Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
Medicine Science

Brain Power Boosted With Electrical Stimulation 153

Posted by samzenpus
from the power-up dept.
Zothecula writes "With the possible exception of those affected by hyperthylmesia — a rare condition where a person has an extraordinary capability to recall events from their past — most of us wouldn't mind having our memory enhanced. That's just what appears to have happened to a group of mice when targeted areas of their brains were electrically stimulated. The treatment triggered an increase in the creation of new cells in the hippocampus, with experiment results suggesting the mice's spatial learning improved. The researchers responsible say the results could have implications for the treatment of memory disorders in humans."
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Brain Power Boosted With Electrical Stimulation

Comments Filter:
  • BOOST ALL THE BRAINS!

    Seriously. There's elections coming up.

  • Hm, why do you think we haven't evolved with perfect memory? Could there be a good reason?

    Well, I know that people with really hot tempers usually have bad memories. They'd not be able to live with anyone else, or probably themselves, if they didn't.

    I think that what we really want is really selective memory. Like for rapid learning of languages.

    If you just want to remember facts, there are some memory tricks that work pretty well. Oops, I've forgotten the links :-)

    • by bill_mcgonigle (4333) * on Thursday September 22, 2011 @12:43AM (#37476588) Homepage Journal

      Hm, why do you think we haven't evolved with perfect memory? Could there be a good reason?

      Unless you believe in intelligent design, there may be no reason at all, except that we're only as far along as we are and we work well enough to reproduce. Same reason most of us have relatively poor hand-eye coordination, can't do without oxygen for more than about 3 minutes, have problems with cancers, have our eyes go out of round, etc. Many species of animals do much better on all these measures.

      As my old bio teacher used to intone, "evolution proceeds towards what works, not what's best."

      • Hm, why do you think we haven't evolved with perfect memory? Could there be a good reason?

        Unless you believe in intelligent design, there may be no reason at all ... As my old bio teacher used to intone, "evolution proceeds towards what works, not what's best."

        Intelligent design has nothing to do with it. Your assertion is that we don't have capabilities like this because we haven't needed them enough yet? Isn't it possible that such things (like being able to go without oxygen for a long time) would involve too significant a cost for the rare cases it would be needed and therefore is not worth the tradeoff?

        • You seem to assume guidance for evolution. For a species to evolve a trait, two things need to happen:
          1. One individual in that species needs to mutate and develop that trait.
          2. The trait needs to give a sufficiently large advantage that members of the the species with that trait displace ones without it.

          The first is often a stumbling block for evolution. For humans living on the coast, having gills as well as lungs would be a significant advantage, because it would dramatically increase their ability to f

          • by NoSig (1919688)
            OP doesn't assume guidance in his post. If the energy requirement is such that a present trait is not worth it in the sense that people without that trait survive better because they don't have to spend the energy, all else being equal evolution will tend to remove that trait from the gene pool precisely because "it is not worth the trade off", as the OP said. The determination of whether it is worth the trade off is made through practice instead of by some deliberate intelligence, but that determination is
          • by HiThere (15173)

            Actually, evolution only selects for things that are good for the individual. The species can go hang. This is the reason for many problems.
            N.B., however, that the individual in question is the "gene". This often promotes kin-group altruism. But it also quite often translates into the individual body, as a gene has no guaranteed way of recognizing another body as being host to the same gene.

            Caution should be used in reading the previous text. If read incautiously they could be taken as implying intent

            • by geekoid (135745)

              "evolution only selects for things that are good for the individual."
              False.
              Why have evolved the ability to put the 'group' ahead of ourselves.
              We have evolved to work together.
              People who take care of the species are more likely to survive because the specious will take care of them. Extremely strong survival trait when its applies to children. Meaning people who have this trait will take care of other children and visa versa. This means a higher likely hood of the gens moving on.

              I am not intending to imply e

              • by HiThere (15173)

                Why have evolved the ability to put the 'group' ahead of ourselves.

