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Can electricity boost mathematical talent?





deanhills
This sounds like an interesting project! Apparently Dr. Roi Kadosh is also working on a thinking cap to make this practically feasible.
Quote:
Applying electrical current to the brain can enhance people’s mathematical abilities for up to six months, according to research by neuroscientists at Oxford University.

The research, published this week in Current Biology, demonstrates for the first time that electrical stimulation can successfully enhance mathematical abilities. It builds on earlier work by Dr Cohen Kadosh of Oxford University and his team that showed that a temporary impairment in the processing of mathematical problems (dyscalculia) can be induced using brain stimulation.

http://www.ox.ac.uk/media/news_stories/2010/101104.html

Quote:
Dr Roi Cohen Kadosh, from the University of Oxford, has shown that brain stimulation can improve mathematical ability.

He said: "The primary aim is to apply this kind of research to patients with neurodamage or learning difficulties, but then we could look at enhancing abilities."

He is starting to work with private companies to design a cap that could be used for enhancement.

Source: BBC News
ocalhoun
Well that's certainly interesting... though I think I'll wait for a second experiment, duplicated by others, before I wholeheartedly believe it.

Also, what might the side effects be?
There's a similar effect with mints, supposedly. If eating mint increases brainpower, then it must work too well, because if I eat more than a little bit of mint, I'll get a headache for sure. It might be that this treatment has similar (or worse) side effects.
deanhills
ocalhoun wrote:
Well that's certainly interesting... though I think I'll wait for a second experiment, duplicated by others, before I wholeheartedly believe it.

Also, what might the side effects be?
There's a similar effect with mints, supposedly. If eating mint increases brainpower, then it must work too well, because if I eat more than a little bit of mint, I'll get a headache for sure. It might be that this treatment has similar (or worse) side effects.
I don't think the idea of applying electronic pulses is a new one, and I would imagine if it has good results for muscles and the rest of the body, maybe the brain could be stimulated similarly with equipment that one may be able to buy off the shelf, such as a thinking cap. If one shows signs of being a "left brain" person, which may mean that the right brain is not as well developed, then perhaps a few currents to stimulate the "right brain" could make the brain a bit more evenly keeled. Or if someone wants to be better at math and science they can work on a few extra currents to the left brain. Very Happy
noobcake
This looks interesting, but I don't think I'd believe it until more studies have been done by other scientists. I didn't think it was actually possible before, so this is a nice find.
menino
Very interesting article / topic, that electrical impulses can stimulate brain activity and enhance functionality in the brain.

I do believe, though that the brain has its own electrical activity going on within all the neurons, and stuff, and I believe these electrical activities.
I guess after more research is done on these electrical activities and neurons, and their interactions with each other, that there might be a natural way of stilulating brain cells rather than just light electric shocks.

But of course, there will be some who will want a "product" to sell. Cool
cdnnet
That is a really interesting article, but would it really work? I mean like, I doubt electricity could help you with thinking or being smarter Razz
Navigator
This is interesting and dangerous! You could be messing with your brain in ways it wasn't intended to work.
deanhills
Navigator wrote:
This is interesting and dangerous! You could be messing with your brain in ways it wasn't intended to work.
Or stimulate it to work better? I.e. do the equivalent of stimulation that regular word puzzles would do for example. Or dim the stimulation in areas of the brain that would be associated with addiction, such as drugs and food. This is a description of Brain Function and Addiction using Imaging Techniques:


This is a good show to illustrate the pathology of the brain with regard to the centres that are involved in drug, alcohol or food addictions:


The treatment with regard to depression usually involves plenty of drugs that I am almost convinced can be much more dangerous than expert stimulation of some of the brain cells.

And this one is a Study on CES (cranial electrical stimulation):

Quote:
CES, cranial electrical stimulation, applies a weak, alternating current to the scalp usually by leads placed on a person's temples or earlobes. CES has had FDA approval for over 30 years as a device (grandfathered-in, or approved without specific study) to treat depression, anxiety, insomnia and stress; it has also been used to aid in long term abstinence in people with alcohol and drug dependence. The current is of micro-voltage (ECT has 1000-fold more current), can hardly be felt, has little or no side-effects, or evident harm. While there are many testimonials to its benefits we lack rigorous study of its therapeutic effectiveness. CES devices can be purchased over the internet and a variety of companies will sell you one, with a medical prescription, which you can apply to yourself at home. CES is quite safe but its benefits remain to be scientifically established...

