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Biotech Medicine Technology

Using Magnets To Turn Off the Brain's Speech Center 269

Posted by Soulskill
from the bzzt-ow-bzzt-ow-bzzzzzzzt-owwwwwww dept.
An editor for the Telegraph, Roger Highfield, recently volunteered to allow a UK researcher to shut off the speech center of his brain with a high-powered magnetic pulse. Regular speech is controlled by a section of the brain called Broca's area. Once the precise location is determined in the subject, a magnetic pulse can temporarily disrupt speech without impairing other cognitive functions. The link contains a video in which you can watch Highfield stutter and twitch while attempting to recite a nursery rhyme. A later test shows that he's able to sing the rhyme without difficulty, since singing is controlled in a different part of the brain (as you may remember from Scott Adams' speech disorder). Researchers believe that the ability to stimulate or quell activity in specific areas of the brain may help in treating conditions like epilepsy and migraine headaches.
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Using Magnets To Turn Off the Brain's Speech Center

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  • My wife (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday May 18, 2008 @10:21AM (#23452872)
    needs a zappie!
    • Re:My wife (Score:5, Funny)

      by Deadfyre_Deadsoul (1193759) on Sunday May 18, 2008 @10:46AM (#23453056) Journal
      Next, they will make a super big magnet in space and be able to make an entire continent shut up....
      • Re:My wife (Score:5, Funny)

        by omeomi (675045) on Sunday May 18, 2008 @11:19AM (#23453302) Homepage
        Next, they will make a super big magnet in space and be able to make an entire continent shut up....

        Then I won't look so silly in my tin-foil hat, now will I?
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Well, every man has a special tool to turn off the speech center of a woman's face. Works like a key. Just insert and voila. Instant peace and quiet.
    • by cayenne8 (626475)
      This would be perfect to install on the TV remote, that way you can turn the game up and turn her down at the same time, and never have to leave the comfy chair.

      Why is it that women ALWAYS seem to want to have (what they think is) an 'important' conversation right in the middle of a good football or basketball game? Do they do that intentionally to piss us off?

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by gbjbaanb (229885)
        nope, its because as soon as you start watching the football, she discovers how incredibly boring it is, and turns the the first thing she finds most interesting: how you 'feel'.

        Similarly, when you and your wife find yourselves with a spare moment, and she starts to talk about your relationship, you find it incredibly boring and turn to the thing you find most interesting: what's on the TV.
      • by tepples (727027)

        Why is it that women ALWAYS seem to want to have (what they think is) an 'important' conversation right in the middle of a good football or basketball game?
        Because they own TiVo stock and they want you to buy a TiVo DVR. One workaround is to ask the woman to write it down, promising that you'll read it at the next commercial break.
      • by jafiwam (310805)
        Uhm. Yes?

        I got one to admit it once (a co worker), she said she did it to feel "special" by commandeering the attention of her boyfriend when he was fixated on something else.
        • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

          by cayenne8 (626475)
          "I got one to admit it once (a co worker), she said she did it to feel "special" by commandeering the attention of her boyfriend when he was fixated on something else."

          And that my friend, is another reason to never get married. She starts pulling shit like that...you kick her to the road and find a new 'model' that won't bother you like that with petty games. If you're not married...you don't lose half your shit either....

          :-)

    • by hey! (33014) on Sunday May 18, 2008 @12:22PM (#23453712) Homepage Journal
      You're making the classic engineering mistake: mis-defining the problem.

      Disrupting the speech centers of the brain does not preempt attempts at communications. And you need communication; it's just that men, left to themselves, would communicate by passing terse status messages: "I'm hungry"; "I'm angry"; "I'm going to sleep"; "I want sex."

      Women send the same status messages, but they seem to gain satisfaction out of the process itself. Therefore they send messages in steganographic form: the basis status messages are there, wrapped all kinds of other data which do not require your immediate action. It pays to pay at least some attention; she may start an "I want sex" status message by telling you that her sister's neighbor's aunt is going in for a gall stone operation.

      The wise man knows that he should celebrate the differences between the sexes if he wants to celebrate the difference between the sexes.