                We haven't. We are, however, dependent on the social matrix for our survival, so we tend to support that. And during much of our evolutionary history most of our social matrix consisted of close relatives, so they had a large number of genes in common with us. Thus genes supporting the social matrix gained survival probability even at the cost of their current body. But this is an iffy proposition, so we don't have any strong tendency i

        • Intelligent design has nothing to do with it. Your assertion is that we don't have capabilities like this because we haven't needed them enough yet?

          No, not at all. We don't have those capabilities because humans survive without them.

        • by alexo (9335)

          Intelligent design has nothing to do with it. Your assertion is that we don't have capabilities like this because we haven't needed them enough yet? Isn't it possible that such things (like being able to go without oxygen for a long time) would involve too significant a cost for the rare cases it would be needed and therefore is not worth the tradeoff?

          The assertion is that we don't have such capabilities either because mutations to that effect did not randomly happen (oxygen-less survival) or because they d

      • Here's the reason why we don't have perfect memory:http://scienceblogs.com/cortex/2008/12/hell_is_a_perfect_memory.php [scienceblogs.com]. Perfect memory is great when your job is to tell stories about events, but for every other situation, it's complete overkill with significant downsides. Your bio teacher was right, and he was right when it comes to perfect memory: perfect memory is a hindrance in the vast majority of situations you encounter in life. Do you want to perfectly remember every broken bone? Every disappointment

    • Evolution can only reach feasible outcomes. It's also clear that a brain with perfect memory is physically impossible (at best memories represent a sampling of sensory inputs, so full reconstruction of reality is certainly impossible). So it's obvious that we cannot evolve perfect memories, but it may well be that the trend is *towards* perfection nevertheless, since the benefits are substantial.
      • But as far as I know the statistics show that the reproduction nowadays rate of humans is rather reciprocal than proportional to success (assumed that you take success in jobs, political success etc. as the metric for success). This might give evolution a hard time to help us here :-)

      • by Jeremi (14640)

        It's also clear that a brain with perfect memory is physically impossible

        Why is that obvious? My DVR has a perfect memory of its sensory inputs, why couldn't a brain (in theory) do the same?

        Granted it would probably need to be much larger (and/or more space-efficient), or have lower-resolution sensory inputs, or both, but I don't see any fundamental reason why it would be physically impossible.

        The obvious reason why it hasn't occurred (or at least hasn't occurred yet) is that our existing memory system is "good enough" from a survival/reproduction perspective.

    • by phantomlord (38815) <slashdot AT krwtech DOT com> on Thursday September 22, 2011 @01:31AM (#37476766) Journal
      I don't know that I have full blown hyperthymesia, I've never talked to a professional about it, I certainly don't recall EVERY day of my life in great detail but my friends and loved ones are often surprised at what I can recall and just how much trivial detail I can recall when doing so. I had a pretty bad concussion in 1997 which definitely affected my memory in a negative way, but I still still consider it to be far superior to most people.

      Anyway, it is a curse to be forced to remember all of the worst days and moments of your life. Imagine constantly reliving your most painful or embarrassing moments. Imagine carrying around the burden of all of the not so nice things you may have done in your life, like the snippy retort you gave to the person that was marginally rude to you when you were tired. Imagine the insults and bullying that you endured not only through high school, but that the people you've cared about have thrown at you over the years during spats. Or maybe it was the time you made a suggestion at work or to a friend that everyone else has long forgotten but you still remember in vivid detail. I have detailed memories going back to the first house I lived in and we moved out of there when I was 6 months old.

      Breakups can be hard, but remembering the little intimate details of your lost SO are worse, watching a loved one die in front of you, the laughter that still echoes in your mind from the time you had a piece of toilet paper stuck to the bottom of your shoe, etc. Sure, it's nice that you can remember all of the details the day your child was born or that trip you saved up your entire life for, but when you can't forget the things that your brain really needs to in order for you to move on, every day has the potential of being a living hell. It's basically a permanent state of PTSD and you never know when it's going to hit you.