I'd be happy if they could do rigorous scientific research with regard to the application of CES for drug, alcohol and food addictions. Perhaps there is already one in existence?
ocalhoun
Navigator wrote:
This is interesting and dangerous! You could be messing with your brain in ways it wasn't intended to work.

Messing with the brain in ways it wasn't intended for is fine -- IF you know what you're doing.

This 'let's apply electricity and see what happens' approach is dangerous though.
deanhills
ocalhoun wrote:
This 'let's apply electricity and see what happens' approach is dangerous though.
Right! However, looks as though they are confining their experimentation on innocent people in mental institutions, which makes it even worse from an ethical point of view.
IceCreamTruck
deanhills wrote:
He is starting to work with private companies to design a cap that could be used for enhancement.


he says he'd start with helping people, and then enhancement. It later states he's a private businessman working on an enhancement cap... helping people, oh sure!

Helping people that actually need help doesn't pay. Helping people who have an agenda, now that pays big time.

Navigator wrote:
This is interesting and dangerous! You could be messing with your brain in ways it wasn't intended to work.


Exactly... if you take the regulator off a car then you can drive it faster, but it's not safer.

On the other hand I read somewhere that the human brain appears to be "regulated down". Meaning we have much more storage space, and much more processing power, but it's almost like we are genetically designed to not excel to our full potential. Say aliens created us, but they put a regulator in our genetics that hampers intelligence in order to keep us dumb. Learning to hack that regulator is not a bad idea because success would mean we could live up to our full potential.

If that regulator is in place as a part of evolution to stop the mind of destroying itself, then messing with it is not a good idea. I think you very well could see something like one of this doctor's patients going on a completely random killing spree or crime spree because nerve centers dealing with reality, or morality have been adversely affected by the shock treatments.

I only know one thing... don't even think about putting that thing on my head, or I will react VERY badly. I'm cool with being this stupid while I still have life to lead. If I'm in an old folks home, and you want to open my mind up to comprehend the universe and there is minimal risk, then we're talking about something I might be willing to try because I have nothing to loose and a lot of knowledge to gain.

Until then I'm learning the hard way: practice.

PS. BTW, Dean you are everywhere! Smile
Navigator
deanhills wrote:
ocalhoun wrote:
This 'let's apply electricity and see what happens' approach is dangerous though.
Right! However, looks as though they are confining their experimentation on innocent people in mental institutions, which makes it even worse from an ethical point of view.


It wont be the first time!
IceCreamTruck
Navigator wrote:
deanhills wrote:
ocalhoun wrote:
This 'let's apply electricity and see what happens' approach is dangerous though.
Right! However, looks as though they are confining their experimentation on innocent people in mental institutions, which makes it even worse from an ethical point of view.

It wont be the first time!


Don't we still hate the Nazi's for doing the same thing?
deanhills
IceCreamTruck wrote:
Don't we still hate the Nazi's for doing the same thing?
Not only the Nazis though. Refer article below, but also the comments on the article! Shocked
PhysOrg.com
Dennise
Wow! One could really get a 'charge' out of that concept. Volunteers?

Pure 21th century snake oil for the brain. Let's hear it for good old phrenology.
ocalhoun
Dennise wrote:

Pure 21th century snake oil for the brain.


Not necessarily; the brain emits (very small) electromagnetic forces -- it isn't too far-fetched that it would also be affected by the application of electricity.

Reasonable enough to require an honest evaluation, rather than being dismissed out of hand.


(Just think of the applications if it could be perfected, and targeted at very specific parts of the brain! One example would be the possibility of creating phantom visual impulses, making you able to see things that aren't there without wearing anything over your eyes -- or even needing eyes -- which would make it extremely valuable to blind people... Or perhaps stimulating memory sections to help you study for a test... the possibilities are endless.)
tazone
until the brain is fully mapped
we can not be certain of the unforeseen side effects
ocalhoun
tazone wrote:
until the brain is fully mapped

Probably never will be, because,
A: There aren't always clear 'one function - one section' rules; one section can do multiple things, and multiple sections could all do the same thing... Or the different sections may have different functions when used in different combinations.
B: Differences between individuals would likely require a personalized map for each person, if you want any kind of accuracy out of it.

(Not a brain scientist, but pretty sure about that.)
IceCreamTruck
ocalhoun wrote:
(Not a brain scientist, but pretty sure about that.)


