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Smarter Children Through Food Supplements 409

Posted by michael
from the bright-ideas dept.
An anonymous reader writes "Baby rats (mmm...baby rats) fed a little extra choline in utero popped out with brain cells dramatically bigger and faster than pups who didn't receive the supplement. Duke University researchers say the implications are profound for humans and the future of learning."
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Smarter Children Through Food Supplements

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  • Carefull..... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by BWJones (18351) * on Saturday March 13, 2004 @02:54AM (#8550312) Homepage Journal
    Careful...... It should also be noted that in neurons in the hippocampus (and elsewhere), when the threshold for firing is decreased, the propensity for epileptiform discharges increases. The authors of the study claim that the neurons are bigger and fire more easily. I suppose that the ease of firing could simply be related to simple cable theory as predicted by Hodgkin and Huxley, but their explanation of increased dendritic count could also explain it nicely. However, other explanations could also be correct such as increased or upregulated glutamatergic channel count or increased receptor count.

    researchers say the implications are profound for humans and the future of learning

    At any rate, I regardless of the actual model, these sorts of public proclamations are troublesome as there are now going to be thousands upon thousands that will go out and start purchasing choline supplements just like their mass purchasing of melatonin (extracted from bovine pineal gland commonly, prion diseases anyone?), or ephedra (cardiac arrest anyone?), Aristolochia fangchi (kidney damage or cancer anyone?), shark cartilage (simply a lighter wallet anyone?), or any other unproven (not a troll, I am a scientist folks, so I want proof) supplement.

    • by BWJones (18351) * on Saturday March 13, 2004 @02:57AM (#8550319) Homepage Journal


      Oh, by the way......all of what I said above and.......First post. :-)

      • by after (669640)
        How the heck did you write that fast enough to have legible grammar _and_ to make a first post?

        you must be a subscriber... right? (10 minutes in advance)
      • Re:Carefull..... (Score:5, Interesting)

        by yppiz (574466) on Saturday March 13, 2004 @03:58AM (#8550526) Homepage
        If someone doesn't mod the parent as funny, I'm going to weep neuronal growth factor (NGF).

        More on topic, changing one parameter of complex system that is possibly well tuned for what it does, but not well tuned for parameter changes, may result in a system that is far less efficient or even completely broken.

        Imagine if you magically made it possible for signals to travel on ethernet faster than routers could process them. You might see an increase in congestion or in misrouted packets. This in turn could melt down the network, or at least make it impossible for anyone to use it.

        I am not trying to say that this is what the researchers have proposed. I'm just pointing out that making one thing better can put stress on or even break the entire system.

        --Pat / zippy@cs.brandeis.edu

        • Re:Carefull..... (Score:5, Insightful)

          by ScrewMaster (602015) on Saturday March 13, 2004 @04:11AM (#8550558)
          Right, so you find some third-world country that is desperate for smarter people and let them guinea-pig it for us. Then, if it works, outsource all your workers to a new facility in that country and hire all the smart kids, patent the hell out of it, and then upcharge parents all over the world who want smarter babies. On the other hand, if it simply produces thousands of highly intelligent epileptics with Parkinson's Disease and giant forehead tumors, deny any involvement whatsoever until forced to confess, and then explain that the drug tested was really just a new AIDS cocktail. Isn't that how the pharmaceutical industry operates anyway?
      • by mblase (200735) on Saturday March 13, 2004 @11:01AM (#8551479)
        Oh, by the way......all of what I said above and.......First post. :-)

        Well, somebody's been taking his choline supplements today....
    • Oh well, my kid'll be smarter than yours! So where can I get the stuff?
    • Re:Carefull..... (Score:5, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward on Saturday March 13, 2004 @03:16AM (#8550399)
      or ephedra (cardiac arrest anyone?),

      Careful, Ephedra works exactly the way it's supposed too(As a bronchial dialator and constricting agent). The people that experience negative effects either abuse it(read: take TOO MUCH) or shouldn't be taking it due to a prior condition. Yes, I take ephedra, and have on and off in cycles for 5+ years(now am 24). Do your own due dillgence and see what works for your body.

      I can make the smae statment about aspirin: give 10000mg to an 80 yr old with low blood pressure and see what happens....


      -k
      • Re:Carefull..... (Score:5, Insightful)

        by BWJones (18351) * on Saturday March 13, 2004 @03:27AM (#8550446) Homepage Journal
        I can make the smae statment about aspirin: give 10000mg to an 80 yr old with low blood pressure and see what happens....

        So, you have just made the golden argument against dietary supplements and herbal remedies. Namely, there is no control over the industry so one really does not know what they are getting. Am I getting 50mg of the "active ingredient" or am I getting 500mg? There is no way of knowing because there are no controls on the manufacture and no standards that they follow. One manufacturer may provide next to nothing in the pills while another may provide a whopping dose, so how do you know?

        By the way, 10000mg of aspirin would likely give anybody problems, not just an 80 year old with low blood pressure. The low blood pressure could actually help out as aspirin is an anticoagulant. So, if one had high blood pressure, there may be a higher incidence of hemorrhage or hemorrhagic stroke with high dosages of aspirin. More likely however for most folks would be an upset stomach, fever and possibly ulcerations and bleeding of the stomach and intestine if you don't puke it all up first.

