Presentation: ​ADHD & Technology: Brain Hacks and Upgrades



4:10pm - 5:00pm

Day of week:


Key Takeaways

  • Learn how the brain can be changed to your benefit.
  • Gain insight on tools and techniques you can use to influence how your brain works. 
  • Hear success stories on positively impacting lifestyle and work environments with positive brain changes.


Attention, memory and focus problems are prevalent in our society, and are made worse by the large amounts of information we're constantly hit with ­ push notifications, emails, desktop alerts, text messages and so on.

In the tech world in particular, distractions abound; properly mitigating distraction and memory are vital to success.

Whether you've got genuine ADHD or are just find it hard to focus because of the distractions we all experience, that distraction can be managed with a combination of “brain hacks” (compensation strategies) as well as “brain upgrades” (things that can actually change your brain). Combining these two things can make your ADHD (real or society­imposed) far less of a problem ­ and in some small ways can even make it an asset.

In this presentation we'll discuss techniques and strategies for both managing distraction and memory challenges, as well as regular maintenance for your brain for optimal performance. We’ll also talk about methods you’ve probably never heard of that can actually improve your brain.


Can you explain your talk title to me?
Over 10 years I’ve done many experiments to improve my brain’s focus, memory, attention and so on.
I’ve come up with 1. Some tricks to work around it, and, 2. lifestyle changes and strange interventions with the potential to improve the brain long-term. I plan to talk about both techniques, and tell some stories of the things I’ve tried.
Can you give us an idea of like strategies that you will kind of discuss in your talk?
Sure. Some of them are fairly straightforward. For example, have you ever seen the movie Memento?
Memento is about a guy wIth a brain injury, and can’t form new memories, but he is trying to find his wife’s killer. So he has this system where the minute he learns something, he know he is going to lose it, so he writes it down immediately. He has a storage mechanism: he takes photos of people, and writes what he thinks of them on the photos, he tattoos himself something that he really needs to memorize. It’s a little crazy, but the point is he knows he has a flawed memory and he has this system to work around it.
Similarly, if your memory or your attention is not as good as you want it to be you can work around it. I have put in systems where I have worked around this flaw a lot of times. For example, quite frequently I have something new that I need to bring with me to work in the morning - something that is outside of my routine, so I’m very likely to forget it while it’s early and I’m groggy. So I leave myself a note from the future: essentially I will put a post-it on a place that I will pass in the morning. It’s a very obvious note right on the launch pad, where I have my wallet, keys and all that. This way no matter how groggy I am or forgetful I am feeling, I can’t miss that clear reminder.
That’s just one strategy. I have got a number of those.
One of the things that you talked about in your abstract is a brain upgrade. Can you talk a bit about that and explain more about a brain upgrade?
Large aspects of the brain are very changeable. For example: cardiovascular health is one thing that really lends itself to clearer thinking. The point with that is that there is a lot of things about your biology that directly correlate to your brain’s ability to expand.
When you are doing large amounts of cardio it triggers a release of BDNF (a growth factor for the brain.) In general terms, this helps you build more brain cells and makes you smarter and happier.
When you take that towards something a little more specific, when you have got learning deficits in ADHD and things like that, there are a number of doctors and occupational therapists who will treat that sort of thing with combinations of cardio, balance exercises and stimulation in a couple of different areas.
The areas of the brain that are weak or damaged with conditions like learning disabilities and ADHD, can be improved upon by combining a couple of these other things. There is a doctor I work with in Long Island, and one of the training programs that he uses for people with these problems is a 7-day routine utilizing these exercises and more.
It involves a combination of core exercises, agility exercises, balance, and then stuff that stimulates multiple senses at once. There is sound stimulation going on. There is nasal stimulation with essential oils. There are these obscure, 3D-style glasses that you put on, and it triggers a couple of different things in the brain, opening them up to stimulation so that they can then be developed a little bit further.
Another example of a “brain upgrade”: there is a journalist named Joshua Foer, who was a regular guy with a regular memory. He met a couple of people who were memory champions. They were people who could memorize entire decks of cards, front to back, and recite the cards.
Foer trained himself over the course of six months to a year, a reasonable amount of time with diligent training, and he made his memory as good as the rest of them, winning one of the championships.
Memory is something that is very malleable with the right kind of training. You can see it if you do things like Lumosity exercises, an online game. I’ve experienced some moderate improvements by doing those very diligently. Memory is something that you can completely train and develop. It requires a certain amount of time, a significant amount of effort and focused and repeated effort. But it is definitely very improvable. Those are just a couple of things that are extremely upgradable in terms of your brain.
What is the main goal of your talk?
I think awareness is definitely the achievable goal, but I also want to give people tips and techniques that they can utilize.
I don’t want to ever say “Do X, Y, Z and you will get smarter," because it’s not that easy, and very few people are qualified to make that statement.
But I want people to walk away with the awareness that you can do something about this. You can compensate, and you can do some kind of correction. I want them to know correction is not simple. If you want to do correction, if you really want to improve your brain, here are avenues for you to look into. If you have the motivation and the passion to become a self-experimenter, I can give you a lot of information on the topic and give you things that you can try.
What do you feel is the most disruptive tech in IT right now?
It’s hard to say what is the “most disruptive,” but there is something in particular I want to pay a lot more attention towards as time goes on - artificial intelligence. I think it is going to be very valuable, not specifically to IT, but to the technological world and to the world that uses technology.
We are seeing more things like with the X.AI, which is great, and I am hearing really good things about it. It’s an automated, virtual assistant service that people are using to schedule stuff, and it’s a computer that is doing it. I think that anything that automates in a smart way, is going to be really, really valuable as time goes on.

Speaker: Mike Cavaliere

Director of Technology @AttckCo

Mike Cavaliere is the Director of Technology for ATTCK, a web development, design and digital strategy consultancy. He’s been in the software world for 15 years. Over the course of his life he’s found a lot of successful strategies for managing & improving ADHD. Over the past 9 years he’s been very passionate about brain science, and has done lots of selfexperimentation. He occasionally writes about his experiences at

Find Mike Cavaliere at

Similar Talks


Monday, 13 June

Tuesday, 14 June

Wednesday, 15 June