How To Control Your Reticular Activating System

Where Focus Goes, Energy Flows: Controlling The Reticular Formation



I’ve always believed in “what you focus on grows… where focus goes, energy flows”. – Tony Robbins

The Reticular Activating System (RAS) provides the major pathology for being in the “flow state”.


  1. Basics Of The Reticular Activating System
  2. How The RAS Controls Consciousness And Our Perception Of The Surrounding World
  3. How The RAS Controls Sleep Vs. Waking
  4. Other Dysfunctions With The Reticular Activating System
  5. How To Control The Reticular Activating System
  6. What To Avoid
  7. Mechanism Of Action

Basics Of The Retiuclar Activating System

Your brain can adjust where it and how it uses energy with you having to consciously think about it.

We have a bundle of neurons called the Reticular Formation (RF). 

    The RF controls cardiovascular functions, pain, sleep/consciousness, and most importantly, habituation (where the Reticular Activating System plays the most important part).

    The Reticular Activating System (RAS, also called extrathalamic control modulatory system) controls everything from wakefulness (orexin/histamine) to focus (dopamine/glutaminergic), fight and flight activation, and how we perceive the world. R

    Thus, the RAS can control most aspects of the Central Nervous System (CNS). R R

    I propose that if you master controlling the RAS, you may be able to have extreme focus or power to use your mental energy however you want.

    Essentially, you’d be able to choose the “flow” of your energy, just by changing your “focus”.

    This may even explain some things like the “law of attraction” and why we connect so well to other’s on our “same wavelength”.

    Very briefly, the RAS controls:

    • Consciousness R
    • Fight vs flight response R
    • Focus R
    • GI Motility R
    • Pain (such as Itching) R
    • Self-perception R
    • Wakefulness/Sleep R

    How The RAS Controls Consciousness And Our Perception Of The Surrounding World

    RAS is believed to somewhat control what we perceive as consciousness. R R

    It can act as a filter (gatekeeper) to what you notice in the world: R

    • Sight (Contextual and Visualized)
    • Smell
    • Sound (including internal thoughts)
    • Taste
    • Touch

    For example, have you ever been at a noisy restaurant, but still been able to focus on the conversation?

    That’s your RAS working hard to filter out what’s not important.

    For me, I notice this if I’m trying to sleep and there is a sound, that is all I can focus on (so I’ll use a white noise machine), so controlling the RAS helps eliminate this problem.

    Advertisers use the RAS to get you more aware of their product. 

    For example, if you are looking to buy a new phone, you’d be more aware of that phone when going out and seeing others call/text/etc. 

    The RAS also controls how you perceive yourself (self image) and quality of life.

    The way it does that is by the beliefs you hold in your brain, and your RAS looks to fulfill those beliefs. R

    How The RAS Controls Sleep vs. Waking



    During sleep, RAS is responsible for lack of sensory awareness (consciousness section above).

    The Pedunculopontine Nucleus (PPN) is most active during waking and paradoxical sleep. R

    The PPN modulates arousal (thalamus) and posture/locomotion (pons and medulla) and is comprised of cholinergic, glutamateric and GABAergic neurons. R

    PPN neurons increase firing during  Rapid Eye Movement (REM) sleep or both waking and REM sleep, but decrease during Slow Wave Sleep (SWS). R R R R

    Intralaminar Parafascicular Nucleus (Pf) neurons help maintain the state of consciousness and selective attention and work with the vagus nerve to participate in pain and motor control. R R R R

    The Subcoeruleus Nucleus Dorsalis (SubCD) is most active during REM sleep (projects to thalamus, hippocampus, pons, and medulla). R R R R 

    Other Dysfunctions With The Retiuclar Activating System

    The RAS may get damaged by these conditions or these conditions may be caused by a weak RAS: 

    • Alzheimer’s Disease R
    • Attention Deficits R
    • Autism R
    • Depression R
    • Fatigue (such as chronic fatigue syndromeR R R
    • Hypersomnia R R
    • Narcolepsy R
    • Parkinson’s Disease R R
    • PSP R
    • PTSD R
    • Seizures (epilepsy is linked to improper RAS activity, and seizures can weaken the RAS’s connections, degrading cognition, verbal IQ, attention, and activating more seizures in a positive feedback loop) R R
    • Schizophrenia R
    • Sleep Disorders (such as REM behavior disorder) R
    • Traumatic Brain Injuries (such as stroke, hemorrhagic stroke, or concussion can damage the RAS) R R R R

    How To Control The Retiuclar Activating System



    Diet And Lifestyle:

    • Affirmations – I like to use incantations
    • Cherry Consumption R
    • Hypnosis R
    • Meditation – I use Priming R
    • Music – Music melody and rhythm can stimulate nerve impulses through the RAS; I listen to this R
    • Stimulating colors – I use Sun Light and Blue Light R
    • Vagus Nerve Stimulation – I use the Nervana R

    Supplements And Drugs:

    • Modafinil – Leads to overall higher coherence in activity (during sleep and arousal via the RAS) R R R R R
    • Sulbutiamine R


    • Increase GABA R
    • Increase Gamma Band Activity (increases presence in wakefulness and REM sleep, but not SWS – regulated by acetylcholineR
    • Increase Orexin (blue light can do this <20 seconds) R R
    • Surgery (may help after stroke) R R

    What To Avoid

    • Preterm Birth R
    • Smoking During Pregnancy R

    Mechanism Of Action

    The RF is divided into 3 parts: R

    1. Raphe Nuclei – regulates mood (helps synthesize serotonin)
    2. Gangantocellualar Reticular Nuclei – regulates motor coordination
    3. Parvocellular Reticular Nuclei – regulates exhalation