      • Re:Carefull..... (Score:5, Insightful)

        by JimBobJoe (2758) <.moc.liamg. .ta. .traehtfiws.> on Saturday March 13, 2004 @06:09AM (#8550836)
        Careful, Ephedra works exactly the way it's supposed too

        True, though interestingly enough, Ephedra, discovered by the Chinese, is not used by them for weightloss. Ephedra (ma huang)can be indicated in Traditional Chinese Medicine for dealing with cold and flu issues, but it's obviously intended for very short term use.

        Honestly, TCM doctors are horrified by people using Ephedra for weightloss.
    • by Anonymous Coward
      At least kids around here do.. you can't walk though the mall with out seeing one or two empty boxes of dramamine [erowid.org].
    • Dur. (Score:4, Informative)

      by big_groo (237634) <groovis&gmail,com> on Saturday March 13, 2004 @03:35AM (#8550467) Homepage
      Thank you Captain Obvious.

      How about a recommending a balanced [nih.gov], healthy diet, with exercise, for pregrant [nih.gov] mothers -- *and* soon-to-be-fathers ?

      PS. I'm not a scientist.

    • uninhibits the cell division process in the memory centers of the brain.

      Hmmm... doesn't that sound like potential brain cancer?
    • From what little I can understand of your post, it sounds very insightful.
    • Re:Carefull..... (Score:4, Interesting)

      by JanneM (7445) on Saturday March 13, 2004 @05:05AM (#8550662) Homepage
      IANANSBIPTBOATL (I Am Not A NeuroScientist, But I Pretend To Be One At The Lab), but another possible risk I see is regarding neuronal damage from overexposure to signal substances. You already see this in the Hippocampus during high-stress events, when the inhibitory loop downregulating the Amygdala gives up and allows flooding the Hippocampus with neurotransmitters. This damages, even kills, cells in this area (and is likely to be part of the reason you get memory lapses around traumatic events). With bigger, faster cells with more connections, I would guess the activation threshold for damaging levels of the signal substance (acetyl cholin?) will be substantially lower.

      So, tongue.in-cheek, you may get people able to learn very fast, but you better not upset them, or they will forget all recent experiences.

    • Re:Carefull..... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by TheLink (130905) on Saturday March 13, 2004 @05:11AM (#8550675) Journal
      The sad thing is much of the dietary recommendations by various OFFICIAL/GOV bodies don't really have much scientific backing either.

      All that worry about high cholesterol foods being bad for blood cholesterol. If dietary cholesterol really affected bloodstream, why not eat foods with high good cholesterol (HDL) then? Doesn't work that way? So why should it work the way they suggest?

      Not too long ago they were saying eggs were bad for you (high cholesterol) then, eggs were ok. then now eggs are good. Fortunately my mom figured eggs and fish were good (amongst other things).

      And there are recent studies that have shown that a high protein diet (even with significant fat content) is ok for blood cholesterol and can even reduce obesity.

      You get the stupid diet quacks saying, "So we were right after all, weight loss is due to calorie reduction, not because of protein metabolism, low calorie carbo diets work too! etc" in response to studies showing that people eat less on high protein diets because they feel more satisfied. Doh - what do they want, people to be miserable and feel like they are starving on their "recommended" stupid low calorie high carbo diets?

      They've made so many people's lives miserable with their diet recommendations.

      As for ephedra, if they ban that they might as well ban paracetamol too - paracetamol is rather dangerous stuff for the rather little benefit it does (I can deal with the mild pain, aches and fever, it does hardly anything for the major stuff)- overdosing is easy and the consequences are serious/fatal.
    • Re:Carefull..... (Score:4, Interesting)

      by whitespacedout (696269) on Saturday March 13, 2004 @05:47AM (#8550772) Journal
      On a related note, I have a friend who got into prenatal sound therapy [birthpsychology.com] for her two kids during gestation. They are way more hyperactive and brighter than their peers. Sure, it'd be easier for her if they both had prefrontal lobotomies, but they are really good, well-balanced kids otherwise. She's convinced the sound therapy made a great difference, and there is a lot of evidence due to a bunch of russian studies on the benefits of this. I'll definitely be going for the therapy too when it's time for me to spawn.
    • Re:Carefull..... (Score:5, Informative)

      by JimBobJoe (2758) <.moc.liamg. .ta. .traehtfiws.> on Saturday March 13, 2004 @06:41AM (#8550920)
      melatonin (extracted from bovine pineal gland commonly, prion diseases anyone?)

      Search for "non-bovine melatonin" in google. One large supplement company also makes a melatonin [sourcenaturals.com] that says its suitable for vegetarians, an indication to me that its derived from non-animal sources.

      ephedra (cardiac arrest anyone?)

      Ephedra was incidentally discovered by the Chinese, its indicated for colds and flu [asia1.com.sg] in Traditional Chinese Medicine, and is obviously meant for short term use. TCM doctors are actually horrified by the idea of using Ephedra (ma huang) for weightloss.

