"Pacemaker" For The Brain Improves Memory

This is damn freaky...

Some UK scientists accidentally discovered that by stimulating a specific part of the brain with electrodes, they can significantly improve a person's memory:

The accidental breakthrough came during an experiment originally intended to suppress the obese man's appetite, using the increasingly successful technique of deep-brain stimulation. Electrodes were pushed into the man's brain and stimulated with an electric current. Instead of losing appetite, the patient instead had an intense experience of déjà vu. He recalled, in intricate detail, a scene from 30 years earlier. More tests showed his ability to learn was dramatically improved when the current was switched on and his brain stimulated... Scientists are now applying the technique in the first trial of the treatment in patients with Alzheimer's disease. If successful, it could offer hope to sufferers from the degenerative condition, which affects 450,000 people in Britain alone, by providing a "pacemaker" for the brain.

The work is similar to previous work done to treat Parkinson's disease: 40,000 sufferers currently have similar implantations in their hypothalamus, stimulated by external battery packs. However, its very strange that stimulting the same region improves memory.

The early work with Alzheimer's patients is promising... but I'm still wierded out by the fact that some Dr. Nick Riveria was doing frigging brain surgery to cure obesity!

Oh well. Gift horse. Mouth. I see nothing...

comments

What happens at Trivia Nights?

Interesting. What does this mean for competition at Trivia Nights? I, unfortunately, did not get the "trivia gene" that other members of my family seem to have where they're able to recall minutia at will, although as Ken Jennings of Jeopardy fame has said, sometimes that is of no help when you can't remember where you put your car keys. :)

I love it. Not that he was

I love it. Not that he was tinkering around in the brain to cure obesity, but that memory and learning can be improved . . . we're on our way to creating super-intelligence. I happen to think that's a good thing.

Great post. Really great post.

CV Rick, Ninja Writer

trivia, and the spillover effect

the brain is kind of a digital system... our axons and dendrites are constantly sending signals to each other... but we are trained to suppress them unless enough signal gets across.

In cases of memory loss -- even Alzheimer's -- you can stimulate a "lost" memory by thinking of things that have connections to it. Like you can't remember a person's name, but you remember where you met, what he does, you think of the face, then BOOM! As long as those memories are physically stored near the "lost" memory, all the extra stimulation tricks the brain into lowering the threshold, and the ideas keep flooding back.

This process, called priming, is the exact process that Ogi Ogas used to win $500,000 on "Who Wants To Be A Millionaire":

http://seedmagazine.com/news/2006/11/who_wants_to_be_a_cognitive_ne.php

Of course, you have to be careful. If you lower that threshold too much in too many ways, then people will be overwhelmed with deja vu every second of the day...

For Alzheimer's, I think this is cool... for other stuff, we'll probably need smaller and better probes... you might need 20 probes in different parts of the brain to stimulate math, faces, names, concepts, geography, or even creativity.

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