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Math Science

Scientists Overclock People's Brains 314

arshadk writes with this excerpt from the BBC about researchers at Oxford University who found that inducing a small current in a subject's parietal lobe boosted their capacity for numerical learning: "The current could not be felt, and had no measurable effect on other brain functions. As it was turned on, the volunteers tried to learn a puzzle which involved substituting numbers for symbols. Those given the current from right to left across the parietal lobe did significantly better when given, compared to those who were given no electrical stimulation. The direction of the current was important — those given stimulation running in the opposite direction, left to right, did markedly worse at these puzzles than those given no current, with their ability matching that of an average six-year-old. The effects were not short-lived, either. When the volunteers whose performance improved was re-tested six months later, the benefits appear to have persisted. There was no wider effect on general maths ability in either group, just on the ability to complete the puzzles learned as the current was applied."
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Scientists Overclock People's Brains

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  • Re:Ridiculous (Score:3, Informative)

    by UnknownSoldier ( 67820 ) on Friday November 05, 2010 @11:41AM (#34136756)

    Oblg: You have to break a few eggs to make an omelette.

  • by Doc Ruby ( 173196 ) on Friday November 05, 2010 @11:48AM (#34136912) Homepage Journal

    Which drugs? Plenty of drugs taken in moderation can be sustained throughout a natural lifespan without damage. Very few drugs, especially those used longer than the last few generations, "burn out neurons" or cause any neuropathy of any kind, at active doses that aren't toxic. Alcohol is an exception. But heroin is not. All drugs temporarily "lower the potential" of neurons or raise them: otherwise they'd have no effect whatsoever. But so does eating too much food (or not enough), or habitual running, or having sex.

    Blanket statements about drugs are rarely meaningful enough to take as useful advice.

  • Oldnews (Score:5, Informative)

    by durrr ( 1316311 ) on Friday November 05, 2010 @11:59AM (#34137114)
    This phenomena is quite well studied, and seems to be producing relatively linear effects. It was discovered in the 70's or so. It's refered to as transcranial direct current stimulation and just a few months ago there was a study on visual memory about the same.
    It's not really new and revolutionary, it's just that the previous studies haven't been able to be worded as "OMG BRAINOVERKLOCKING!" and thus haven't generated the same interest.
    http://nextbigfuture.com/2010/08/direct-current-stimulation-more-than.html [nextbigfuture.com]
  • Re:sweet !! (Score:2, Informative)

    by JonahsDad ( 1332091 ) on Friday November 05, 2010 @12:00PM (#34137138)
    Was at Oxford, so wouldn't it be 1/100th of a second at a time?
  • Re:sweet !! (Score:5, Informative)

    by lazarus corporation ( 701348 ) on Friday November 05, 2010 @12:05PM (#34137240) Homepage
    From the first sentence of the summary at the top of the page:

    arshadk writes with this excerpt from the BBC about researchers at Oxford University who found that...

    As an Englishman I may be biased, but I think the BBC counts as a major news company.

  • Re:Uhhhh.... WHAT? (Score:3, Informative)

    by RockoTDF ( 1042780 ) on Friday November 05, 2010 @12:06PM (#34137250) Homepage
    I seriously doubt peer reviewers would have let them get away with not reporting persisting performance drops.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday November 05, 2010 @01:24PM (#34138634)

    I once watched them pull a motor out of a Honda Civic in 15 minutes, surgeon style (one guy giving and taking tools/nuts/bolts, one guy using the tools to remove said nuts/bolts).

    No exaggeration. 15 minutes. It transcended bitchin'.

    Aside from the illegal drugs in your story, did you ever think that maybe what happens in surgery is just the most efficient method of doing things? When you don't need to fumble for your instruments, you generally can do things more than at 2x the speed thanks to not having to switch your focus from your job.

    If all you remove and install a given engine a few times, you get to the point where you know all the steps and know all the tools that you'll need. Even better if the helper knows the steps too. This is why surgeons work as fast as they do. Practice, practice, practice.

  • by Beerdood ( 1451859 ) on Friday November 05, 2010 @01:39PM (#34138860)
    I think LSD is a decent example of what you could consider over-clocking. If you take a large amount (like 4 or more hits at once) your brain is in absolute overdrive and can certainly perform some functions better than others. And just like over-clocking a CPU you run the risk of burning out a few circuits and getting flashbacks and tracers later in life. This [wikipedia.org] is the official term, and I've heard a few old hippies that claim to have this from too much use from too much use years ago
  • by shugah ( 881805 ) on Friday November 05, 2010 @02:26PM (#34139592)

    That jeep was specially prepared for that demonstration.

    The "engine/transmission" unit must have a self contained fuel tank, battery, and coolant reservoir (radiator) and some sort of quick release engine mounts. There were no fuel lines and while one guy dropped the radiator in just before the hood went on, he didn't connect up any coolant lines. It was probably a 2-wheel drive jeep, to eliminate connecting the front differential. There must have been some sort of quick disconnect on the drive shaft U-Joint. There also must not be a floor or firewall in the jeep so that the shift linkage and accelerator pedal and throttle linkage could all be left attached to the engine/transmission unit.

    You could see a muffle hanging below the chassis, so the exhaust manifolds and header pipe must have just slid into some sort of receiver pipe (I guess it didn't have to pass CARB or EPA testing). Also unless there must have been some sort of multi-pin electrical harness connector or none of the lights would have been functional. The ignition switch was probably attached to the engine and accessible through the open floor / firewall.

    The Jeep has no brakes; there were no brake lines connected to the "body" unit (where the master cylinder would be). Likewise, steering linkage between body and the front suspension/axel must have had some sort of quick disconnect. Also, no heater, no windshield wipers/washers, no speedometer or guages of any type mounted on the dash (possibly on the engine/transmission unit).

    So given that the Jeeps was specially designed to be taken apart and put back together in under 4 minutes, it is not surprising that team trained for that function were able to do so.

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