      Aristolochia fangchi (kidney damage or cancer anyone?)

      According to this article [findarticles.com] AF was put into weightloss pills by mistake, due to the fact that the chinese name is similar to another herb. It is not indicated for anything.

      shark cartilage (simply a lighter wallet anyone?)
      Shark cartilage has indeed been rejected [lef.org] as a possible treatment for cancer.

      these sorts of public proclamations are troublesome... any other unproven (not a troll, I am a scientist folks, so I want proof)

      Though not juxtaposed, the lines above are odd next to each other, after all, this was not a random proclamation, this was indeed a scientific study, and I'm sure more will follow. You had some good examples, but they could be fairly easily explained (you missed one or two which are much uglier. :-)

      But even then, I think that the modern record on supplements/herbs is very good. The injuries caused by supplements pales in comparison to those caused by derived pharmaceuticals, which are pretty strictly regulated.

    • Bah! (Score:3, Informative)

      by Greyfox (87712)
      What's a little epilepsy when you've got NICE FAT NEURONS? And what's a little cardiac arrest when you can be nice and thin?

      This smells like an advert for the herbal suppliments people. Remember, you can say anything on the label as long as you say that the FDA has not verified those claims in fine print somewhere on it. And people will buy into anything if you make it sound scientific and claim that Researchers at Some University [duke.edu] think it could be revolutionary. I bet you could convince people to take me

    • Re:Carefull..... (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Amiga Trombone (592952) on Saturday March 13, 2004 @02:38PM (#8552610)
      At any rate, I regardless of the actual model, these sorts of public proclamations are troublesome as there are now going to be thousands upon thousands that will go out and start purchasing choline supplements just like their mass purchasing of melatonin (extracted from bovine pineal gland commonly, prion diseases anyone?), or ephedra (cardiac arrest anyone?), Aristolochia fangchi (kidney damage or cancer anyone?), shark cartilage (simply a lighter wallet anyone?), or any other unproven (not a troll, I am a scientist folks, so I want proof) supplement.

      What's disturbing here is that while they've documented the physiological effects on the rat's brains, they didn't do any follow-up studies as to how this actually effected the rat's capacity to learn, or any of the effects on the rat's behavior.

      So now we know that chlorine will alter the development of the rat's brains, but we don't know if the effects of the change are good, bad or indifferent.
  • Not a chemist (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Kickstart70 (531316) on Saturday March 13, 2004 @02:56AM (#8550317) Homepage
    What does choline come from? Is it part of our foods, so that we could eat more of some weird vegetable?
    • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday March 13, 2004 @03:00AM (#8550331)
      It's that stuff you put in your swimming pool. I guess if you want smart kids, you should go swimming a lot.
    • Re:Not a chemist (Score:5, Informative)

      by mgrassi99 (514152) on Saturday March 13, 2004 @03:02AM (#8550346)
      from the article:

      Choline is a naturally occurring nutrient found in egg yolks, milk, nuts, fish, liver and other meats as well as in human breast milk. It is the essential building block for a memory-forming brain chemical called acetylcholine, and it plays a vital role in the formation of cell membranes throughout the body.

  • by Denyer (717613) on Saturday March 13, 2004 @02:57AM (#8550320)
    ...I predict it'll take, what, three years for the giant intelligent rats to take all of the good jobs? To say nothing of the modifications which will have to be made to accomodate them at the Superbowl.

    No, seriously, this does raise interesting issues such as how such a wonder supplement would be rationed to a population; how its absence would hold back the third world even further, and whether the first generation of hyper-intelligent kids would face discrimination at all levels of society.

    • Re:Very profound... (Score:5, Interesting)

      by higuy48 (568572) on Saturday March 13, 2004 @03:02AM (#8550341) Homepage Journal
      I would think that some percentage of Slashdotters would understand that a child who isn't challenged by schoolwork could turn into an outcast of some sort or, worse, could refuse to do work altogether. They will think of petty homework and tasks such as character charts and subjects such as The Renaissance as beneath their intelligence. I am going through a personal hell not being able to concentrate in my classes. It's all so uesless to me. Why am I reading this book? Why am I doing this math problem? I'm a writer. I need to write freeform! Anyway, that's basically the mindset of a kid who has given up on school.
      • Re:Very profound... (Score:5, Interesting)

        by Denyer (717613) on Saturday March 13, 2004 @03:51AM (#8550505)
        some percentage of Slashdotters would understand that a child who isn't challenged by schoolwork could turn into an outcast of some sort

        Certainly true of some students in schools I've taught in. Many intelligent students adopt the time-honoured creed of "if you're truly smart, the smartest thing you can do is not to let them know how smart you are" as a coping device.

        I certainly couldn't envisage sitting through the tedium of school again from a student's point of view... and yet, equally, there are a lot of students who fail to realise that studying a little chemistry or maths now gives them the base to take it further should they choose to later in their educational careers. So, ultimately, my advice would be to stick with it... make an effort to find something enjoyable or worthwhile about every task you're set whilst in education, especially if it involves opportunity to gently subvert the task; more teachers have a sense of humour about such things than you might think.

