. If I were going to try Qualia, would I need to cycle off the adderall for a while before taking Qualia?



    1. Ben says:

      I would consult with your doctor before trying Qualia if you are on any other medication.


  32. David Rodgers says:

    What impact does ketosis have on Qualia?

    1. Zena says:

      Ketosis is not a medical condition haha

    2. Ben says:


      Please disregard that other answer, I think that was a copy paste error on our side.

      There is no issues with Qualia on Ketosis and you will usually feel the effects more while in ketosis. Make sure you are cycling off Qualia properly.

  33. Would Qualia be usable by somebody with mild Bipolar II? If not, are there any nootropics that would help said person with energy/concentration/creativity/flow and the rest of the subjective experiential benefits Daniel described in this podcast?

    1. Hi Allison,

      While many customers report increases in their energy/concentration/creativity/flow, do keep in

      mind that Qualia is not intended to treat any

      specific medical condition like Bipolar II, and

      for questions of that nature, we would encourage

      you to consult a trusted physician to make sure

      Qualia is right for you. Thanks!

  34. Bill says:

    Very interesting podcast. One question: based on all of the ingredients in this product, can/should it reasonably replace many other supplements the user may already be already taking for non-cognitive purposes – e.g., B vitamins/multi tabs, Magnesium, CoQ10, etc.?

    1. Ben says:

      Qualia can be added to an existing supplement regimen, but it is critical prior to doing so that you educate yourself on the proper recommended dosage of any ingredient that is part of your supplement regimen.

      We list all ingredients and dosages in Qualia. This gives customers the ability to know the total dosage amount of any ingredient they’re taking when totaled with other supplement products they’re taking. Consult a physician or dietitian if you are seeking more detailed information on the optimal daily dosage of any ingredient that is part of your supplement regimen.

      Like you said with all the ingredients in Qualia it may replace many supplements you are already taking. Check the ingredients and dosages in your current supplements.

  35. SimonM says:

    If you are a competitive athlete, you cannot take DHEA – it is banned in AND out of compeition. Just saying. I guess it depends on how likely you are to be tested, but seeing as how you’ve just told the world you are taking it…

    1. Hi Simon,

      We are aware that some sports organizations consider DHEA to be performance enhancing and therefore on the substances they test for.

      We would encourage anyone in a competitive sports league subject

      to testing for various substances, so preemptively find out if DHEA

      is or isn’t on their organization’s testing list.

    2. Sarah says:

      Being pedantic, but rules on banned substances apply to any athlete, how competitive you are is irrelevant.

      I’m a runner and UK athletics are certainly very clear on this.

  36. Kelly says:

    Great information. Thank you tons.
    I would like to use these products but am wondering if it will be a problem with what I’m doing now. Just had my hormones and adrenals test and am on some Designs for Health products to balance my hormones and calm my adrenals. The Dutch shows too much cortisol in morning and balances in the afternoon increasing a bit in the evening. I’m trying to manage my stress. Can these products help me? All hormones show perimenaposal ranges which are low. Thanks for the feedback. I would be willing to having a consult with one of you.

    1. Ben says:

      With any condition we recommend you consult with your doctor first to see if Qualia would be right for you.


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