I'm not a rocket surgeon either! Don't worry! Smile

Wouldn't a true brain map account for individual differences? The proper plan accounts for all possibilities, so a map to an uncertain location or with multiple destinations must be used here. I can see how it would defy conventional mapping as you suggested, but I do not doubt that we will one day grasp it's complexity entirely. We have bigger fish to fry than that although that is notoriously a large fish that many are working on landing.

I already explained if you took all of human data (HDs, CDs, Audio Tape, Backup Tape, Movies, Books, etc.) and put them all in one long string of 1s and 0s then you'd have 1/10th the data required to complete 1 human DNA chain. We are thus defeated by size (both large and small), and nature still runs circles around us in data manipulation, calculation, and storage.

That means grasping the complexity of the human brain is beyond grasping all the 1s and 0s in a DNA chain. We don't even have enough data storage to describe a complete DNA chain, and that's the chicken that must come before the complete understanding of the brain "egg" can be hatched.

We'd have to rewrite everything that has ever been written 9 times over in order to have enough data to fill a DNA chain, and paper work for a project is always about 9 to 10 times as big as the project, so we'd need to be able to store about the same size as 10 or so complete DNA chains to be able to fundamentally describe one chain. As it stands we simply do not have enough space to write the book on our own DNA let alone the billions of other topics on which we keep data.

Don't wish for more computer break-through... expect it. We're entering the age of quantum computing!! I'm so excited! Soon we give nature a run for her money!!
ocalhoun
IceCreamTruck wrote:

I already explained if you took all of human data (HDs, CDs, Audio Tape, Backup Tape, Movies, Books, etc.) and put them all in one long string of 1s and 0s then you'd have 1/10th the data required to complete 1 human DNA chain.

Considering that we store complete human DNA chains (and complete DNA chains of several other animals)... and that this takes up only a tiny fraction of all storage media... No.

The gene sequence is a LOT of information... but not that much.

Wikipedia:
Quote:
In summary: the best estimates of total genome size indicate that about 92.3% of the genome has been completed

Quote:
The sequence of the human DNA is stored in databases available to anyone on the Internet. The U.S. National Center for Biotechnology Information (and sister organizations in Europe and Japan) house the gene sequence in a database known as GenBank


From what I can tell, the human genome requires about 3.2GB of storage space.



(Though it is true that we're a long way from understanding the genome... That still doesn't mean we never will. The genome of E. coli, for example has been very thoroughly studied and has supposedly been entirely translated and understood.
However, even an absolutely complete understanding of the genome doesn't mean that the brain and its functions will be completely understood; complex and (practically) unpredictable patterns can develop from the application of simple rules, see: chaos theory.)
IceCreamTruck
ocalhoun wrote:
IceCreamTruck wrote:

I already explained if you took all of human data (HDs, CDs, Audio Tape, Backup Tape, Movies, Books, etc.) and put them all in one long string of 1s and 0s then you'd have 1/10th the data required to complete 1 human DNA chain.

Considering that we store complete human DNA chains (and complete DNA chains of several other animals)... and that this takes up only a tiny fraction of all storage media... No.

The gene sequence is a LOT of information... but not that much.

Wikipedia:
Quote:
In summary: the best estimates of total genome size indicate that about 92.3% of the genome has been completed

Quote:
The sequence of the human DNA is stored in databases available to anyone on the Internet. The U.S. National Center for Biotechnology Information (and sister organizations in Europe and Japan) house the gene sequence in a database known as GenBank


From what I can tell, the human genome requires about 3.2GB of storage space.



(Though it is true that we're a long way from understanding the genome... That still doesn't mean we never will. The genome of E. coli, for example has been very thoroughly studied and has supposedly been entirely translated and understood.
However, even an absolutely complete understanding of the genome doesn't mean that the brain and its functions will be completely understood; complex and (practically) unpredictable patterns can develop from the application of simple rules, see: chaos theory.)


Any map of DNA we have now is an incomplete map. The detail of those maps is not a literal translation of the DNA chain. We have many guides, but no complete sequence of 1s and 0s that is a DNA chain. That's what we're working on.

Gnome mapping is different, and if you know databases like I do then you know there is a HUGE difference between basically navigating a DNA chain and knowing what some parts do. There is not enough storage space in the world for a complete translation of one DNA chain, but GNOME mapping takes considerably less space because that's really just breaking the DNA chain down into manageable chunks.