        • by TyrranzzX (617713) on Saturday March 13, 2004 @09:55AM (#8551263) Journal
          So you're tellin me that if kids who are bored with the school system applied themsleves and made themselves more bored, they'd be more successful?

          Or to put that in lamens terms, if you're hitting your head on the wall to dround out the pain of getting kicked in the nuts hard by some girl, you should hit your head as hard as possible in order to be successful in this indeavor.

          How about taking these bored kids, giving them decent books that

          A: Aren't Condesending (Because you can't think of it this way, we do it this way)

          B: Aren't Filled with groupthink (So WE do this, and WE do it this way, and WE blah blah blah)

          C: Don't Creat an image that's desirable to become that ultamatly makes them lose touch with who they really are(The technician does it this way).

          D: Actually has good information and is well written.

          Then we surround them by teachers who care and are knowledgable and who don't waste the kids time by forcing them to do month long units on egypt including acting out plays and dances and the building of sugar cube pyramids (which is why they're bored in the first place, you dumbasses aren't doing anything useful in the first place), and let them teach themselves. Bored kids are bored because they are being held back and not being allowed to expand to their true potential, and not being allowed to go in the direction that intrests them the most. Forcing an entire class to, for example, read the same book is an example of this. Give the class a list of suggested books and allowing them to read the books they like is a far more constructive means of teaching them to read. If you snuff the fire out long enough in these kids, it'll go out in a puff of smoke and then it takes years and years to get that fire back, if they ever get it back. The bordem is conditioning them to be irresponsable, because when they go home they'll watch TV and play video games and do something fun and stimulating as supposed to reading an uninteresting book or doing boring homework that takes them 10 minutes to do. Learning is then associated with boardom for the dumber people, and for the rest of them who are smart they realise this is bad but they just don't care because they have no control over it. They can't control the fact that when they read any book, they got bored and nod off. They can't control the fact that doing the questions out of a book brings back the feeling of bring bored, it's human conditioning afterall. Trapped like a rat who has to press a lever that gives it a good jolt to get it's food.

          They then fail or close-to-fail their classes because they don't give a shit and are ostrasized for not fallowing the system; by their parents, friends, teachers, everyone. They then turn to other means to reduce their depression of being ostrasized and being called stupid, often turning to drugs or media, music or parties, crime of some sort or boarderline crime like malicious hacking or phreaking. Some of them, rather most of them, get involved with good things like computers or electronics or some other difficult task instead of video games or television and they learn skills that allow them to survive.

          Heaven forbid they ever learn what I just said because if they did they'd get really pissed. There's no telling what a pissed teenager who knows what you're upto can do, especially if they are smarter than you are and are well and truely, thoroughly pissed.

          You can take your "Educational Career" and shove it. Read some John Taylor Gatto, that'll begin you on to understanding how you're disabling your students. Read some of Joan Batley's articles from www.etherzone.com and you'll realize some of the BS you're teaching.

    • by irokitt (663593) <archimandrites-iaur&yahoo,com> on Saturday March 13, 2004 @03:03AM (#8550350)
      No, you don't understand. The white lab mice are already performing experiments on us. In fact, the Earth was created at their behest. We merely form part of the matrix that is meant to determine the question to Life, the Universe, and Everything.
  • Over excited brains (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday March 13, 2004 @03:00AM (#8550335)
    So now we get to find out if overclocking the brain
    with choline will lead to nasty side effects?
  • What exactly does "reduce the brain's vulnerability toxic insults." mean? Perhaps there is some biological terminology I am not familiar with... Also, how can they claim this will help effects of long term memory loss?

    • > What exactly does "reduce the brain's vulnerability toxic insults." mean?

      Most insults merely 'sting', but the really good ones are 'toxic'.

      If your brain has reduced vulnerability to such insults, you can post to internet forums without getting your feelings hurt.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday March 13, 2004 @03:02AM (#8550345)
    why couldn't they have figured this out 22 years ago?

    now if you'll excuse me i have to go fail my calculus final.
  • Hmm (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday March 13, 2004 @03:03AM (#8550351)
    Someone needs to read Brave New World [huxley.net]
  • Side Effects? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by dreadlord76 (562584) on Saturday March 13, 2004 @03:06AM (#8550361)
    Thousands of parents will be rushing out and getting these supplemets, trying to "help" their unborn children.

    10 years from now, a crime wave is going to hit. A bunch of Super intelligent, yet hyperactive and ruthless 9 year olds, with ultra fast reflexes and photographic memory, but total lack of self-control and morals, begins their master plan of taking over the world.

    Hey, this may be an interesting Movie plot....

    People, I recommend against fooling with the brain until we actually know what we're doing. But Parents are insane anyway (looking into a mirror.)
    • Not only that, the worst part is, your kids will know it all!
    • by prockcore (543967) on Saturday March 13, 2004 @03:27AM (#8550445)
      A bunch of Super intelligent, yet hyperactive and ruthless 9 year olds, with ultra fast reflexes and photographic memory, but total lack of self-control and morals, begins their master plan of taking over the world.