      Therefore, it is best to cultivate the skill of appearing mildly interested and engaged, making reflexive, non-committal listening responses, and paying just enough attention to pick out any cues that indicate something that requires immediate action. It's a lot like driving, actually. You get that sixth sense for when somebody is going to cut you off, or roll into an intersection without coming to a stop. It's not magic, it's practice.
  • by zr-rifle (677585) <zedr@zedrMOSCOW.com minus city> on Sunday May 18, 2008 @10:25AM (#23452900) Homepage
    pff... real networks have been doing this stuttering thing since 1995.
    • by Dogtanian (588974) on Sunday May 18, 2008 @10:48AM (#23453064) Homepage

      I code in AMOS!!!
      The research also showed that magnets- such as inappropriately placed subwoofers on PC systems- could also suppress the part of the brain responsible for programming skills.
      • by Sentry21 (8183)
        Or the parts of the brain responsible for posting well thought-out, insightful, and complimentary comments while playing games like Counterstrike.
  • by arse maker (1058608) on Sunday May 18, 2008 @10:28AM (#23452920)
    You can imagine govememnts using it matrix style "What good is a phone call if you can't speak, mr anderson?"
    • by gbjbaanb (229885)
      What good is a phone call if you can't speak, mr anderson?"

      thank goodness for the anti government-mind-control properties of texting, video messages, IM and email!
    • You can imagine govememnts using it matrix style "What good is a phone call if you can't speak, mr anderson?"

      It pretty much already happens. [wired.com] You get a National Security Letter gag order, and you are threatened with five years of prison for even trying to communicate the fact that you are under a gag order, let alone trying to address what the gag order is about. The FBI now issues 30,000 National Security Letters a year. [washingtonpost.com]
    • by sydneyfong (410107) on Sunday May 18, 2008 @01:08PM (#23454040) Homepage Journal
      Insightful? When governments are twisted enough that they could "legally" do this, they could also do it the low tech way, namely cutting off your tongue. Throwing you into prison might help too but that's too high tech.

      I mean, I didn't know my freedom of speech was *that* valuable... imagine all those expensive high tech gadgets required to silence me...

      Seriously, this stupid "what if governments ..." paranoia on slashdot has to stop. What if governments used TV to promote neo-Nazism? What if governments used dining knives to execute political dissidents? What if governments drugged me with pot to deprive my right to free thought? What if governments built androids that follow me every day for surveillance purposes? OH THE HORROR!!! HAIL THE GOOD OLD DAYS IN STONE AGE WHEN THE TRIBE LEADER THREW STICKS AT HIS ENEMIES!!

      I mean, you guys need to understand how oppressive governments work. They don't care about you, so they'll just find the least complicated ways to "reform" you. You won't get the privilege to be silenced by these kinds of expensive tech if cutting your tongue or throwing you into prison works better and cheaper. Wake up dudes, you guys have read too much sci-fi. /rant.
      • by nick_davison (217681) on Sunday May 18, 2008 @01:53PM (#23454374)

        Seriously, this stupid "what if governments ..." paranoia on slashdot has to stop.
        What if the government decided to suspend the right of habeus corpus that's lasted since the magna carta?

        What if the government decided to do away with the fourth ammendment and declare it was their right to search and seize simply becuase they're fighting a war against a noun?

        What if the government decided to completely ignore the right to legal representation and a free trial because they were holding you in a special, magical place where they decided those rules didn't apply?

        What if the government started shipping people off to be tortured by third party nations so they could pretend they weren't doing it themselves.

        What if the government wrote a statement that said certain forms of torture was OK, completely refused to list what those forms are, then pretended to be shocked when, exactly as intended, junior troops did what was expected of them?

        What if the government could demand your library and bookstore records and had a special way of doing it where, legally, no one was ever allowed to report they'd been demanded, let alone fight the demands?

        Or, the classic "crazy" one: What if the government was secretly spying on your phonecalls? Don't tell me there are laws against that. They could do it if they really wanted, right?

        You want me to keep going?

        The government tends to do the insidious crap because, exactly as they've done with most of the above, they can then deny they're even doing it for several years until the weight of evidence becomes completely overwhelming then they stop that one specific thing and start the next one.

        You cut someone's tongue off, you've left a really big piece of physical evidence that sickens and outrages the world.

        You toss someone in jail without trial, in normal circumstances, and a lawyer seeking to make a name for themselves is on your ass within months.

        Pull the shady crap like suspending habeus corpus and you've got years before they even get it reinstated and can begin trying to get the guy you jailed back out.

        Keep shipping him off to Syria or Egypt for "questioning" and you get to torture, whilst claiming innocence, the whole time.

        Insidious works far better than blunt.