Even if we have completely mapped E. coli gnome and have manipulated all the sub-sections to know what they do or are responsible for this is still a far cry away from 1s and 0s string which allow us to create our own DNA chain of E. Coli.

I find it hard to believe that we've eliminated all doubt on E. Coli by having calculated everything down to it's most basic units. I'll give you "taken a lot of the mystery out of E. Coli" but nothing more, as there is still so much to learn.

I'm interested in what improvements in optical microscopes is going to give us. Basically we can look at electron microscope size objects using new optic beads and this should make seeing really small things like bacteria and viruses much more affordable, and even give the underfunded lab much more data to work with, which should equate to faster advancement in science since we will effectively have more eyes on the problems.

BTW, my information on all human data being 10% of one human DNA chain is information that I read in an article on BBC science or CNN science, which made this claim and it was recent. I'm sure the writer of the article can speak to your statements better than I can, but I have been unable to locate the article which basically proved we are still defeated by size.
ocalhoun
IceCreamTruck wrote:

Any map of DNA we have now is an incomplete map.

But still 92.3% complete... And I doubt that the remaining 7.7% is going to be more than all the storage media on earth can store.

Yes, a copy of it, plus translation of what all the parts do would take up much more space, but I still doubt that it would overshadow our existing storage capacity.


...To say that a single human DNA chain contains more information than all data storage on Earth is simply grossly wrong though; there's no denying that. (Because a simple bit-for-bit copy of that DNA stores all the same data that the DNA itself does.)
IceCreamTruck
ocalhoun wrote:
IceCreamTruck wrote:

Any map of DNA we have now is an incomplete map.

But still 92.3% complete... And I doubt that the remaining 7.7% is going to be more than all the storage media on earth can store.

Yes, a copy of it, plus translation of what all the parts do would take up much more space, but I still doubt that it would overshadow our existing storage capacity.


...To say that a single human DNA chain contains more information than all data storage on Earth is simply grossly wrong though; there's no denying that. (Because a simple bit-for-bit copy of that DNA stores all the same data that the DNA itself does.)


I'm only going on what the article said. There's obviously something to it, and bit for bit may not really exist yet. Protein markers, chromosome markers, or a larger grouping of the subdivisions of DNA may still be where we are at. I do know the article was implicit that all human data including the library of congress and all medical and scientific text was included in the "all human data" statement.

Seeing how computers are not at the quantum level it's easy for my mind to see how using transistors and magnetic tape and disks to store data using many molecules has made us think we store more data then we do as the pile of all these computer parts would be enormous, but we are about to start storing data on the atomic level so that will shrink the size requirement of data considerably.

Nature is already storing data on the atomic level as the data that makes you and me is stored many billions of billions of times over inside just the space of our bodies. If you compare the two types of data storage we are greatly outmatched at this time, but we stand at the threshold of spanning that gap.

Simply... knowing how DNA is subdivided on computers is required. The statement in the article read we can't store a complete DNA chain on magnetic tape without the size requirement being larger than the amount of magnetic tape in existence. Alas, I have not found that article, which I would love to point people to and see what they think. It was an eye opener for me as I hadn't thought about the space requirements for storing a complete DNA chain... I just thought it's complexity was baffling us, and that it's length was long, but not unmanageable.

I do know that much less than 1% of the data in a DNA chain is used for legal tests to determine parenthood or crime. Those "markers" divide the DNA chain into thousands of "bumps" which can be compared to the same test on different DNA. This is a far cry from actually checking and comparing 1s and 0s of DNA chains, and much less accurate, but more cost effective and almost always sufficient proof/evidence.
ocalhoun
IceCreamTruck wrote:

Simply... knowing how DNA is subdivided on computers is required. The statement in the article read we can't store a complete DNA chain on magnetic tape without the size requirement being larger than the amount of magnetic tape in existence. Alas, I have not found that article, which I would love to point people to and see what they think. It was an eye opener for me as I hadn't thought about the space requirements for storing a complete DNA chain... I just thought it's complexity was baffling us, and that it's length was long, but not unmanageable.

Oh, you mean on a single tape/disk/book, not all of them in existence...

Even then, I still doubt it.
If over 90% can be stored in 3.2GB, then there are plenty of existing media types that can store it all in one volume.

Now, I will give you that no existing storage device can store the same amount of data in the same amount of space; that compactness of data is something that DNA still exceeds our technology in... However, we don't need to store it so compactly, since we aren't trying to cram it into a tiny living cell... and it's actually easier to access in larger form.
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