      Too bad their diabolical plan is easily foiled by a single dude with a strobe light. (If you read what this did the rat's brain, the rats are probably all epileptic)

      I for one welcome our autistic and epileptic overlords.
      • Re:Side Effects? (Score:4, Interesting)

        by Billly Gates (198444) on Saturday March 13, 2004 @03:35AM (#8550466) Journal
        Speaking as someone autistic, I can tell you that choline suppliments made my symptoms worse and increased my ADD when I was experimenting with them several years ago. I was using them as well as Omega-3 fish oil to see if it would help my symptoms or at least dampen my ADD so I could study more effectively.

        WIth that, and the study this is becoming interesting indeed.

        • It should also be noted that it was found out later that fish oil contains alot of mercury thanks to power plant pollutants.

          It might have been the fish oil instead of the choline since heavy metal poisoning can reproduce the same symptoms.

    • by shadowbearer (554144) on Saturday March 13, 2004 @04:07AM (#8550543) Homepage Journal
      A bunch of Super intelligent, yet hyperactive and ruthless 9 year olds, with ultra fast reflexes and photographic memory, but total lack of self-control and morals, begins their master plan of taking over the world.

      This is different from reality how?

      SB
    • by Chemisor (97276) on Saturday March 13, 2004 @10:39AM (#8551411)
      > A bunch of Super intelligent, yet hyperactive and
      > ruthless 9 year olds, with ultra fast reflexes and
      > photographic memory, but total lack of
      > self-control and morals

      I wonder why everyone seems to assume that any improvement in human capacity is always accompanied by "total lack of self-control and morals". If any correlation is warranted, it is the reverse. Perhaps it is all just sour grapes?
  • "Choline is a naturally occurring nutrient found in egg yolks, milk, nuts, fish, liver and other meats as well as in human breast milk."

    I remember a study a long time ago that suggestest that children who were fed breast milk as a child, were on average, slightly smarter than those who were fed other substitutes. With so many things, what is natural seems to be beneficial to the body, possibly because we evolved to benefit from our natural surroundings.

    Perhaps the time where natural is best is coming to
    • by gad_zuki! (70830) on Saturday March 13, 2004 @04:10AM (#8550555)
      >Perhaps the time where natural is best is coming to an end.

      Also remember, rattlesnake poison and polio are natural. Natural doesn't mean good or bad really.

      >The thought is scary that some day I may find myself left in the dust by a choline fed, geneticly altered, super human.

      Without getting into the "what is smarts" questions, you can outperform many people if you put some work into it. The kid with the 140 IQ who is addicted to Everquest or thinks learning Klingon is a good way to spend his time will be crushed by the average kid who did his homework that night.
      • by Mr. Piddle (567882) on Saturday March 13, 2004 @12:27PM (#8551906)
        Without getting into the "what is smarts" questions, you can outperform many people if you put some work into it. The kid with the 140 IQ who is addicted to Everquest or thinks learning Klingon is a good way to spend his time will be crushed by the average kid who did his homework that night.

        This is absolutely true. This also means that parents to actually manage to create some sort of Frankenstein monster of a kid but can't keep up with their childhood are going to end up with a very intelligent very misguided and very depressed teenager and adult.
    • I remember a study a long time ago that suggestest that children who were fed breast milk as a child, were on average, slightly smarter than those who were fed other substitutes.

      IIRC it's the higher levels of taurine in human milk (compared to other mammals, or to formula) that aid brain development (or so goes conventional wisdom). I think they throw a bit more of that into the formula mix these days.
  • by MagicDude (727944) on Saturday March 13, 2004 @03:10AM (#8550376)
    Well, the article just says that the baby brains are bigger than normal and the neurons seem to be firing faster, but there hasn't been any testing as to whether these guys are any smarter than the average bear (or rat). It does look interesting, but last I checked, in humans there hasn't been any correlation between hat size and IQ. Elephants and blue whales have the biggest brains on the planet, but nobody's calling them the most intellegent creatures in the world.
    • by obtuse (79208) on Saturday March 13, 2004 @05:52AM (#8550784) Journal
      What kind of simpleton thinks that more and faster neurons is better, or makes for smarter children? You get those for free with cancer and epilepsy.

      Just give your kids meth if you want to boost their IQs. That'll bring the scores up, but do you think that makes them smarter in any meaningful way?

      In my rash youth, I tried a number of different drugs, (here are examples of my own stupidity) including drinking a over liter of whiskey one evening, an unknown pill given to me by a guy in a superhero costume at a SF-Con, and a few things that can either enlighten or precipitate psychosis, depending on your personal biology, and whether you believe that any significant insight comes in chemical form.

      However stupid I was, I would _never_ have given significant quantities of neurotransmitter precursors in a fetus or a child.Neurons have to communicate to be useful, and there are good indications that a neuron's rate of fire is actually related to information content. Or do you think we can determine intelligence by weighing people's brains?

      The brain is marvelously subtle, and incredibly malleable in youth.