        Continuing the insidious theme:

        The British government is having major issues with a cleric they can't deport because he might face torture but who they can't make charges stick on in England.

        Blunt option: Jail without trial. They tried that, it caused outrage. They had to release him.

        Subtle tinfoil hat option: Zap him with a magnet. "Oh, the poor dear's had a stroke. He can't preach anymore. How awful." Then you take him to a nice secure hospital to protect him from the people who might do him harm and you keep repeating. Problem solved. You're helping him, not harming him.
  • by coren2000 (788204) on Sunday May 18, 2008 @10:29AM (#23452932) Journal
    ... that take away my speech centers when I meet a pretty girl.
  • Courage... (Score:2, Informative)

    by camg188 (932324)
    That test subject had a lot of courage. No way is my brain getting zapped.
    • by maxume (22995) on Sunday May 18, 2008 @10:37AM (#23452994)
      What makes you think they will hear your objections?
    • Re:Courage... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by kylemonger (686302) on Sunday May 18, 2008 @10:38AM (#23452996)
      That test subject had a lot of stupidity. No way is my brain getting zapped.

      There, I fixed that sentence for you. What I wondered was what else these guys were zapping while they were finding the subject's Broca area. Maybe they convinced him it was safe, but they'd have to do a whole lot of talking to convince me.

  • I wonder... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by The Bringer (653232) on Sunday May 18, 2008 @10:36AM (#23452974)
    I wonder what would happen if the magnetic pulses were applied to more important sections of the brain, such as the area that controls autonomous bodily functions, like the heart. I suppose, if it is capable of knocking out the area of the brain that controls speech, it should be capable of knocking out the section of the brain that controls other, critical bodily functions. Is it only me, or do you see a potential weapons application for this in the future?
    • by Free_Meson (706323) on Sunday May 18, 2008 @10:41AM (#23453018)

      Is it only me, or do you see a potential weapons application for this in the future?
      If your goal is to indiscriminately impair critical brain functions, a gun would be much more cost-effective.
      • Re:I wonder... (Score:5, Insightful)

        by CrazedWalrus (901897) on Sunday May 18, 2008 @11:05AM (#23453210) Journal
        I'd have to think that forensics units would have a harder time tracking down the person who fired an EM pulse. They've gotten pretty good at matching bullets to guns.
        • by ColdWetDog (752185) * on Sunday May 18, 2008 @11:46AM (#23453472) Homepage

          I'd have to think that forensics units would have a harder time tracking down the person who fired an EM pulse. They've gotten pretty good at matching bullets to guns.

          I would have to think that it would not take much in the way of forensic aptitude to track down the person(s) manipulating the giant magnetic coil next to the guys head.

          And does anyone think that there is something a bit odd about the assistant's name being "Muggleton"?

        • by kdemetter (965669)
          So an EMP will not only fry electronics , it will also shut people up ?

          • Apparently. I told my wife I'm going to build a huge electromagnet in the garage, but she said it'd probably just make me sterile.*

            Considering my kids, I'm not sure that'd be such a bad thing.

            * the above conversation is for comedic effect only, and never, in fact, took place. The wife's pretty pissed off today, and has probably been considering *other* means of making me sterile.
      • Is it only me, or do you see a potential weapons application for this in the future?


        If your goal is to indiscriminately impair critical brain functions, a gun would be much more cost-effective.
        Magnetic weapons don't leave material evidence.
        If your goal is to injure or kill with impunity, leaving no evidence is worth its weight in gold.
        • Magnetic weapons don't leave material evidence.

          Well, other than the tracks for the vehicle to haul around this massive magnet and its power supply, as well as any debris in the area that may be magnetized, and of course the weird victim who had a beef with the guy with the giant mobile electromagnet.

          If your goal is to injure or kill with impunity, leaving no evidence is worth its weight in gold.

          How much does leaving no evidence weigh?

          Ballistics evidence is only useful if you can tie a bullet to a gun

    • by fbjon (692006)
      AFAIK, the heart has it's own bundle of nerves that give regular pulses.
    • by supabeast! (84658)

      Is it only me, or do you see a potential weapons application for this in the future?
      If you're close enough to precisely target a brain with a magnetic pulse, and your target is still enough to let you do so, why not just stab him? It would cost a lot less.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        "No matter how powerful the wizard, a knife in the back will severely cramp his style" - Vladimir Taltos
      • Re:I wonder... (Score:4, Interesting)

        by zwei2stein (782480) on Sunday May 18, 2008 @11:30AM (#23453388) Homepage
        "Natural death" is quite usefull if you want to kill someone popular but undesirable ... No blades, no blame.

