When Lincoln suggested to start interviewing Thrivous’ scientific advisors, I jumped on board to learn more about nootropics, and share what I learn with you readers. The first is Dr. Cory Funk, a research bioscientist at The Institute for Systems Biology (ISB) in Seattle. Dr. Funk took time for a Skype video chat before starting his working day.
Dr. Funk studied at Brigham Young University, then at the University of Illinois, where he investigated the role of estrogens as a master regulator of gene expression in breast cancer. After completing his graduate studies, Dr. Funk moved to the lab headed by Prof. Nathan Price at the ISB to work in cancer research. Still at the ISB, Dr. Funk is now especially focused on the role of the immune system in Alzheimer’s disease.
According to Dr. Funk, it’s difficult to predict when effective treatments for Alzheimer’s disease will be available to the public. Scientists in the research community are learning a lot of useful things but, unfortunately, there’s no magic bullet yet. Of about 200 clinical trials, Dr. Funk said, essentially all failed. Yet, there’s the possibility that something under investigation could be on the market in a few years. In five to ten years, Dr. Funk believes, we’ll at least have much more knowledge.
In the meantime, it’s important to bear in mind that, according to available evidence, often diet and exercise have good effects in delaying the onset and mitigating the ravages of Alzheimer’s disease. In fact, there is strong evidence that a mediterranean diet, and in general anything that is good for longevity, has good effects to prevent Alzheimer’s disease. Exercise means not only outdoor walks and physical training, but also mental exercise and training. Keeping the brain active, Dr. Funk said, offers some degree of protection against Alzheimer’s disease.
Dr. Funk has been consistently taking Clarity and Serenity, two nootropic products intended respectively for day and night use, developed and distributed by Thrivous. While there hasn’t been a huge response, Dr. Funk does report positive "anecdotic" effects on stress, attention, and sleep patterns. "The effects I feel are ones that are akin to feeling good, but not in a way that is foreign or in a way I've never experienced," he says.
Of course, anecdotic evidence is not the same thing as the solid, verifiable evidence provided by formal clinical trials. But products like Clarity and Serenity are considered as dietary supplements exempt from FDA approval, and therefore there’s not much incentive to undertake complex (and costly) clinical trials.
Dr. Funk appreciates that the Thrivous team bases product development on clinical studies and other evidence-based research, which indicates a serious approach to developing nootropics. In summary, Dr. Funk recommends Thrivous products: they have a potential to benefit anyone.
"I’ve now been taking Clarity and Serenity for over 3 months," said Dr. Funk in a follow-up email. "They are the first nootropics I’ve taken. With the original formula of Clarity, I remember feeling a slight change in my head, sort of a buzz or tingling. I believe this was the Ginseng. A challenge for me in ascertaining the effects of nootropics is that sleep is such a central part of mental function and acuity.
"My sleep has always been important to me, and I am fairly regular," continued Dr. Funk. "That said, I feel that Serenity has improved my quality of sleep. So now, when I feel cognitively well, it’s unclear to me if that’s because of the nootropics, or the sleep. I guess it doesn’t matter. I also like Serenity because it helps me adjust to different time zones when I travel. I’ve also noticed that it is in no way habit forming as I’ve occasionally forgotten to take it and not had difficulty falling asleep."
I probed Dr. Funk’s positions on pushing the use of very futuristic technologies, such as CRISPR/Cas9 gene editing and brain-computer interfaces, beyond therapy and toward human enhancement - not only to treat diseases, but also to actually improve the human condition.
Dr. Funk comes out as a "mild transhumanist," persuaded that the goals of life extension and cognitive enhancement technologies, promoted by visionary futurists like George Church and Ray Kurzweil, are worthy. These advances, or at least moderate versions thereof, are coming in the form of incremental changes, said Dr. Funk, and people will use these things to the extent they actually enhance their lives.
Dr. Funk is persuaded that he has a reasonable chance to live and be in good health by the time he’s 100, and is kind enough to "extend the invitation" to people in their 50s. Provided, of course, we work on it.