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Biotech Science

Is Neurostim Becoming a Reality? 249

destinyland writes "There is a current mass market for 'cognitive enhancement' products — and arguments about the black market potential for neurostim. 'The same neurostim device that uses electric impulses from a brain implant to treat people with Parkinson's Disease can be tweaked by a few millimeters and pulse rates to make cocaine addicts feel like they are high all the time... Mix the glamour of surgical self-improvement with the geekiness of high-tech gadget fetishism and you have a niche cosmetic neurostim market waiting to be tapped...'"
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Is Neurostim Becoming a Reality?

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  • by JWSmythe ( 446288 ) <jwsmythe@@@jwsmythe...com> on Thursday December 24, 2009 @01:15PM (#30545170) Homepage Journal

        If I recall correctly, yes. There was some work on electrical stimulation on spinal injury patients, and one slightly wrong setting would give women orgasms. Oops. :) The doctor is selling the device, now named "Orgasmatron", for women who can't climax. Of course, it costs a fortune, but hey, for mind blowing orgasms on demand, some people would pay for it.

        I've known some women who report similar results with a "TENS" unit. That's external stimulus, but the same idea. I have a TENS unit for my back, and it creates a pretty weird sensation. Well, unless you consider involuntary muscle movements normal. I don't know what the placement of the electrodes is, for an orgasm. I know what makes my back feel better though.

  • by geekoid ( 135745 ) <dadinportland&yahoo,com> on Thursday December 24, 2009 @01:35PM (#30545352) Homepage Journal

    You might want to look into serotonin enhancers.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday December 24, 2009 @01:36PM (#30545364)

    hanging out and talking with their friends for hours about nothing

    You know, all those non-geeks thinks the basement dwelling nerds that doesn't talk to their friends are the weirdos. Go figure, huh.

    Don't be so quick to judge.

  • by mi ( 197448 ) <slashdot-2017q4@virtual-estates.net> on Thursday December 24, 2009 @01:44PM (#30545438) Homepage Journal

    So it's just a substitute for those few illicit drugs that do the exact same thing?

    Admittedly far from expert, I still don't believe, there currently exist drugs giving "exact same" effect as the device described in the book. Nor can they exist even in theory, I think, because all chemicals have to be delivered indirectly (through blood) and thus will always a) have side-effects; and b) wear out. Their wearing out means, the user would have to "wake up" to replenish, thus giving him a chance to come to his senses.

    The device in the book works on the brain directly and can work forever — as long as electricity (and hot water) are available in the house...

    Make it pleasurable in a controlled manner, jeesh.

    "Controlled" by whom? Very few of the users currently experiencing the effects would willingly stop. That's the whole point of the book, actually...

  • Re:Major problem... (Score:4, Informative)

    by tonycheese ( 921278 ) on Thursday December 24, 2009 @01:50PM (#30545472)

    (usually of the clubbing type)...

    I know people on slashdot don't get out much, but presuming that everyone who does are mindless zombies is a bit much, don't you think?

  • by VoxMagis ( 1036530 ) on Thursday December 24, 2009 @02:00PM (#30545568)

    You mean like this?

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/651892.stm [bbc.co.uk]

  • by DynaSoar ( 714234 ) on Thursday December 24, 2009 @02:45PM (#30546006) Journal

    Let's just start with part of the headline material:

    " 'The same neurostim device that uses electric impulses from a brain implant to treat people with Parkinson's Disease can be tweaked by a few millimeters and pulse rates to make cocaine addicts feel like they are high all the time..."

    This (and TFA) is from "James Kent is the former publisher of Psychedelic Illuminations and Trip Magazine. He currently edits DoseNation.com, a drug blog featuring news, humor and commentary."

    Hardly your neuroscience expert, or even much of an educated amateur. Educated enough to be dangerous to his own reputation perhaps. We can hope.

    Where Mr. Kent goes wrong is in thinking the stimulator used for Parky's can stimulate other parts of the same structure (within a "few millimeters), the Substantia Nigra, which produced dopamine which is also released in cocaine use, and that this is the reward center, so that doing so makes one feel high.