        But even worse is ... you dont have to kill him at all! Death of mind is good enough and someone with dead mind can be reused ... especially if he is popular with undesirable kind of people.

        Just imagine how much can specialist at ministry of do with this kind of stuff. Selectivelly disable parts of someone mind ... with memory and/or inteligence gone, you have obedient tabula rasa person.
    • The area responsible for involuntary mechanisms such the heart and breathing are controlled by the brain stem. Disabling the brain stem, however would have even more devastating effects because it is the conduit through which all motor activities take place such as walking, touch senses, and yes, even talking.

      If you wanted to really screw someone up, the brain stem is where you want to do the damage.
    • I marvel (Score:3, Funny)

      by Scrameustache (459504)

      I wonder what would happen if the magnetic pulses were applied to more important sections of the brain, such as the area that controls autonomous bodily functions, like the heart. I suppose, if it is capable of knocking out the area of the brain that controls speech, it should be capable of knocking out the section of the brain that controls other, critical bodily functions.

      Is it only me, or do you see a potential weapons application for this in the future?

      With the proper mastery of magnetism and the human mind, a team could build, in a helmet, an amplifier device that could be used by a trained professional to target individuals precisely, anywhere in the world.
      I'd call this contraption... "Cerebro".

    • Re:I wonder... (Score:4, Interesting)

      by FleaPlus (6935) on Sunday May 18, 2008 @02:06PM (#23454496) Journal
      I wonder what would happen if the magnetic pulses were applied to more important sections of the brain, such as the area that controls autonomous bodily functions, like the heart. I suppose, if it is capable of knocking out the area of the brain that controls speech, it should be capable of knocking out the section of the brain that controls other, critical bodily functions. Is it only me, or do you see a potential weapons application for this in the future?

      One thing to know about TMS is that 90-95% of the labs doing research with it use coils which are only capable of stimulating ~1-2cm deep, which is really only useful for hitting cortical areas (or cerebellum). Autonomic functions are controlled by subcortical brain regions, farther away from the scalp. There are a few labs however working with developing things like Deep TMS [medgadget.com] which should hypothetically be able to hit deeper regions, but I've never worked with those systems, so I don't know what sorts of safety measures they take.
    • by Yvanhoe (564877)
      I see more use in interrogation rooms. Of course shutting down the speech area who not be the idea of course...
  • by freeasinrealale (928218) on Sunday May 18, 2008 @10:37AM (#23452986)
    shouldn't it be from the bzzt-ow-bzzt-ow-bzzzzzzzt-........ dept?
  • Ok, so the proof of concept is done.

    Now, how do we build this into cell phones?

    caller: Like OMG! Theres PONIEZ!!
    device: *BZZZT*
    caller: Like OMG! Theres PONIEZ!!

    Ok, so in some cases drooling and twitching occur naturally... ;-)
  • Yes (Score:5, Funny)

    by antifoidulus (807088) on Sunday May 18, 2008 @10:37AM (#23452990) Homepage Journal
    but can they make you sing folk songs?
    • by FooAtWFU (699187)
      I've wandered all over this country
      Prospecting and digging for gold
      I've tunneled, hydraulicked, and cradled,
      and, I have been frequently sold!
  • by G4from128k (686170) on Sunday May 18, 2008 @10:39AM (#23453002)
    The notion that this pulse "turns-off" the targeted segment of the brain isn't correct. The pulse does NOT remove power from the brain or suppress neuronal firing. Instead, it disrupts coordinated firing of the neurons by inducing a spurious current in the neurons. Thus it is more like randomly applying a signal to the pins of a CPU than to cutting power or clipping pins.

    I can't imagine that this pulse is very good for neuronal tissue in the short-term or long-term.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Wrong. It would help if you weren't talking out of your ass and imagining how this device works. There are studies describing this technique which basically depolarizes neurons and depresses action potentials. In other words, it turns that area of the brain off by suppressing neurons from firing. Please do us all a favor and know exactly what you're talking about before chiming in.
    • Disrupting? I prefer to think of it as shaping.
    • by hey! (33014)
      I wonder if this technology couldn't be used to induce creativity by disrupting habitual thought patterns temporarily.