      After my concussion, I've lost some of the factual retention memory ability that wasn't related to my personal life, but, unfortunately, I still mentally "record" virtually every moment of my life. I can't always tell you the date (though I often can), but I can deliver the full visual, audio and tactile memory of those moments. Friends/family tend to love that I can remember the things that they can't and help refresh their own memories, but for me, it sucks.
      • by bronney (638318)

        I also have exceptional memory but it's on the decline with age. However I would like to give you an advice. Don't dwell on the sad / embarrassing details. They are the past and unchangeable. Your remembering and not remembering them does not change the fact that your kitten is dead because you exercised your arm too much. The next time you find yourself dwelling on these shitty memories, go live life a little bit more. Clean the house, fix a car, help an old lady, load starcraft, make pancakes.

        New mem

        • Unfortunately, it's not as simple as keeping myself busy... to go along with my autobiographical memory, my brain seems to be very parallelized too. I'm often focusing on a number of different tasks independent from each other. Doing something in the foreground doesn't make the background thoughts go away.

          Funny you mention dead cats... that immediately brought back the memories of finding both of mine dead. Where they were, what they looked like, how they felt, the slight warmth still left in their bodie
          • by bronney (638318)

            I don't know if a piece of my experience can provide some insight but your "not going out much" rang a bell. Most of my friends find me weird that I remember things so vividly that if they weren't my friends, they'd think I am some godlike bullshitter like Kevin Spacey in The Usual Suspects. Only a few people in the world knows the truth, those being my closest friends. And I don't mind sharing it with you here as nobody reads past the grandchild of any slashdot post lol.

            The truth, why I think I remember

            • Likewise, it's funny you mention the sensory overload of cities... I don't mind visiting cities, but I could never live there precisely because of the sensory overload. My brain picks up on and remembers every little detail and, on top of the anxiety issues I have, it really stresses me out between the visual, audio and odor overload. It doesn't dull my autobiographical memory at all, it's still fully functional recalling in another "thread" of my brain while I'm there and outside of the city, I still have
          • Obviously you haven't been killing enough brain cells throughout your life. Sound practical advice: go buy some whiskey and melt those memories away (along with your liver! Yay!).
      • Imagine constantly reliving your most painful or embarrassing moments.

        What painful or embarrassing moments? You might feel that way, but what is painful or embarrassing to you isn't necessarily painful or embarrassing to someone else. There's no reason that I see to be upset over a memory. There's likely nothing you can do to change it, so there's no point. For people that don't care, I don't think that remembering moments that would be painful or embarrassing to a normal person would matter. Or perhaps someone sees it as a good trade off.

        • You might feel that way, but what is painful or embarrassing to you isn't necessarily painful or embarrassing to someone else. There's no reason that I see to be upset over a memory. There's likely nothing you can do to change it, so there's no point. For people that don't care, I don't think that remembering moments that would be painful or embarrassing to a normal person would matter.

          First of all, if someone has no emotional connection to their memories, there is something wrong with their brain... the limbic system tags memories, connecting them with the emotions we felt while experiencing them, which helps us to relieve them and to trigger anticipations of future similar circumstances. Secondly, two people will see the same incident in different ways - what may be a painful embarrassment for one may be completely unnotable for another. The type of memories I'm talking about are the on

          • there is something wrong with their brain

            I disagree. I think it would be a positive thing. Well, certainly, they'd be somewhat different.

            There's no point in regret that I see. It changes nothing. Feeling sad or angry changes nothing. Maybe some people would have trouble just not caring, but I think others wouldn't.

            • people with little or no emotional response to the events of their lives are most likely sociopaths... I'm not saying that in a negative connotation, that's simply the definition, for better or worse.

              Remorse/regret is a very useful tool, in that it will help us prevent doing harmful things again in the future. Someone without a feeling of remorse will likely do whatever benefits them in the moment without care for the consequences of that action.
              • Remorse/regret is a very useful tool, in that it will help us prevent doing harmful things again in the future.

                If doing something will likely cause you to be harmed in some way (not emotionally), then neither remorse or regret is necessary for someone to avoid it. They know what will likely happen, so they avoid it. Emotions aren't necessary to realize that much.

