Brain Health

Brain Coach to Elite Athletes and Execs Shares Top Tips to Improve Cognitive Performance and Memory

by Mike Mutzel


Louisa Nicola is a neurophysiologist and brain coach to elite performers and athletes. She discusses tools and strategies to boost brain health.





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Show Notes:

03:10 Louisa was elite triathlete when she realized the impact the brain had on all aspects of performance.  She and her fellow athletes were not taught about sleep or nutrition.

04:20 The nervous system must be optimized to optimize performance throughout the body and as a person.

05:35 We used to sleep about 12 hours a day in prehistoric times. Sleep regenerates our brains.

06:20 There are 4 stages of sleep. Stage one is as you are falling asleep. Stage 2 is light sleep. Stage 3 is deep sleep/slow wave sleep/non-REM sleep. Stage 4 is REM sleep. Stages 3 and 4 are the most important stages for our brains.

06:52 During deep sleep, hormones are secreted: testosterone, estrogen, growth hormone. The glymphatic system is your brains sewage system. It cleans toxins, including amyloid beta. A buildup of these toxins can lead to neurodegenerative diseases.

07:50 Your brain is comprised of neurons and others. Glial cells bind neurons together. During deep sleep, glial cells shrink, making way for the cerebral spinal fluid in your brain to wash out the trash.

08:55 A groggy wakeup may be an indication that you are not getting into deep sleep. 30% of your total sleep time should be deep sleep. 20% of total sleep time should be REM sleep.

09:30 REM sleep is where memory consolidation and learning take place.

10:30 The biggest disruptor of sleep is anxiety and stress. This activation of the sympathetic nervous system may prevent you from falling asleep or wake you in the night.

10:55 Alcohol is the biggest inhibitor of REM sleep. Blue light blocking glasses are helpful, but do not block out all light.

12:00 Eating less than 2 hours before bed keeps us awake through digestion and the increase in our core body temperature. Core body temperature must drop at least 2 degrees for us to go to sleep and stay asleep.

15:00 Alcohol inhibits the action of GABA, our calming neurotransmitter. Cortisol peaks with alcohol. Alcohol and marijuana sedate you. It does not elicit sleep stages.

16:15 You are preparing for sleep the minute you wake up. Consistency is key.

17:20 Try to get as much sleep as possible before you get on a plane. It is called Sleep Banking.

18:10 Your prefrontal cortex is the ruler of your brain. It is where cognition happens: attention, reaction time, processing speed. 6 hours of sleep is a sleep deprived state, in the scientific literature.

10:20 As we age, we have a lower efficacy of our frontal lobe. There is a thinning of our cerebral cortex. Thinning in the prefrontal cortex causes a lower decision rate and worsening of our processing speed, inhibition and impulse control.

21:20 We can slow brain ageing through lifestyle interventions, such as sleep, good nutrition and exercise.

21:40 There is an atrophy of our brain white matter, where our myelinated neurons live, as we get older. Our processing speed declines. This can be seen using an EEG.

25:50 Mild cognitive impairment is a predementia state.

27:30 You should be working on your brain. It is the control center of your entire body.

27:50 You can stave off predementia states and the slowing of cognition through exercise.

29:45 Head trauma can cause an accumulation of talc proteins tolC proteins and amyloid beta, which is somewhat comparable to Alzheimer’s disease.

30:30 A hard hit may require a month’s recovery. Within 24 hours post trauma, decreasing the temperature of the brain, eating a high fat diet, or having exogenous ketones can help heal the brain.

33:40 Ingesting exogenous ketones can help prevent trauma from happening to the brain.

36:00 EPA/DHA are anti-inflammatory. If you have a high omega 3 index of 8% or more, you can increase your life expectancy by 5 years.

37:10 A risk factor for all-cause mortality is a low omega 3 index.

37:40 Quality supplements reduce risk of oxidation and toxicity. EPA/DHA feeds your brain what it is made of. It is made of water and fat. A high omega 3 index helps with cell membrane fluidity.

39:25 A standard omega 3 blood panel does not test the red blood cell. Red blood cell cycle lasts about 120 days. You need to ingest EPA/DHA daily for cardiac, brain and overall health.

41:20 Farm raised seafood does not contain the same amount of nutrients.

41:30 Omega 3 is made of EPA, DHA and ALA. ALA is the plant form found in flax and chia seeds. To get the recommended dose of omega 3 through ALA is a lot of food. ALA gets converted into DHA.

42:20 Your eyes are the only neurologic tissue outside your brain. Vision changes may be a way to indirectly assess brain health.

45:05 Most 2019 deaths were attributable to heart disease and brain diseases.

45:40 A healthy performing brain can make sound decisions, be rational and practice impulse control.

47:00 Your brain fatigues faster if you are not eating well, sleeping well, and exercising. You need brain energy. Stress and an inflamed brain disrupts pathways in the brain.

48:50 People who have type 2 diabetes and obesity have a higher rate of neural inflammation.

49:50 When we exercise there is a release of myokines, muscle-based proteins (peptide hormones). They act on different organs in positive ways. They are water soluble, and some can pass the blood-brain barrier. Binding receptors to myokines are on heart muscle, spleen, liver and more. Once bound, they create a chemical reaction.

51:10 Interleukin 6 myokine, is secreted with the contraction of a muscle. It is pro-inflammatory cytokine… unless it is released from a muscle – where it is released as anti-inflammatory. It affects immunity and different areas of the brain.

52:00 Irisin myokine is a messenger molecule. It crosses the blood-brain barrier to the prefrontal cortex, where it affects cognition, and hippocampus, where it induces BDNF, that induces neurogenesis.

53:56 When you learn something and immediately exercise, you can have greater capacity to remember. If you sleep for 20 minutes after learning something, you will embed everything you learned.

54:30 Irisin release is increased 1 hour after exercise.

54:50 Workouts of 70 to 80% of you one rep max for a robust release of irisin. More of a release is given during resistance training, than aerobic. The more resistance, the more the release.

58:10 You can stave of neurodegenerative diseases and states by 20 years by inducing exercise protocols that impact myokine release.

58:50 50 million people worldwide are affected by Alzheimer’s disease. That rate is set to triple by 2050.

59:30 EPA/DHA can clear accumulated proteins in your brain.

00:01:00 Demyelinating diseases, MS, are becoming more prevalent. Chronic stress and chronic cortisol may be the cause.

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