Tuesday, December 28, 2010


It is widely believed that disruption to your brain can lead to loss of function. Everyone thinks that the brain is a computer that has to be taken very good care of. But on the other hand, disrupting your brain, especially where the disruption is noninvasive or does not involve penetration of the neural cortex, can make you better at sensory activities such as mathematics. This is really interesting research and can have wide ramifications for the performance enhancement in science and technology, intelligence quotient and even the treatment of diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease.

This claim is backed up by research conducted by Dr. Alvaro Pascual-Leone at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Harvard Medical School and Universidad Autonoma de Barcelona. The original article can be found in the November 23 issue of Current Biology. His findings are paradoxical because just as I said in the preceding paragraph, for better brain performance you need a good environment, comfortable level of stress, motivation and good health, amongst other needs. But Dr. Alvaro contends that to enhance your brain performance beyond the ordinary, you should disturb the brain in a way that one part of the network, say the parietal lobes, becomes dysfunctional, while other parts of the neural network remain intact. He found out that this disruption, especially using electric current, enhances numerical ability in patients so tested.

You should not go about attaching electrical diodes above your head or exposing your skull to hot dryers the type you find in beauty salons without protection because the research is still ongoing.

You can read about it yourself, online, original article; also Scientific American has a blog on this subject.

Now, if you could do this, what is the cons of enhancing performance? There is no free lunch. What would it cost you to improve your numerical competence? As with exercises, the muscles use up energy, there are action potentials to consider in muscle contraction and relaxation and ionic interactions. What are the hidden costs of noninvasive disruptive brain stimulation? Those are questions for the future.

As they say, you cannot eat your cake and have it, but you can decide to munch your cake in bits so it’d last for days.

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