This Caffeine-Free Alternative will Boost Cognitive Function and Alertness

Image Credit: samarttiw /

Image Credit: samarttiw /

In a recent post, we explored the negative effects of blue light on sleep, but while those effects may be hazardous for sleep, they can be quite beneficial when we’re awake.

Blue Light improves alertness and cognitive function

If you’re reliant on your morning cuppa to kick start the old “grey cells”, you may want to reconsider using blue light instead… In a study comparing the effects of blue light versus caffeine on cognitive function and alertness, researchers found that while both blue light and caffeine had beneficial effects, subjects who received blue light only consistently out-performed the caffeine subjects. This is likely due to the negative effects of caffeine on anxiety, whereas blue light has none.

A comparison of blue light and caffeine effects on cognitive function and alertness in humans – PLoS One, 2013

Twenty-one healthy subjects performed a computer-based psychomotor vigilance test before and after each of four randomly assigned trial conditions performed on different days: white light/placebo; white light/240 mg caffeine; blue light/placebo; blue light/240 mg caffeine. Both the caffeine only and blue light only conditions enhanced accuracy in a visual reaction test requiring a decision and an additive effect was observed with respect to the fastest reaction times. However, in a test of executive function, where a distraction was included, caffeine exerted a negative effect on accuracy. Furthermore, the blue light only condition consistently outperformed caffeine when both congruent and incongruent distractions were presented. The visual reactions in the absence of a decision or distraction were also enhanced in the blue light only condition and this effect was most prominent in the blue-eyed participants.

In another study, researchers found that the use of “blue-enriched” white light in a classroom helped to improve the students’ concentration and increase their cognitive processing speed.

Influence of blue-enriched classroom lighting on students’ cognitive performance – Trends in Neuroscience and Education, 2014

58 High school students were recruited from four classes in two schools. In each school, one classroom was equipped with blue-enriched white lighting while the classroom next door served as a control setting. The effects of classroom lighting on cognitive performance were assessed using standardized psychological tests. Results show beneficial effects of blue-enriched white light on students’ performance. In comparison to standard lighting conditions, students showed faster cognitive processing speed and better concentration. The blue-enriched white lighting seems to influence very basic information processing primarily, as no effects on short-term encoding and retrieval of memories were found.

In Psychology Today, they reported that across all measures, extended exposure to blue light significantly increased alertness. Compared to green light exposure, blue light exposure:

  • decreases sleepiness
  • increases reaction times
  • increases levels of alertness
  • increases attention span in performance tests
  • alters brain activity indicating heightened alertness

In addition to increased alertness and reduced sleepiness, exposure to blue light during the daytime may actually improve sleep at bedtime. So perhaps the best approach might be: blue light during the day but none after dark? Something to try…

“…They called me Mr Glass.”

The movie “Unbreakable” is about Elijah, a man who is born with Osteogenesis Imperfecta Type 1. His bones were so brittle that when he was born, he had broken several bones during birth. To understand why he is, Elijah has a hypothesis that he was born at one end of a spectrum of which his polar opposite would be a man with such strong bones that that man would be unbreakable.

“Unbreakable” brought to light a very interesting perspective that has always intrigued me. If nature can create beings with such genetic flaws as Elijah, would it be so far-fetched a concept that one could also find beings with “super human abilities”? Of course, I’m not referring to the radical powers displayed by the characters on the new hit series “Heroes” or even those from “The X-Men”.

For more real world examples, let’s examine a revolutionary study conducted by Fredrik Nyström’s from Linköping University in Sweden.

Published in New Scientist, Nyström’s study follows his group of students who replicated the experimental conditions in the 2004 “Supersize Me” documentary by Morgan Spurlock. What was surprising in Nyström’s findings was that not all his test subjects became “lardball[s] with sagging libido[s] and soaring cholesterol… on [their] way to serious liver damage”. Some of the subjects displayed an improvement in cholesterol and little weight gain, of which a portion were gains in muscle mass.

I find Nyström’s study revolutionary because of his modern and forward thinking outlook. Most medical studies are performed on the sick or those predisposed to certain health conditions. Rarely do we study healthy individuals under circumstances that would ordinarily make any individual sick. Well, probably because the ethics committee would have some rather strong words to vocalise. Then again, you wouldn’t find people going to see the doctor and saying, “Hey doc, I don’t exercise and I eat lots of crap but I’m not sick. Why’s that?” But I digress…

Most studies on obesity are conducted on test subjects who are either obese or morbidly overweight. Does it not stand to reason that by examining only the population of people who are predisposed to becoming obese we are missing out on the full picture? To understand a condition it is sometimes helpful to look at its opposite.