      You want your kids to be smarter? Teach them. Play with them. Stimulate their senses. Show them the world that rewards you for paying attention to it and thinking about it. If this isn't enough for you, then you can make them smarter by having somebody else raise them.

      Anybody who tries this on a human child should be sterilized, preferably with a shotgun.
      • by Gyan (6853)
        Young kids have roughly double to triple the synapses as an adult. The synapses get pruned due to lack of use. So your "stimulate the senses" is good advice, which is another way of saying Use It or Lose It. In the same vein, getting more neurons and increasing firing rate might help. It's certainly not automatically a false cure.

        whether you believe that any significant insight comes in chemical form.

        Are you a dualist? If not, your "experience" and "skills" are a matter of chemicals and connections. I
        • by KingJoshi (615691) <slashdot@joshi.tk> on Saturday March 13, 2004 @09:02AM (#8551179) Homepage
          Young kids have roughly double to triple the synapses as an adult. The synapses get pruned due to lack of use. So your "stimulate the senses" is good advice, which is another way of saying Use It or Lose It. In the same vein, getting more neurons and increasing firing rate might help. It's certainly not automatically a false cure.

          How do we know that "losing it" doesn't make us smarter? maybe it's a form of search tree pruning and learning heuristics as we grow. Maybe the trick is pruning the right ones.

          It's hard enough to really test intelligence because people are skilled/talented/gifted at different things. But are there studies showing correlations between more synapses and being smarter in adults?

  • Doogie (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Joe Tie. (567096)
    I remember a while back a scientist bred a mouse strain with altered NMDA receptors, which gave a pretty hefty increase in memory and apparently reasoning. It'd be interesting to find what additional effects this method might have on them.
    • I remember a while back a scientist bred a mouse strain with altered NMDA receptors

      Isn't CA working on a mouse with NDMP receptors?
  • by Punchinello (303093) * on Saturday March 13, 2004 @03:15AM (#8550396)
    "May result in cirrhosis and fatty degeneration of the liver, hardening of the arteries, heart problems, high blood pressure, hemorrhaging kidneys."

    I'm not so sure I want too much of that stuff in a human subject.
  • :-) Else we son't be making any real difference to the world.

  • ...your generation found television boring!

  • an me way smarter than u!!!11!!! lOlOL arofol

    extended warranty? how can i go rong!
  • Choline Supplement (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Jodka (520060) on Saturday March 13, 2004 @03:23AM (#8550431)
    You can buy choline in almost any of those stores which sell vitamins and nutritional supplements. I live in New York and there is one on every corner.

    I read something similar about over a year ago in Science News magazine. Curious and willing to experiment on myself, I bought a jar of choline and started taking one a day.

    Here's what I noticed:

    First, its it's an intestinal irritant. Its sold in gelatine capusules and if you just swallow one a day, you'll be sorry after a while. I recommend opening the capsules and disolving the choline in something buffered, like milk.

    You don't notice anything for a few weeks. And after you stop taking it, the effects persist for weeks.

    The stuff is defintely psychoactive. I was constantly locked in deep thought. I finally stopped taking it because I got tired of thinking all the time.

  • smarter.... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by shadowbearer (554144) on Saturday March 13, 2004 @03:30AM (#8550451) Homepage Journal

    Smarter children thru:

    Playing with them, spending time with them.

    Giving them toys, then spending time showing them how the toys work. Toys that challenge them to do something are good - like legos - stay away from "Disney type" toys (yeah, I know, it's a blanket definition. You know what I mean)

    Teaching them to read - don't wait for fucking kindergarten, teach them yourself. Added benefit of getting to know your kids better. Books. Lots of books. Share the reading with them. Read to them, with them, and for them.

    Answer questions. "Why is the sky blue?" Answer it. If you don't know how to, learn why it is. There are a lot of questions that a kid will ask that will require you to to know at least something about it. The hardest part is translation. I asked that question when I was very young, and my old man told me that it's because it's the color that "comes thru"; later I learned that he wasn't bullshitting me. I really appreciated that. He didn't evade the question, just tried to put it in terms I'd understand.

    Which leads to

    Don't ever, every lie to your your kids. Don't bullshit them. Not about anything. If they ask you about sex, don't evade the question or bullshit them - they'll find some other avenue to educate themselves, and it will likely be something that's not the best way to learn it. You might have to actually think about it to find some way to explain it to them. Do it. You might learn something, too.

    Don't ever, EVER try to bullshit your kids, or evade what they are curious about. You will lose their respect and trust when they find out (and they do, eventually, and that's one of the biggest problems in the US right now, but that's a whole 'nother topic). /rant :(( :(* :)

    SB

    • Re:smarter.... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by grozzie2 (698656) on Saturday March 13, 2004 @04:11AM (#8550557)
      Smarter children thru: Playing with them, spending time with them.

      Are you implying folks should invest time and effort into the process, and not just drive down to the supplement store and try buy a pill to make thier kids brighter?

      And from the article:-

      "Choline is a naturally occurring nutrient found in egg yolks, milk, nuts, fish, liver and other meats as well as in human breast milk."