      If you could map the patterns of neuron firing during problem solving, you could turn off inhibitory patterns, allowing wild, crazy, unconventional ideas a little more time to form. Most of the result would be garbage, of course, but sometimes creativity requires letting a not-quite-right idea a little temporary leeway.

      You wouldn't want to use this all the time, only after you'd put a signi
  • by moonbender (547943) <moonbender@gmai[ ]om ['l.c' in gap]> on Sunday May 18, 2008 @10:42AM (#23453022)
    The technology to do this is (apparently) called transcranial magnetic stimulation [wikipedia.org]. And even though it looks really freaky in the video with the twitching and everything, it appears to be safe as long as you don't suffer from epileps; in fact it's routinely done for therapeutic and diagnostic purposes.

    I guess you still shouldn't try it at home, though.
  • Just put headphones on the victim and feed their voice back to them with a 1-second delay for instant speech impediment fun and frolics. No danger of erasing your victims credit card or being sued 10 years later when they blame you for giving them a brain tumor.

    (I guess people who work in the TV and radio industry or who spend long periods talking on echoey long-distance phone calls will have developed immunity, though).

    Obviously doesn't have the same neurological implications as the zapper - but that's

  • by Stanislav_J (947290) on Sunday May 18, 2008 @10:52AM (#23453100)

    If only this had been developed 20 years ago, I'd still be married. (I'd have ordered two right off the bat -- one for her and one for her mother.....)

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday May 18, 2008 @10:53AM (#23453108)
    This technology is called Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation [wikipedia.org] (or TMS).
  • For monastic orders with vows of silence and problem monks.
  • Wow! (Score:3, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday May 18, 2008 @11:04AM (#23453196)
    I'm speechless!
  • TV magnets (Score:3, Funny)

    by dargaud (518470) <slashdot2@gd a r g a ud.net> on Sunday May 18, 2008 @11:09AM (#23453244) Homepage
    And the magnets prevent in TVs can take the entire brain out. What a surprise !
    • by _xeno_ (155264)

      And the magnets prevent in TVs can take the entire brain out. What a surprise !

      I guess the ones in computers can't be too good for the spelling center of the brain. :P

  • Brain Hacking (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Zarf (5735) on Sunday May 18, 2008 @11:13AM (#23453268) Journal
    This is very exciting as it could point to a future where you can literally hack your own brain. So far it looks like he can only temporarily disrupt parts of a person's brain... what about enhancement? What about non-invasive brain I/O?

    What I think could also be very interesting is what kinds of background effects do things like the Aurora have on people's brains? I lived in far-north Alaska for many years and I remember that anecdotally everyone talked about strange dreams when the Aurora was active. It could have been merely a sub-conscious suggestion that active Aurora leads to altered dream states or ... now I think after seeing this video ... perhaps it had a grain of truth? Hopefully someone will conduct some experiments.
    • by fyoder (857358)

      This is very exciting as it could point to a future where you can literally hack your own brain.
      Do you have a backup?
    • Re:Brain Hacking (Score:5, Interesting)

      by FleaPlus (6935) on Sunday May 18, 2008 @02:33PM (#23454700) Journal
      This is very exciting as it could point to a future where you can literally hack your own brain. So far it looks like he can only temporarily disrupt parts of a person's brain... what about enhancement?

      There's actually an Australian researcher, Allan Snyder [centreforthemind.com], who uses TMS to try to invoke savant-like symptoms [nytimes.com] in people. The basic idea is that autistic savants are able to do Rainman-like feats like instantaneous counting of scattered matchsticks and photorealistic drawing because their higher-level processing regions are impaired, so that they operate based on lower-level, unfiltered representations. The idea is to see what happens when you try to impair these regions in other people. I should add the caveat though that I'm not aware of other labs which have replicated (or tried to replicate) his results yet, so they should be taken with the appropriate grain of salt. From the article:

      The Medtronic was originally developed as a tool for brain surgery: by stimulating or slowing down specific regions of the brain, it allowed doctors to monitor the effects of surgery in real time. But it also produced, they noted, strange and unexpected effects on patients' mental functions: one minute they would lose the ability to speak, another minute they would speak easily but would make odd linguistic errors and so on. A number of researchers started to look into the possibilities, but one in particular intrigued Snyder: that people undergoing transcranial magnetic stimulation, or TMS, could suddenly exhibit savant intelligence -- those isolated pockets of geniuslike mental ability that most often appear in autistic people. ...

