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Temporary Brain Changes Lead to Accelerated Learning

samzenpus posted about 3 years ago | from the I-know-kung-fu dept.

Medicine 140

An anonymous reader writes "In an advance that could help the treatment of learning impairments, strokes, tinnitus and chronic pain, UT Dallas researchers have found that stimulating nerves in the brain accelerates learning in laboratory tests. When the juice was turned off, researchers monitoring brain activity in rats found that brain responses eventually returned to their pre-stimulation state — but the animals kept the ability to perform their newly learned tasks."

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140 comments

Tin foil hat (4, Funny)

commlinx (1068272) | about 3 years ago | (#35814358)

This is the reason I never leave home without a balloon attached to my tin foil hat.

Re:Tin foil hat (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35814580)

Look folks, I KNOW most of you don't care about this, but it NEEDS to be said:

Justin Bieber is gay, and is seriously looking for a way out, and I mean OUT!

Justin is cute and almost certainly has a very nice package that would satisfy any cute girl and almost any guy.

I have no question that Bieber can shoot his load like a champ, either on a girl's face or into a napkin

Bieber is AWSOME!

Re:Tin foil hat (0, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35814626)

Disturbing troll is disturbing.

Re:Tin foil hat (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35814704)

Disturbing troll is disturbing.

Troll? You mean this isn't the Justin Bieber Confession Hotline thread?

Heh. (1)

fenix849 (1009013) | about 3 years ago | (#35814366)

What could possibly go wrong with accellerating brain function in rats.

I for one welcome our new super intelligent rat overlords.

Re:Heh. (4, Funny)

ArcherB (796902) | about 3 years ago | (#35814422)

What could possibly go wrong with accellerating brain function in rats.

I for one welcome our new super intelligent rat overlords.

Don't worry, it may not have accelerated brain function. It was probably just the rats saying, "Holy F*CK! I better learn this trick so the guy in white coat can stop shocking the sh*t out of my skull!"

Re:Heh. (1)

RockoTDF (1042780) | about 3 years ago | (#35814558)

If the rat is being punished, it would probably learn to not do the task. Also, there are no pain receptors in the brain. (I know you are probably making a joke, if so a good one, but I still feel the need to point this out)

Free Electrodes for Slashdotters! (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35815554)

[Funny Joke]

(I know you are probably making a joke, if so a good one, but I still feel the need to point this out)

Emphasis mine. The ability of joke perception among slashdotters is stunning. Tinfoil hats off!

Re:Heh. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35816040)

really ? why do they always give electric shocks to the head in the movies then.

Re:Heh. (5, Funny)

WonderingAround (2007742) | about 3 years ago | (#35814496)

Life would be much simpler if we all had to literally run through mazes and be punished or rewarded by soulless overlords, rather than just figuratively.

Re:Heh. (2)

camperdave (969942) | about 3 years ago | (#35814594)

Life would be much simpler if we all had to literally run through mazes and be punished or rewarded by soulless overlords, rather than just figuratively.

You obviously haven't seen the cubicle farm at my office.

Re:Heh. (2)

smellotron (1039250) | about 3 years ago | (#35814666)

Life would be much simpler if we all had to literally run through mazes and be punished or rewarded by soulless overlords, rather than just figuratively.

Eureka! I think you've just discovered the ?????? step!

Re:Heh. (2)

JohnRoss1968 (574825) | about 3 years ago | (#35815038)

They are already here....
We call the Politicians

Re:Heh. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35815680)

Not funny. Never has been funny.

Satire is great. Mocking specific politicians for specific behaviours is both funny and useful.

Trying to generalise it to politicians as a whole, to avoid offending people, is worse than pointless. You might as well try to get a laugh by saying "Ahaha, we're so stupid! We keep voting for them, aren't we all pathetic."

