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posted by janrinok on Wednesday November 24, @07:05AM   Printer-friendly [Skip to comment(s)]
from the powers-for-Algernon dept.

Researchers boost human mental function with brain stimulation:

In a pilot human study, researchers from the University of Minnesota Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital show it is possible to improve specific human brain functions related to self-control and mental flexibility by merging artificial intelligence with targeted electrical brain stimulation.

[...] The findings come from a human study conducted at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston among 12 patients undergoing brain surgery for epilepsy — a procedure that places hundreds of tiny electrodes throughout the brain to record its activity and identify where seizures originate.

In this study, Widge collaborated with Massachusetts General Hospital's Sydney Cash, MD, PhD, an expert in epilepsy research; and Darin Dougherty, MD, an expert in clinical brain stimulation. Together, they identified a brain region — the internal capsule — that improved patients' mental function when stimulated with small amounts of electrical energy. That part of the brain is responsible for cognitive control — the process of shifting from one thought pattern or behavior to another, which is impaired in most mental illnesses.

"An example might include a person with depression who just can't get out of a 'stuck' negative thought. Because it is so central to mental illness, finding a way to improve it could be a powerful new way to treat those illnesses," Widge said.

Journal Reference:
Ishita Basu, Ali Yousefi, Britni Crocker, et al. Closed-loop enhancement and neural decoding of cognitive control in humans, Nature Biomedical Engineering (DOI: 10.1038/s41551-021-00804-y)


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  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday November 24, @07:41AM (6 children)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday November 24, @07:41AM (#1199179)

    In 3..2..1..

    Otherwise, the perfect worker slave. How long till courts mandate someone to this against their will?

    • (Score: 4, Interesting) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday November 24, @08:28AM (3 children)

      by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday November 24, @08:28AM (#1199184)

      I'm sure most readers will think you are being facetious.

      I lost a loved one as I knew him to institutionally forced brain experimentation. We didn't give consent and they never showed evidence he gave any kind of consent, not that he could legally have at that moment. This isn't just living memory; I'm not that old. It boiled down to one person - a stranger to us - unilaterally deciding to experiment. Afterwards, he was breathing and so on, but one would not call him the same person as before, at all.

      He was, however, compliant and docile, capable of doing menial work for minimal pay, having minimal control of his life nor impact on the world.

      Before, he'd been brilliant, though a bit cantankerous.

      After, he couldn't read. If there were deep thought processes, he chose to never again convey them.

      When we buried him many years later, I thought to myself how this was a second death among the inhabitants of this body.

      • (Score: 1, Funny) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday November 24, @08:33AM

        by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday November 24, @08:33AM (#1199186)

        Cool story bro.

      • (Score: 2, Interesting) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday November 24, @03:24PM

        by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday November 24, @03:24PM (#1199214)

        There are some among the mentally ill whose illness prevents them from being able to give informed consent. In the 1960's my mother was given treatments for schizophrenia that were later outlawed, e.g. Thorazine, shock therapy. She wasn't capable of making an informed decision, so the the family consented out of desperation. We were only as well informed as a working class family can be when doctors explain things. I don't know whether her condition was made any worse by such treatments. I saw no evidence that they made her any better. But I do know that her condition before the treatments was so deplorable, that given the opportunity to make the same decision again, to try something experimental, I'd have said try it.

      • (Score: 4, Funny) by DeathMonkey on Wednesday November 24, @04:33PM

        by DeathMonkey (1380) on Wednesday November 24, @04:33PM (#1199230) Journal

        Yeah, it's damn shame what they did to Runaway1956!

        (just kidding bro)

    • (Score: 1, Informative) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday November 24, @02:25PM (1 child)

      by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday November 24, @02:25PM (#1199205)

      Please give a link when referencing ancient B movies that half the readers have never heard of https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0072267/ [imdb.com]

      • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday November 24, @03:21PM

        by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday November 24, @03:21PM (#1199213)

        You mean the Michael Crichton novel I was referring to, which is excellent sci-fi?

        Movies? TV? HEATHENS!

  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Saturday November 27, @01:11PM (2 children)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday November 27, @01:11PM (#1199961)

    I was thinking about the purpose of dreams and why we tend to forget them afterwards.

    So when you do RAM memory checks on a computer you are testing to see whether each memory cell is working properly by filling in those memory cells with random pieces of information and reading back that information. If the memory is good you report to the user that the memory is good. If the memory is bad you report to the user which memory cells are bad and the user can decide if he wants to replace the ram chip or not. Also, the operating system may decide to route information around those bad memory cells in the future. With a hard drive some drives may even replace some of the bad bits with spare bits if it tests it and sees that there are bits in bad sectors (or so I hear) or it may also route information around those bad bits. Afterwards you discard the information because it's useless and was only used for testing purposes.

    When you have these vivid dreams or dreams with sound or smell or whatever your brain is filling your working memory with information similar to what you may experience in real life (but different enough for you not to confuse it for a real memory?) and reading it back to see if there are any flaws. If there are flaws it determines if it wants to route around them for now and repair them later and it determines how it wants to deal with those flaws. If there are no flaws it leaves everything alone. Also, it may be training new or existing cells to be able to (better) process visual or other information ahead of time. Perhaps the brain is seeing a need for extra processing capabilities and it's using dreams as a way to train the cells to be able to process information by subjecting them to the information you are dreaming about. Since the information is useless afterwards and it only takes up the space your brain is trying to train and evaluate it discards the information afterwards because it wants to now free up that space for its intended use (your everyday life).

    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Saturday November 27, @01:17PM

      by Anonymous Coward on Saturday November 27, @01:17PM (#1199962)

      There is the whole adage if you don't use it you lose it so dreams are a form of mental exercise, they use/exercise those cells to build or keep them functional and discard the useless information after.

    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Saturday November 27, @03:14PM

      by Anonymous Coward on Saturday November 27, @03:14PM (#1199992)

      Your brain is training and testing its memory cells with the types of information that it's likely to experience in real life (but different enough for you not to confuse it with a real memory?) and, more specifically, perhaps more experienced/useful/successful cells are training and testing newer less experienced cells to help improve their abilities kinda like how someone more experienced in a job would train and test a less experienced employee to improve their abilities by subjecting them to the types of situations that they are likely to encounter.

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