    The common misconception is based on the "reward" aspect, and confusion of cause and effect with respect to drug use. The reward system operates in the manner of conditioning or learning, in that its output helps to produce the association between a behavior and a reinforcer. Let's just assume for maximum illustration that the reinforcer here is a cocaine high. We have the drug taking behavior, and we have the cocaine high resulting. The dopamine system puts on the brakes with respect to ongoing seeking/investigating and lets the organism maintain focused attention on the object that produced the positive feeling -- it makes reinforcement possible. Note that it does not cause the high, the reinforcer does that. There are many reinforcers that can make learning occur, and most of them do not cause any sort of high. Just because cocaine causes a release of dopamine does not mean this is the source of the high. No, this is the source of the powerful reinforcement that causes addiction to start. Dopamine does not act as a "reward", it allows a reinforcer to do so effectively regardless of any psychotropic effects. It is the cascade of various neurotransmitters that causes the high. Evidence of this is found in the effect of pramipexole (Mirapex) on people. It is a selective dopaminergic and does not cause any high. But it does (at a high enough dosage) cause obsessive/compulsive use and behaviors much as an addiction and related activities.

    Moving a Parky's stimulator will not produce a high, but it might produce the problems related to addiction.

    I've previously pointed out the lack of facts in h+ articles, and the preponderance of fiction. This article starts out with the latter. Check the rest of it for yourself to see if there are any reliable facts actually taken from known science, or whether they are other common misconceptions put to service to fill white space.

    As for cognitive enhancing drugs, amphetamines and such are behavior boosters, not capable of producing long term cognitive enhancement, unless by enhancement one means seeking more of the same. Cognitive enhancing drugs (nootropics) have been around for over 50 years. The first, hydergine, is the red headed step child of the man who called LSD "My Problem Child", Albert Hoffman. There are many such drugs in use throughout the world except for the US where they are allowed only in the cases where they will not help -- severe progressive dementia. In contract with the very lucrative drugs typically used as congitive enhancers, nootropics have very little side effects or interactions.

    In the cases where cognitiion enhancement is possible, anything related to intoxication is contraindicated and counterproductive. Confusing "reward" with getting high, when it is intended only to related to learning reinforcement is key to understanding this. It is also key to determining whether the source is intent on getting smart or getting high, because the latter refuse to give up on the misconception.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday December 24, 2009 @03:17PM (#30546228)

    I don't know about anyone else


    but every person I know who uses drugs on a regular basis is a complete moron and doesn't have anything better to do than getting doped up and hanging out and talking with their friends

    Those people would likely be losers anyway. My wife smokes pot every single day. She also graduated college with honors while working 30 hours a week. Go right ahead and tell me she is an unmotivated moron.

    I doubt you would want to sit around and read a novel while you are high

    So I take it you are not speaking from experience and have no idea what you're talking abut then. I do it all the time, and find it quite enjoyable.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday December 24, 2009 @03:23PM (#30546260)

    I don't know about anyone else but every person I know who watches TV on a regular basis is a complete moron and doesn't have anything better to do than lie around, telling their friends and family to be quiet so they can hear the TV.

    Now won't you old cranky fogies get off my Internet so I can sit here peacefully in my underwear looking at pr0n.

  • by smallfries ( 601545 ) on Thursday December 24, 2009 @03:39PM (#30546372) Homepage

    Why do you think that you are qualified to give an opinion on drugs when you don't seem to know the difference between cocaine and heroin? Although they are both class A drugs they are at opposite ends of the spectrum when it comes to their effect on users. Trainspotting would have been a very different film if it was about a bunch of Scottish coke fiends. I'm curious as in most other domains in life opinions not backed up by any solid experience in the area would be seen as largely superficial.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday December 24, 2009 @03:40PM (#30546374)

    It's "predatory" things of the times. They show a paradise where people get everything they need without having to work, fight or suffer for it. It turns out that this easy life makes people so deprived of feeling, they need artificial neural simulation. Government provides them some every day, but then someone discovers an easy way to get amazing stimulation so cheaply and easily, that people start using it despite its illegality and start dying in droves. The whole situation there shows that when you make people's lives too easy and comfortable, they start yearning for things that are dangerous and life-threatening.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday December 24, 2009 @05:57PM (#30547246)

    Also sounds similar to Euphio Question [blogspot.com] by Kurt Vonnegut. Basically a radio frequency is discovered that puts people into a euphoric stupor.

Nondeterminism means never having to say you are wrong.