Process (3, Funny)

Master Moose (1243274) | about 3 years ago | (#35814382)

Normal existence:
1. Be presented with a new non compulsory task
2. Learn at your own leisure

Lab Existence:
1. Be presented with a new task
2. Have brain zapped repeatedly
3. Learn task faster to alleviate zapping

Re:Process (1)

Drakkenmensch (1255800) | about 3 years ago | (#35816546)

Office Existence:

1. Be presented with new task

2. Have worker harassed repeatedly

3. Fill spreadsheet faster to alleviate harassing

The antitranshuman meme is sure alive! (0)

Singularity42 (1658297) | about 3 years ago | (#35814384)

Is there some mental block to applying the same techniques to recover from impairments to bring the unimpaired to superhuman heights? Is it a matter of not upsetting rich Muslims or Christians? Almost never hear of the obvious implications in articles.

Gattaca (1)

tepples (727027) | about 3 years ago | (#35814778)

I imagine that people fear that transhumanism will play out as it did in the film Gattaca (1997) [wikipedia.org]: the job market will discriminate against people too poor to afford transhuman techniques and/or people conceived through non-transhuman techniques.

Re:Gattaca (1)

TaoPhoenix (980487) | about 3 years ago | (#35816574)

I've pondered this theme for some time - intelligence is like a threshold in chemistry - below the threshold you can't do X quality activity. In the workplace this defines the spread of jobs you can do, which correlates with how much money you can make.

So along comes ______ technique/substance to boost you over the threshold. Then you either have a cost problem to maintain that higher level, or an Algernon problem if you miscalibrate the quantities. More movies/TV shows seem to play out the Algernon Tragedy theme, as if "we can't stand someone else getting brain boosts". I'm having trouble recalling many more on the "technique works so what now" style.

zap me now! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35814388)

maybe this field of research has found an ethical mode to operate in. Has a long way to go however.

http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/Judaism/naziexp.html
http://psychdata.blogspot.com/2006/05/deep-brain-stimulation-absent-legal.html

[not the best links below - someone with better knowledge of this topic?]

One step closer to-- (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35814392)

I know kung fu.

Re:One step closer to-- (2)

camperdave (969942) | about 3 years ago | (#35814598)

One step closer to "I know kung fu."

Sadly, still millions of steps to being in any sort of physical condition to use it.

Re:One step closer to-- (4, Funny)

Culture20 (968837) | about 3 years ago | (#35814958)

One step closer to "I know kung fu."

Sadly, still millions of steps to being in any sort of physical condition to use it.

"I know sumo?"

Re:One step closer to-- (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35816882)

All journeys begin with a single step...

Seeing as I'm still a student.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35814394)

Something like this could be useful.. heh heh.

Re:Seeing as I'm still a student.. (2)

williamhb (758070) | about 3 years ago | (#35814440)

Something like this could be useful.. heh heh.

You've already got it. The temporary brain change is called "Oh crap, I've got an exam tomorrow! Right, where are the books?"

Well (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35814408)

Make way for the singularity, I guess.

Flowers for Algernon (2)

mr100percent (57156) | about 3 years ago | (#35814416)

Sounds similiar to the "breakthrough procedure" performed in the classic Flowers for Algernon, when they made the main character a genius for a short amount of time.

Flowers for Algernon (1)

Arch_Android (1989386) | about 3 years ago | (#35814420)

This is rather reminding me of the book, "Flowers for Algernon". It didn't end very well.

Re:Flowers for Algernon (1)

heathen_01 (1191043) | about 3 years ago | (#35815896)

This is rather reminding me of the book, "Flowers for Algernon". It didn't end very well.

I would disagree. The alternative was a life of drudgery with enough intelligence to understant that it could be better, but not enough intelligence to attain it.

Give me the "breakthrough procedure" anytime.

The important question is (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35814426)

Was the rat named Algernon?

Those who haven't read TFA... (5, Interesting)

troff (529250) | about 3 years ago | (#35814450)

... seem to be missing the parts where it says that the (yes, electrical) stimulation is stimulating neurotransmitters; and that any actual pain-effect is being countered by anaesthesia.

And I'm amazed that, all these comments in, we get "I for one welcome our super-intelligent rat overlords" but haven't yet got a "where do I sign up?". Man, when we were back in undergrad before USB was invented(*), we all wanted RS232 sockets near the bases of our skulls.