      The plain english translation, feed your children a naturally healthy and balanced diet, and it will automatically include the required items. But, you wont find any of this in the stuff dished out of a typical fast food joint. If they live on french fries, hamburgers, and a big gulp, they will never get the stuff they need to be bright, it'll show on the grades, and on thier waistline.

      So, what's new about any of this ?

  • ...but let's just see how Algernon is doing in a couple of months.
  • Create or Cure? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by MoggyMania (688839) on Saturday March 13, 2004 @03:35AM (#8550465) Homepage Journal
    This strikes me as a bit bizarre.

    Humanity already has a fairly well-known subgroup of people with brains that have more active neuronal structure, greater capacity for memory, a drastic reduction in age-related decline in cognitive/memorizations kills, and heightened sensory reactions. (Which is all wonderful to have, speaking firsthand.)

    The response from the community has not been to embrace us. It has been to force us into painful "treatments" from a young age that train us to "act normal" -- to hide all signs that we're different, including strong natural interests in learning and pain at stimuli that doesn't bother sensory-average humans. There are huge organizations decrying how horrible it is that we exist at all, that actively claim it'd be better if we died of cancer, because we don't act just like "normal" people.

    It strikes me as bizarrely hypocritical for one wing of science to be fighting to find a way to prevent/cure my kind, while another is attempting to learn how to intentionally create us. We're already here, we tend to reproduce reliably within families, we just need to be accepted rather than terrorized into hiding our abilities.
    • All right Mr. Murdock, I'll bite.

      Q: who are you?
      You aren't going to age
      You have super-sensory perceptions.
      Society has stepped all over you with painfull treatments to force you to fake normalcy.
      You have an enhanced memory.
      Huge organizations oppose your existence and are trying to give you cancer.

      A: you are a mutant.

      But the real question is what year did you graduate from Professor Xavier's Shool for Gifted Youngsters? Class of 2000? 1999? Or are you old school?

      • Re:Create or Cure? (Score:3, Informative)

        by Daengbo (523424)
        Based on these [slashdot.org] two [slashdot.org] posts, he's apparently talking about some form of autism, either Kanner's or Asperger's, and from this one [slashdot.org], I am willing to bet that he is a she, though he could be gay, but the way the post is written comparing men to women makes me believe otherwise.
        I'm intrigued because, although my sister is autistic, I didn't know anything about these two types until I read her/his posting history.
        I'm looking at this site [aspergersyndrome.org] for more info.
    • by MacFury (659201)
      During my middle school and high school years my school district cut funding for the gifted class severely. The superintendent thought we were too elitist. This was before any serious budget crisis so lack of money was not the reason for lack of funding.

      I didn't drop out of high school because of the pleasure of being in a class with intellectual equals. Without my gifted classes I wouldn't have the drive to succeed in life.

    • Re:Create or Cure? (Score:4, Insightful)

      by James Lewis (641198) on Saturday March 13, 2004 @01:00PM (#8552061)
      While I feel it may be somewhat useless to point out the obvious to what is most certainly a somewhat delusional individual, I suppose I might as well try. From reading your other posts, I would assume you are speaking of autism. While it is true that this is an "illness" (sort of like hyperactivity) that is overdiagnosed, I think it is going a bit far to claim that "There are huge organizations decrying how horrible it is that we exist at all, that actively claim it'd be better if we died of cancer, because we don't act just like "normal" people." Where are these organizations? If they are so huge, why is it that I have NEVER heard any group claim cancer is a solution to autism?

      Now, if you like having the symptoms of autism, that's really great for you. But most people would agree that many of the symptoms of autism are not desireable, such as impairment in social interaction, delay in, or total lack of, the development of spoken language, apparently inflexible adherence to specific, nonfunctional routines or rituals, stereotyped and repetitive motor mannerisms, etc. Furthermore, many of the things you named are not strictly associated with autism. Such as, "more active neuronal structure, greater capacity for memory, drastic reduction in age related decline in cognitive/memorization skills". And "heightened sensory reactions" generally means that many stimuli that normal people are indifferent to are PAINFULL to those with autism. Autism is not associated with any particular IQ, although 3/4ths experience "significant mental retardation". There are, much rarer cases where the individuals have "savant" abilities, or are very intelligent. Unfortunantly, some of them are not able to benifit from these abilities because of the aforementioned symptoms. There may be some people who gain avdantages from the disorder, but science and the public at large would like to see people with only the advantages, and none of the disadvantages of autism.

      Anyway, the bottom line is that if you can be happy the way you are, that's all you should care about. There's no need to make up delusions of being oppressed by huge organizations, or to deny that autism in general has no disadvantages. If you are lucky enough to be on the "high functioning" end of the autism spectrum, be thankful, and remember the further you go down the autism spectrum, the more and more those individuals are like what people commonly refer to autism, and the more those people are impaired.

    • Re:Create or Cure? (Score:3, Insightful)

      by dasheiff (261577)

      Humanity already has a fairly well-known subgroup of people with brains that have more active neuronal structure,


      There are huge organizations decrying how horrible it is that we exist at all, that actively claim it'd be better if we died of cancer, because we don't act just like "normal" people.


