Friday, November 24, 2006

Zap my brain dude! (the making of Homo sapiens 2.0)

Hey, brain improvement freaks...interesting news, very interesting news! Electric shocks are no longer used for therapy alone...electrical jolts can now be given to people interested in improving their brain performance. At the university of Luebeck, Jan Born recruited medical students and found that minute electrical shocks could increase the deepness of sleep, as monitored through EEG. It seems, according to Born, that a memory boost was the result of these tiny jolts. How is that possible? A paper published in Nature on November 2nd 2006 might shed some light on this question.

Andrew Jackson and his colleagues at the university of Washington in Seattle demonstrated, using Macaca nemestrina monkeys, that artificial connections in the brain can be made using electronic implants. In an experiment, these authors used an implant (Neurochip) that recorded the activity in one region of the brain only to deliver an electrical current at another location. After a few days of operation, the implant was turned off but the association and synchronization between the two brain regions remained showing a potential, and artificially created, pathway. The electronic recording / stimulation was maintained during sleep, even during REM sleep when neuron firing is at its peak, because sleep has been implicated in motor memory.

In another paper, published in Nature as well (July 13, 2006), a paralysed man could, through the emission and accurate detection of brain waves, play games on a computer and read e-mails. Our brains, although very different from computer hardware, seem to be fully compatible with software. I just can not wait for the next Google/Wikipedia implant...I know for sure that I will now be able to win, at Trivial Pursuit every single time. My wife will be less happy...she's the one who always wins against me at that game...oh well, looks like I need to visit Radio-Shack!


Andrew Jackson et al. 2006. Long-term motor cortex plasticity induced by an electronic neural implant. Nature, vol 444, p. 56

Leigh R. Hochberg et al. 2006. Neuronal ensemble control of prosthetic devices by a human with tetraplegia. Nature vol 442, p. 164