                • I suppose it's possible for people that don't feel emotion to not be harmed by what would cause normal people emotional pain... but emotional pain is a real consequence for the vast majority of people, they can feel negatively about something even if there isn't a physical consequence to doing it.

                  However, it only takes one more step for the emotionless to go from "well, I can get away with it because it isn't illegal" to "well, I'm so much smarter/more powerful than everyone else that I'll get away with
                  • However, it only takes one more step for the emotionless to go from "well, I can get away with it because it isn't illegal" to "well, I'm so much smarter/more powerful than everyone else that I'll get away with it even if it is illegal."

                    That could be said about anyone (even people who have emotions). Those who have normal emotions still commit crimes (some feel justified, others feel they need to). Honestly, I don't think they're very intelligent if they think they can get away with it so easily (especially if others failed many times), so they're not much different from normal criminals. Like with normal people, it depends on the person (or sociopath).

                    And not feeling emotion towards past events probably doesn't ensure someone is a sociopa

        • by sjames (1099)

          Everyone has painful and/or embarrassing things in their lives, it's part of the human condition. Yours don't bother you much because not dwelling on such things causes them to fade in your memory, unless, of course, your memory is enhanced.

          • Everyone has painful and/or embarrassing things in their lives

            Can you prove that? That's an interesting thing to claim because not only did you probably not ask everyone this, but even if you did, how could you be sure (or even close to sure) that you are right? I doubt you can read minds.

            Yours don't bother you much because not dwelling on such things causes them to fade in your memory

            What if you remember things that would normally embarrass/emotionally scar a "normal" person but feel absolutely nothing from it?

            I merely want to find out why this isn't possible.

            • by sjames (1099)

              Can you prove that? That's an interesting thing to claim because not only did you probably not ask everyone this, but even if you did, how could you be sure (or even close to sure) that you are right? I doubt you can read minds.

              WOW, Really?!? Look around a bit, read some good literature. Read some Shakespeare. It's only been a matter of common knowledge since the dawn of written language. I have to wonder what's broken in your brain for you to have not noticed this.

              What if you remember things that would normally embarrass/emotionally scar a "normal" person but feel absolutely nothing from it?

              As for why it isn't possible, I didn't say that, I just said it doesn't happen normally (using a standard term "everybody" in the in the non-literal sense). It is possible if there is a bit of missing brain in the limbic system, but there's good reason to believe that

              • I have to wonder what's broken in your brain for you to have not noticed this.

                What have I failed to notice? What does "common knowledge" have to do with anything?

                using a standard term "everybody" in the in the non-literal sense

                I see.

                If you can't be emotionally hurt

                What if someone could be emotionally hurt, but not by mere memories?

                • by sjames (1099)

                  What if someone could be emotionally hurt, but not by mere memories?

                  Then they would likely commit all manner of atrocities large and small because they would get no visceral sense of wrong. Then as soon as the event was over they would remember no sense of wrong.

                  • Then they would likely commit all manner of atrocities large and small because they would get no visceral sense of wrong.

                    Well, "wrong" is subjective to begin with. The fact that someone doesn't feel emotions does not mean they will go out and commit "atrocities." Even people without emotions (or regret) have brains and can work out the consequences of their actions (breaking the law could get them arrested and their actions could hurt society).

                    • by sjames (1099)

                      Hurting society is irrelevant to the sociopath. Most have a hard time consistently applying the rules about breaking the law and being punished. They tend to spend a lot of time incarcerated. The few brighter ones do manage that bit, but tend to abuse people in other not quite provably illegal but certainly immoral and unethical ways whenever it benefits them in the slightest.

                      Sociopaths are noted as well for having only shallow and primitive emotions. I would question how well emotional development could oc

                    • Hurting society is irrelevant to the sociopath.

                      What if relevant or irrelevant for them is for them to determine. Perhaps they can use their brains and determine the consequences of what would happen if everyone did the same thing. Their brains don't turn to mush (as far as I know). Emotions aren't necessary to determine what will likely happen if you do something.

                      certainly immoral and unethical

                      Since it is easily possible for someone to have a different idea of what is "immoral," then the same could be said about anyone.