(*): Yes. You can all get off my lawn.

Re:Those who haven't read TFA... (1)

blankinthefill (665181) | about 3 years ago | (#35814498)

Agree 100%. When I see all these things coming out about increased capabilities and better prosthetics and computer/brain interfaces, it makes me so excited. I mean, a lot of this tech is at the place where, in 10-15 years it's going to be BETTER than what we have now. Now, I might not go out and replace ALL my parts... but better eyes and better ears, better memory and learning capabilities... those are all things that I wouldn't even have to think about.

Re:Those who haven't read TFA... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35814730)

I mean, a lot of this tech is at the place where, in 10-15 years it's going to be BETTER than what we have now.

I don't know about that, but compared to what we'll have then, it will have improved a lot while ours got worse. That trend line will continue and likely meet.

Re:Those who haven't read TFA... (1)

Ja'Achan (827610) | about 3 years ago | (#35815140)

Did you have internet full of ads and viruses back then? These days, people tend to be a little more cautious to what 'apps' they give direct write access on their brain to.

Re:Those who haven't read TFA... (1)

troff (529250) | about 3 years ago | (#35815178)

Surely you don't run "apps" as root, do you?

Re:Those who haven't read TFA... (1)

AmonTheMetalhead (1277044) | about 3 years ago | (#35815388)

Sorry, my brain isn't a multi user OS, good news for schizophrenics though

Re:Those who haven't read TFA... (1)

troff (529250) | about 3 years ago | (#35815406)

a) You mean "multiple personality disorder", not schizophrenia. JFWI.

b) For your sake, I hope it is. Otherwise, the minute you start trying to chew gum, your heart and lungs are going to seize up.

Re:Those who haven't read TFA... (1)

AmonTheMetalhead (1277044) | about 3 years ago | (#35815456)

You don't need multiple users to run 'Terminate and stay resident' programs, you don't even need a true multitasking OS for that, even MS DOS could do that.

Re:Those who haven't read TFA... (0)

phillips321 (955784) | about 3 years ago | (#35815490)

Your a tard! Mod parent down please!

MultiUSER is when you require more than one user
MultiTASK is when you wish to carry out more than one process.

Re:Those who haven't read TFA... (1)

AmiMoJo (196126) | about 3 years ago | (#35815590)

It seems like there is an aversion to this sort of thing in the west. In Japan you can buy various study aids including bottled oxygen, so I suspect that sooner or later they will start doing electro-stimulation devices too.

Well, okay, to be fair we use caffeine, but it does not seem to be marketed as a study aid.

Re:Those who haven't read TFA... (1)

smelch (1988698) | about 3 years ago | (#35816814)

Every sitcom in the 90s had that episode where somebody took some pills to study/stay awake/get more done and ended up with terrible consequences.

This is great news! (1)

oldmac31310 (1845668) | about 3 years ago | (#35814516)

I can finally learn to get water from a dropper and depress a lever to release seeds and nuts. These are skills I never learned because I was off sick from school that day and my brain refused to allow me to develop them. Hooray for science! But Doctor, will I be able to play the piano after the brain simulation treatment? Yes! That's great I've never been able to play the piano before. etc.

You don't need electrodes; drugs will do (2)

russotto (537200) | about 3 years ago | (#35814546)

It is by caffeine alone I set my mind in motion,
It is by the beans of Java that thoughts acquire speed,
The hands acquire shaking, the shaking becomes a warning,
It is by caffeine alone I set my mind in motion.

(stolen from someone who stole it from someone on Usenet)

Re:You don't need electrodes; drugs will do (1)

troff (529250) | about 3 years ago | (#35814718)

a) See post above, "Those who haven't read TFA...". It already IS drugs.

b) Caffeine doesn't work forever. It works partially by blocking adenosine receptors (which stops you getting sleepy-bye-bye). The brain responds by growing more adenosine receptors and the sleepy creeps in anyway.

c) Increasing doses of caffeine does more damage to more bits of you anyway.