      I was assuming you were just talking about geeks in general, but this really lost me. What subgroup of people are you talking about? And if it's just the geeks which org is wishign us dead?

  • by Erratio (570164) on Saturday March 13, 2004 @04:07AM (#8550546)
    Before things are addressed on a chemical level, they need to be addressed on a psychological one. The educational system, at least in the States, has progressed very little in the past century, even though it has been pretty much established that different minds work different ways and the current methods for teaching cater to only a very small percentage of the people. All the choline in the world won't compensate for a lack of utilisation on what's already there, which, as it is, is most often neglected, or used in a way which results in burning out before full potential can be reached.
  • Not the problem (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Kelz (611260)
    "Duke University researchers say the implications are profound for humans and the future of learning."

    The problem isn't with intelligence. Its a problem with the school systems. I am in high school right now and I'm amazed how dumbed down even my Calculus class is. What was grade school level 10 years ago is High school and college level today. We need to tighten the standards and make classes more challenging. There is a huge population of "smart" students but 90% of them just get by by taking the easie
    • Re:Not the problem (Score:3, Interesting)

      by shadowmatter (734276)
      You say there is a huge population of "smart" students, but are they also motivated? Right now you say they're just getting by taking the easiest classes possible, which leads me to think that they're largely unmotivated. Thus if you tighten the curriculum, they're more likely to give up than try harder.

      As someone who went through the same dumbed-down-Calculus experience with some friends...

      1. If your lecture is dumbed down, read the textbook for the details
      2. Read ahead
      3. Talk to your professor, and ask
  • by hak1du (761835) on Saturday March 13, 2004 @04:12AM (#8550561) Journal
    A smarter rat doesn't necessarily correspond to a smarter human. And human intelligence isn't necessarily related to whether the hardware is faster. By analogy, a DSP may run operations faster than a Pentium, but that doesn't make the DSP a better general purpose processor. Or, as another analogy, just upgrading the clock circuit on your motherboard doesn't just make your processor faster--it may also make it flakier. It's plausible that choline is somewhat beneficial as a nutrient during pregnancy. But I wouldn't expect miracles (if choline were that important, women would crave more of it than they do), and there is at least the possibility that an unbalanced intake actually might do some harm.
  • by ndogg (158021)
    Makes me wish I were still an egg within my mother's body!
  • by netnerd.caffinated (473121) on Saturday March 13, 2004 @04:28AM (#8550597)
    i can just see it now, viagra flavoured choline supplements that not only keep you hard, but improve your memory!
  • Crap! (Score:3, Funny)

    by HarveyBirdman (627248) on Saturday March 13, 2004 @04:58AM (#8550648) Journal
    NOW they discover this. :(

    Can I get a do over?

    Here's hoping the reincarnation crowd is right.

  • by Max Threshold (540114) on Saturday March 13, 2004 @05:03AM (#8550656)
    This is the kind of science that can easily get hurt by controversy. The press release doesn't say, but what if these neurological differences translate to significant behavioral differences? The implications for humanity would be for nothing so trite as "the future of learning." How about the disparities between social classes and ethnic groups? Do impoverished mothers get enough choline? Are there ethnic diets that include more or less choline, and is it reflected in their average intellectual abilities? (And how to quantify that is a whole other subject for debate!) These are important questions that may go unanswered if the wrong kinds of people get a chance to put their spin on this. Heaven forbid we find out there's a biological reason why the underpriveleged can't seem to get ahead, even if it's brought on by social conditions rather than something intrinsic. Just watch... if the reasearchers get too close to implying something like that, their funding will get cut and the whole thing will be swept under the rug. Remember how the media roasted Herrnstein and Murray [apa.org]?
  • by Mostly a lurker (634878) on Saturday March 13, 2004 @05:28AM (#8550725)
    Animal studies do not always give an accurate indication of what will happen in humans. The article seems to have nothing proven relavant to humans.

    Further, a typical human diet already includes choline. Assuming this is important to human brain development, how much do we really need? I can understand that rats (who typically probably do not eat fresh eggs very often) might need a choline supplement to enhance brain development. Perhaps humans already get enough anyway.

    Might it be possible to identify the amount of choline different populations receive from their diet and correlate this with intelligence? This would give a better basis for discussion.

  • Yeah, right. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by elmegil (12001) on Saturday March 13, 2004 @09:26AM (#8551215) Homepage Journal
    Of course, keep in mind too, that in a sample of two people I know of (myself and a friend) Choline made the subjects EXTREMELY depressed. Sorry, but I don't plan to experiment on my children like that.
  • Profound, eh? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by poofmeisterp (650750) on Saturday March 13, 2004 @09:58AM (#8551268) Journal
    Let's start giving this to all of our kids!

    Only the usual side effects apply: cancer, tics, siezure, SIDS, chronic headaches, brittle bones, frequent loose bowels....
    But my kid will be SMART!!!!!

We have a equal opportunity Calculus class -- it's fully integrated.

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