                      Most have a hard time consistently applying the rules about breaking the law and being punished.

                      "Most"? I wonder if "most" sociopaths have even been found.

                    • by sjames (1099)

                      What if relevant or irrelevant for them is for them to determine.

                      What if rattlesnake venom cured cancer and no means sunset orange now? All of those things require some feeling of connection to others (an emotional response) and the sociopath simply doesn't have it. When you open a bag of chips, do you stop for a moment to consider how the bag might feel about it?

                      Since it is easily possible for someone to have a different idea of what is "immoral," then the same could be said about anyone.

                      So when the girls scouts knock at the psycho's door and he hacksaws their heads off to use as planters he's just being "differently moral" and we should respect that? Sorry, no. Sometimes wrong is wrong.

                    • All of those things require some feeling of connection to others

                      Thinking about how you will probably end up in prison requires a feeling of connection to others?

                      So when the girls scouts knock at the psycho's door and he hacksaws their heads off to use as planters he's just being "differently moral" and we should respect that?

                      Straw man. I didn't say that everyone should respect everyone else's morals. I don't believe that morals are absolute.

                      But my real point wasn't about whether morals were absolute or not. It was about the fact that since different people can have different moral codes, someone could do something to someone else that you find "immoral." Them being a sociopath (or something similar) has little to do with it.

                    • by sjames (1099)

                      Straw man. I didn't say that everyone should respect everyone else's morals. I don't believe that morals are absolute.

                      You either accept that SOME things are absolute even for morals or my characterization is not a straw man. Pick one please.

                    • What are you talking about? I never said that you have to respect someone else's morals even if they have them. For instance, you can have your own morals and act against those who you believe are doing "wrong." Nothing about moral relativism states otherwise. All that is required is believing that morals are subjective. You don't have to "respect" anything.

                    • by sjames (1099)

                      I was attempting to politely shut down the red herring you introduced. You made the claim that morals are relative, and I challenged that SOME aspects are not negotiable, there do exist absolute wrongs.

                      I then provided as an example something that anyone who actually has a sense of morals could clearly understand to be an absolute wrong.

                      However, since this seems to have primarily become an argument where you really really want to have part of your limbic system disabled so you can have your memory enhanced w

                    • there do exist absolute wrongs.

                      Who decides this? How? How can we trust the one who decides? Do you have proof of this?

                      just stay away from me or anyone I care about after and don't blame me if you end up strapped into old sparky.

                      Well, I'm sure my brain wouldn't be turned to mush and I could still consider the consequences (prison) of my actions.

                    • by sjames (1099)

                      Who decides this? How? How can we trust the one who decides? Do you have proof of this?

                      Let's turn it around. When would hacksawing the heads off of Girl Scouts and using them as planters NOT be wrong? If it is not an absolute wrong, when is it right? If it is an absolute wrong, then I submit to you that there are absolute wrongs.

                      Well, I'm sure my brain wouldn't be turned to mush and I could still consider the consequences (prison) of my actions.

                      Oh great, that's just what we need, "Chainsaw" Al Dunlap jr. abusing people everywhere he goes taking advantage of a world that has forgotten that some people have richly earned a punch in the nose.

                      So anyway, like I said, go ahead and have the surgery then, just stay

                    • Let's turn it around. When would hacksawing the heads off of Girl Scouts and using them as planters NOT be wrong?

                      It would not be universally wrong if someone thought it wasn't wrong and moral absolutes didn't exist.

                      So anyway, like I said, go ahead and have the surgery then, just stay away from me and mine because you'll have made a monster of yourself.

                      But I don't think that you actually demonstrated that people that don't have emotions (or lack certain ones) don't want to avoid getting hurt themselves (prison, etc).

                    • by sjames (1099)

                      It would not be universally wrong if someone thought it wasn't wrong and moral absolutes didn't exist.

