08 August 2010

Being Dustin Hoffman, as Rain Man

Update 14Aug10: Brian Wang discusses other modalities of brain stimulation which have analogous effects on various brain functions as TMS. For now, we are limited to such crude tools as described, but we are actually not that far away from genuine targeted brain augmentation. Needless to say, we are also not far from targeted brain disruption.

According to scientist Alan Snyder, autistic savant skills are latent inside everyone's brain. But the way to bring out these skills is by suppressing -- or damping down -- normal activity in certain parts of the brain, using magnetic pulses.
... the extraordinary skills of savants are latent in us all and that they can be induced artificially owing to the inhibiting influence of low-frequency rTMS, that is, by turning off part of the brain, not by exciting it. _RoyalSociety


In a recent publication in Royal Society Transactions, Biological Sciences, Snyder elaborated on techniques of artificial production of savant skills using transcranial magnetic stimulation.
Low-frequency rTMS temporarily inhibits neural activity in a localized area of the cerebral cortex, thereby creating ‘virtual lesions’ (Hilgetag et al. 1999; Walsh & Cowey 2000; Hoffman & Cavus 2002; Steven & Pascual-Leone 2006). As discussed below in §4, the LATL is implicated in the savant syndrome for both autistic savants as well as savants who emerge late in life as a result of frontotemporal lobe dementia (Miller et al. 1998, 2000; Hou et al. 2000). _RoyalSociety
Snyder was able to use localised low frequency TMS to induce a number of savant skills, including induced drawing skills, induced proofreading skills, induced numerosity (see graph below), and reduced false memories.

TMS is applied from outside the brain, unlike deep brain stimulation (DBS). The effect of TMS on the brain depends upon several factors, including the frequency and amplitude of the pulses, and the proximity to particular parts of the brain. High frequency TMS over the frontal lobes, for example, has been beneficial in improving the language memories of Alzheimer's patients. So you see that TMS can be used to temporarily block neural activity, or to temporarily augment neural activity -- in chosen locations of the brain.

There are many approaches to using electromagnetic stimulation for brain research and therapy, which are quite promising "top-down" research approaches. Combined with the many "bottom-up" (example) approaches to the study of brain development and function, the future of brain research is very bright.
Superhuman: the Incredible Savant Brain.
Infographic by Smarter.org
You may someday be wearing an electromagnetic cap which can be switched to different settings, depending upon the task you want to accomplish. Such brain augmentation devices will have the ability to simultaneously dampen some parts of the brain while boosting the activity of other parts -- depending upon which mental skills, attitudes, or emotions you wish to emphasise or minimise at the moment. But whatever you do, do not allow anyone else access to the remote control!

H/T Singularity Hub via Impact Lab

Labels: ,

Bookmark and Share


Blogger Kristen Stewart said...

Hope you would add my blog. Thanks a lot. Keep blogging....

Love your blog and you are added :) Keep up the good work and thanks for the kinds words. -- Kristen

Monday, 09 August, 2010  

Post a Comment

“During times of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act” _George Orwell

<< Home

Newer Posts Older Posts