So what protects certain individuals from obesity despite adopting behaviours would that make others obese? If we know that certain individuals are protected from obesity, then what about other medical conditions? Suddenly the idea of an unbreakable man doesn’t seem so far fetched after all, does it?

Introducing the Brain+ Virtual Brain Coach

Some time back, I wrote about a brain training app called Brain+ that was designed to train attention, memory, planning and problem solving. Now the developers have added a new feature that will take your brain training to a whole new level.

Introducing your new brain coach…

Brain+ has added a brand new feature to their scientifically developed and tested brain training app by the same name – Brain+ Brain Training. The new feature – called the BrainCoach – provides you with your own virtual brain trainer who will teach you about the brain and the wide range of powerful brain-techniques that you can apply in your everyday life to help you obtain a healthier and more efficient brain. You can think of it as something akin to your own personal fitness trainer at your local gym. This new feature is based on the idea that if we can understand our brains better, we can get more from our training.

Learn more about the new BrainCoach feature:

nonameNew virtual BrainCoach sharpens your mental abilities

As a new addition to the Brain+ app, the innovative BrainCoach provides you with a wide range of different techniques and exercises for improving your performance in everyday life.

The Danish brain training company Brain+ launches the virtual brain trainer, BrainCoach, which helps the user’s brain to perform better in everyday life with the use of tangible and powerful techniques. BrainCoach launched as a new feature in the Brain+ Brain Traning app on November 27.

BrainCoach teaches the user about the brain, about a wide range of powerful techniques and optimum lifestyle for a healthy and efficient brain. At the same time it helps the user through specific exercises to incorporate these techniques as mental habits in a variety of everyday situations. This improves the brain’s abilities in basic areas such as attention, memory, planning, problem solving and focus. It provides the user with improved performance in areas such as learning ability, reading speed, creativity, emotional intelligence and stress management. In the long term BrainCoach wants to help the user maintain mental sharpness and brain health throughout life and prevent disorders such as dementia.

The user is taught through a series of 5-10 minute long mini-audiobooks, SmartSessions, each teaching the user about a specific brain function, a technique and an exercise to incorporate it into everyday mental habits and lifestyle. BrainCoach is a type of feature that is not found in other market offerings and CEO and co-founder of Brain+, Kim Baden-Kristensen, is pleased to provide users with a new tool that can be used side by side with the existing brain training games in the app to lift the benefits to new heights.

“With the addition of BrainCoach, we increase the width of the exercises in the Brain+ platform and integrate them in people’s daily lives. We offer a personal brain trainer that delivers practical brain training techniques and exercises, delivered as audio clips and presented in a pleasant graphical universe. With this new feature we offer brain training in a variety of everyday situations that extends far beyond the time spent in the Brain+ app.” – Kim Baden-Kristensen

The hope is that users will use BrainCoach in the same way that they use an instructor in a gym – a support that inspires and pushes them to perform better every day. The new addition is, according to Kim Baden-Kristensen, another step on the road to becoming the world’s leading supplier of digital brain training.

To begin with the BrainCoach contains 30 SmartSessions with 10 more to be added every sixth week. On you can read more about BrainCoach and learn about some of the mental techniques in the app.

Even before the launch of the BrainCoach-feature, many users have been very pleased with the Brain+ app and during the summer of 2014 it reached a total of 1 million downloads in the Apple App Store and has been selected as the Best New App in 125 countries worldwide. A large number of users express their excitement on the App Store, where training benefits and entertainment value gets praiseful comments along the way:

“No less than fantastic. In my everyday life I can feel that I’m much more aware – especially when reading. Can only be recommended. “

“Super nice app. They have thought of everything and it seems very professional and well thought out. At the same time it is fun and entertaining. I’m sure that this kind of fitness for the brain becomes the new black. High praise from here! “

About Brain+

Brain+ is a Danish company providing scientifically validated, effective and engaging brain training. Besides BrainCoach, the Brain+ app contains a series of scientifically designed brain training games that improve core mental abilities in the areas of attention, memory, problem solving and planning. The vision for Brain+ is to improve people’s quality of life by helping them realize their brain’s potential. Brain+ games are developed in cooperation with leading neuroscientists from the University of Copenhagen and are suitable for people of all ages. The app is available for iPhone and iPad and can be downloaded and tried for free. In the spring of 2015 the app will also be available on other mobile platforms.