                      And if wishes were horses, everyone would ride! You didn't answer the question. When is it OK? Would you let any person who can even conceive of a time when it would be OK anywhere near anyone you love?

                      But I don't think that you actually demonstrated that people that don't have emotions (or lack certain ones) don't want to avoid getting hurt themselves (prison, etc).

                      I never tried to demonstrate that! Of course they want to avoid harm to themselves, that's what they're all about. Some are bad at it and go to prison. Others become the real monsters, leaving a long trail of hurt people in their wake with little to prove actual criminality and enough well groomed accomplices

                    • When is it OK?

                      Universally right? "Right" and "wrong" are just opinions to moral relativists.

                      Would you let any person who can even conceive of a time when it would be OK anywhere near anyone you love?

                      No. But what does that have to do with moral relativism.

                      Some are bad at it and go to prison.

                      And some (who knows how many) don't do anything. Just like some people with those emotions don't do anything.

                    • by sjames (1099)

                      No. But what does that have to do with moral relativism.

                      It shows that in it's "absolute" form, it's bankrupt. The weaker statement that many morals are relative may have legs.

                      And some (who knows how many) don't do anything

                      Name one.

      • by geekoid (135745)

        Wow, some self diagnosis themselves to have something they want to have. No bias there.

    • Hm, why do you think we haven't evolved with perfect memory? Could there be a good reason?

      Glucose limitations, probably. Sugar is something of a limited resource in most of the habitable zone and throughout human history.

      Well, I know that people with really hot tempers usually have bad memories.

      PTSD causes both irritability and atrophy of the hippocampus [wikipedia.org].

    • by kvezach (1199717)
      Hm, why do you think we haven't evolved with perfect memory? Could there be a good reason?

      The standard answers to this kind of question are:

      1. Local optimum: Evolution is a black box optimization process. No black box optimization process that progresses in reasonable time can cover all of the search space, so they will get stuck in local optima. The eye is a good example of a local optimum. The nerve fibers are on the wrong side of the eye, so you get a large blind spot where the fibers go "out of t
    • Undoing Mod.
  • "Well, don't. A friend of mine tried one their "special offers," nearly got himself lobotomized." "No shit?" "Don't fuck with your brain, pal. It ain't worth it."
  • Unfortunately, enhancing the mice memory won't help them to forget about their ill-treatments.
  • I could swear that I have seen this news item on slashdot before. Maybe my brain needs a jolt.
  • you've got a friend in me.
  • I know something else that stimulates cell growth.

    Cancer.

  • I have google and my friends. Its all about the keywords and remembering which friends from which time periods you need to speak to. O and facebook is quite useful nowadays. Obviously IMDB,Wikipedia and ermmmm -- - thingummmy ------ Snopes thats it, are useful too. o look hackaday is calling ;)
  • by dunkelfalke (91624) on Thursday September 22, 2011 @03:05AM (#37477140)

    I can bet the name of the mouse in question is Algernon

  • I have always had an amazing memory and can even remember being in the crib. Freaks most people out... specially my mother when I describe the room and such. I've mentioned it to doctors over the years thinking they'd want to investigate it but never had any interest. Alas, as I've gotten older it's faded. I can still remember all the stuff that occurred when I was younger, but things that happened in the past 6-12 months are far less clear to me than most of when I was a toddler.
    • by sgt scrub (869860)

      In all seriousness I'd recommend a physical. Noticeable memory loss is an early sign of heart disease.

      • It can also be a symptom of severe Vitamin B deficiency. So get some blood work done too. Both situations are nasty (though, the heart disease would be the worse case to have).
  • Crikey the Krell have been doing this for millenia, You guys need to get out more.

  • While they are putting the wiring in how about one into the pleasure center -- then we can have a new group of addicts called Wire Heads. Cheap since it only takes a bit of electricity.

  • I know that exercise helps brain function but shocking somebody in the head with an electrical probe isn't a very nice way to motivate someone.

  • So that's what Dr. Lizardo was doing.

The reason that every major university maintains a department of mathematics is that it's cheaper than institutionalizing all those people.

Working...