      A series of electromagnetic pulses were being directed into my frontal lobes, but I felt nothing. Snyder instructed me to draw something. ''What would you like to draw?'' he said merrily. ''A cat? You like drawing cats? Cats it is.''

      I've seen a million cats in my life, so when I close my eyes, I have no trouble picturing them. But what does a cat really look like, and how do you put it down on paper? I gave it a try but came up with some sort of stick figure, perhaps an insect. ....

      While I drew, Snyder continued his lecture. ''You could call this a creativity-amplifying machine. It's a way of altering our states of mind without taking drugs like mescaline. You can make people see the raw data of the world as it is. As it is actually represented in the unconscious mind of all of us.''

      Two minutes after I started the first drawing, I was instructed to try again. After another two minutes, I tried a third cat, and then in due course a fourth. Then the experiment was over, and the electrodes were removed. I looked down at my work. The first felines were boxy and stiffly unconvincing. But after I had been subjected to about 10 minutes of transcranial magnetic stimulation, their tails had grown more vibrant, more nervous; their faces were personable and convincing. They were even beginning to wear clever expressions.

      I could hardly recognize them as my own drawings, though I had watched myself render each one, in all its loving detail. Somehow over the course of a very few minutes, and with no additional instruction, I had gone from an incompetent draftsman to a very impressive artist of the feline form. ...

      As remarkable as the cat-drawing lesson was, it was just a hint of Snyder's work and its implications for the study of cognition. He has used TMS dozens of times on university students, measuring its effect on their ability to draw, to proofread and to perform difficult mathematical functions like identifying prime numbers by sight. Hooked up to the machine, 40 percent of test subjects exhibited extraordinary, and newfound, mental skills. That Snyder was able to induce these remarkable feats in a controlled, repeatable experim

  • by jxliv7 (512531) on Sunday May 18, 2008 @11:20AM (#23453308)
    So here I was, speedreading through /., and the scientific suggestion of

    "Using Maggots To Turn Off The Brain's Speech Center"

    snatched my Sunday morning mind's attention like a zombie. Litereally. So, is there something here I'm missing? Like how does one direct those blood suckers to the speech center of a brain, assuming it's not major surgery to introduce them? And why...? Is DARPA going over to the dark side in the fight against terrorists?
     
    Alas, after 15 second of grimacing and beweilderment I realized my sleep-hazed eyes were misreading.
     
    Dang, I hope I didn't give some royalty fee collection company another bad idea to file a patent for...
  • by slimjim8094 (941042) <slashdot3 AT justconnected DOT net> on Sunday May 18, 2008 @11:54AM (#23453530)
    what use is a phone call if you are ... unable ... to ... speak?
  • by Arcanlaw (929183) on Sunday May 18, 2008 @12:36PM (#23453810)
    In other news, it was revealed President Bush has been wearing a toupe for years to hide an area of partial baldness. "I love it!" Mr. Bush exclaimed. "I found this great place that uses rare earth magnets to keep 'em on your head. Real convenient like."
  • Wouldn't it be more fun to turn on the pleasure center than to turn off the speech center?
  • That's awfully close to 'mindrot' in Vernor Vinge's "A Deepness in the Sky".
  • ... rap performers:

    A later test shows that he's able to sing the rhyme without difficulty, since singing is controlled in a different part of the brain
  • Doesn't this imply that non-ionizing EM (for example, radio waves) may in fact disrupt brain function in some way? A high intensity pulse can apparently disrupt a major function. What does a high level of EM background noise do? Does it lower the S/N ratio (for example, generate random neuron firing), making coherent thought more difficult?
    • Re:Non-ionizing EM (Score:4, Informative)

      by FleaPlus (6935) on Sunday May 18, 2008 @02:13PM (#23454546) Journal
      Doesn't this imply that non-ionizing EM (for example, radio waves) may in fact disrupt brain function in some way? A high intensity pulse can apparently disrupt a major function.

      Keep in mind that a typical TMS coil induces a current in brain neurons by generating a field which goes from 0 to 2 Tesla in about a tenth of a millisecond. Even then, the field is only effective at neural stimulation a centimeter or two away from the coil's focal point. I'm not too familiar with devices which generate non-ionizing EM, but I suspect you'd be hard-pressed to find something with those sorts of characteristics.
  • As long as the person is expecting their speech to be disturbed, and they can hear/feel the exact moment that the magnet is pulsing, the effect could be purely psychosomatic. They really need to test this on someone who's not expecting these effects. It may be ethically a bit strange, but it's the only true test.
    • by FleaPlus (6935) on Sunday May 18, 2008 @02:22PM (#23454610) Journal
      As long as the person is expecting their speech to be disturbed, and they can hear/feel the exact moment that the magnet is pulsing, the effect could be purely psychosomatic. They really need to test this on someone who's not expecting these effects. It may be ethically a bit strange, but it's the only true test.

