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Biotech Medicine Technology

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

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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  • 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?"
  • 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.

  • 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.
  • Re:I wonder... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by thePowerOfGrayskull ( 905905 ) <marc,paradise&gmail,com> on Sunday May 18, 2008 @11:22AM (#23453334) Homepage Journal
    "No matter how powerful the wizard, a knife in the back will severely cramp his style" - Vladimir Taltos
  • 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.
  • Or you could do something far better and more sensible and hook up with a cute guy.
  • by kesuki ( 321456 ) on Sunday May 18, 2008 @07:45PM (#23456832) Journal
    and not continue using the same working equipment until it fails? LCDs only became 'affordable' compared to CRTs when Sony stopped making CRTs and switched to LCDs...

    also, LCDs http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Liquid_crystal_display [wikipedia.org] act on electric polarization, I've never exposed one to high magnetic fields, but is is entirely with in the realm of completely possible that a large surge of magnetic energy pulse could completely render the display illegible... the distortion could be as a result of 'induction' of internal electronic components...

    ah here we go http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Indium_Tin_Oxide [wikipedia.org] clearly states, ITO can be used as 'EMI shielding' suggesting that it would be black out by large magnetic pulses.

    ITO is also used in 'plasma' displays, so it seems that 'CRTs' are the only display type that can be 'timed' around large magnetic pulses...
  • by DrYak ( 748999 ) on Sunday May 18, 2008 @08:56PM (#23457264) Homepage
    TMS is actually a very old technique, which has been used for ages.

    It's not "magnetic stimulation". It's electrical stimulation. They are inducing a current in the brain, which not surprisingly interferes with the operation of the brain, since the brain partly operates with electrical currents.
    More or less yes. What makes TMS interesting is :
    - the effects are local. Whereas using electrodes, you basically fry the whole brain.
    - much finer tunning : you can slightly increase or dicrease the probability of neurons firing in target area, and have a lot of freedom of controlling how much "slightly".

    In my opinion, there is more fraud. Here is a quote from the article: 'Prof Allan Snyder, at the University of Sydney believes TMS can act as "a creativity-amplifying machine".'
    Not exactly, this the "... and maybe one day, we'll cure cancer / produce fast and cheap petabyte sized harddisk / eliminate terrorism / develop WMD", also known as "money whoring". Just putting some outrageously far-reaching speculation, in the hope the someone in the government will notice them and pour money in.

    Their "creativity stimultion application" is probably just shutting down some brain regions and stimulating other to see how this altered state of mind influence creativeness. Actual artists have been doing this for age using marijuanna, LSD, etc... except for *much* *much* *much* cheaper.

Doubt isn't the opposite of faith; it is an element of faith. - Paul Tillich, German theologian and historian