      There's actually a few different types of controls which are used experimentally. Here's what I can think of off the top of my head:

      * use a sham coil that triggers the same sorts of clicking sound but doesn't actually stimulate anything

      * more recently, a different type of sham coil [plosone.org] has been developed which allows you to modify current directions on-the-fly, allowing you to create the sound/sensation of scalp stimulation, but causes minimal stimulation in the brain region (disclaimer: this coil was devised by people from the same lab as me)

      * you can switch which side of the brain you're stimulating on, and if the subject isn't familiar with neuroanatomy they'll be none the wiser. About midway down this page [wwnorton.com] there's a video of someone counting upwards, and it shows that even though there's a disruption when you stimulate Broca's area on the left side of the brain, no effect is observed when the symmetric area on the other side of the brain is stimulated.
  • Nard bwrf glab zneff bwaa boo miffo grufle blamp! Hell No!
  • Another cool video (Score:4, Interesting)

    by FleaPlus (6935) on Sunday May 18, 2008 @02:24PM (#23454632) Journal
    There's actually another neat video [wwnorton.com] (from an intro psych textbook website from a couple years ago) showing the effects of TMS on Broca's area. The guy counts numbers upwards, and as they stimulate Broca's on the left side he experiences a disruptive effect (afterwards saying, "That was cool" ;). They also stimulated on the analogous region on the right side, showing that this participant had no observable effect.
  • OLD NEWS..... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by IHC Navistar (967161) on Sunday May 18, 2008 @09:55PM (#23457676)
    Using magnets to turn off parts of the brain has been around for DECADES.

    We just watched a video about this VERY SAME THING in psych class a month and a half ago - A magnetic pulse was used to turn off the speech center of a subjects brain while they counted from one to ten and recited a series of words.

    NOTHING NEW.
  • by Fantastic Lad (198284) on Monday May 19, 2008 @03:18AM (#23459352)
    The manipulation of the nervous system through the application of electromagnetic fields has been done before, though it rarely seems to be the primary subject of a story, but rather is only mentioned as a secondary point of fact.


    Take this story, [scotsman.com] for example. . .

    [...]In tests, the blind have been able to distinguish basic shapes of objects they cannot see, as well as their orientation and direction of motion. On other occasions a blind person has reported experiencing a "feeling" that an object is present, while not being able to see it.

    A number of theories have been proposed to explain "blindsight". Generally, it is suggested that other parts of the brain besides the primary visual cortex respond to nerve messages from the eyes at an unconscious level.

    Scientists from the University of Houston in Texas, temporarily blinded a group of 12 volunteers by using an electromagnetic field to shut down the primary visual cortex. Images were then flashed in front of them on a screen[...]

    It is for these reasons, among others, that I find the whole mass adoption of cell phones and the resulting soup of EM broadcast transmissions in our cities and homes troublesome, and why I find myself sighing at those who insist on repeating the telecommunications corporate propaganda: that non-ionizing radiation is harmless, (which I suppose might be true if one considers mass manipulation of human awareness 'harmless'), that the sun puts out more EM than any man-made device which therefore means that there is nothing to be concerned about, (a silly argument since life IS affected by the white noise from space, but has adapted to deal with it in some interesting ways, as opposed to deliberate coherent signals which affect cells in a variety of reliable and repeatable ways), and that studies on rats don't mean anything because rats != humans, and other such nonsense arguments.

    This is just more fodder for the fire. Ignore at your own risk. (And with EM, the more you ignore, the faster and easier it becomes to ignore. Zombie nation.)


    -FL

    • Found a picture of the device used [typepad.com] to temporarily shut down the visual cortex.

      Here's another story [healthyplace.com] on the technology. . .

      TMS induces an electromagnetic current in the underlying cortical neurons, which may explain its therapeutic effects. Repetitive TMS, using varying frequencies and intensities, can increase or decrease excitability in the cortical area directly targeted by the stimulation. Recent studies combining TMS and neuroimaging techniques, such as magnetic resonance imaging, demonstrate that the e

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