I say this with approximately 433mg of caffeine in my bloodstream right this minute (according to the caffeine-tracking spreadsheet I maintain). So: a switchable brain-accelerator that does nothing but stimulate naturally- and locally-produced neurotransmitters.

Screw Farmville. Kurzweilville, here I come.

Re:You don't need electrodes; drugs will do (1)

xtracto (837672) | about 3 years ago | (#35816080)

Piracetam is another option... or any of the long list of nootropics.

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Wow Nike Spam On Slashdot (0)

vajrabum (688509) | about 3 years ago | (#35815046)

I don't remember seeing any real spam on Slashdot in forever. This ought to be down modded into oblivion

Convoluted learning mechanism theory (3)

Coward Anonymous (110649) | about 3 years ago | (#35814620)

The study is intriguing and the experiment is commendable.
The theory is a bit odd. At the end they detail a theory that presupposes that there is some network in the brain that represents the activity being learned and that it is whittled down from a larger initial chunk of neurons.
A simpler mechanism would be that for Hebbian learning to be able to do its magic you need some random neurons firing. Some of the randomly fired neurons will fire at the times corresponding to when they would fire as part of the network (engram) to be formed and so through Hebbian learning they will soon fire together on purpose and not just by chance.
Overstimulating the brain increases the number of neurons firing at any given moment and thus increases the number of neurons available to learn the task at hand.

Re:Convoluted learning mechanism theory (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35814820)

WTF is Hebbian learning?

Re:Convoluted learning mechanism theory (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35814894)

It would have been faster for you to search for it than to post the comment...

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hebbian_theory

UTD WHOOSH! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35814632)

UTD WHOOSH!

Re:UTD WHOOSH! (0)

Cidolfas (1358603) | about 3 years ago | (#35814850)

We should've changed our mascot to Nano the Robot when we had a chance. Something that won't make the other chess or debate teams laugh. (To those who don't go to UTD, we had a pep rally - for our chess team. Scholarships instead of football FTW)

Source? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35814766)

You've all posted some very witty and snarky comments admittedly, but as far as scientific inquiry is concerned, does anyone else think it strange that the article on the website the link goes to has no listed source for the information on the study it is talking about? I want to see the data that supports these claims. perhaps it is available elsewhere, maybe on the website of these UT Dallas researchers.

obligatory matrix (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35814794)

Can you fly that thing?

Not yet!

Operator?

Tank, I need a pilot program for a B-212 helicopter..... HURRY!

And here's what happens when you do that (3, Insightful)

holophrastic (221104) | about 3 years ago | (#35814814)

If you do that, if you change the state of the brain for advanced learning, the human brain -- indeed probably most animal brains -- adapt in one very predictable manner. They become excellent learners in the new state, and stop learning entirely in the old state.

Which means you'll learn great in the classroom, and you'll learn absolutely nothing from normal experiences -- when you're off the juice.

Which is crazy dangerous, since it'll basically erase the expertise part of experience.

Again, and as usual, this is a great idea for immediate safety-related stuff. Teach CPR this way, train soldiers this way. But normal learning is a different animal. Slower learning isn't usually a lack of learning skill -- it's often a stubborness to stick with existing knowledge, and that is most often a very good thing. You don't want to lose that in general.

Re:And here's what happens when you do that (1)

Sacrieur (2035314) | about 3 years ago | (#35815122)

If you do that, if you change the state of the brain for advanced learning, the human brain -- indeed probably most animal brains -- adapt in one very predictable manner. They become excellent learners in the new state, and stop learning entirely in the old state.

Which means you'll learn great in the classroom, and you'll learn absolutely nothing from normal experiences -- when you're off the juice.

Which is crazy dangerous, since it'll basically erase the expertise part of experience.

Again, and as usual, this is a great idea for immediate safety-related stuff. Teach CPR this way, train soldiers this way. But normal learning is a different animal. Slower learning isn't usually a lack of learning skill -- it's often a stubborness to stick with existing knowledge, and that is most often a very good thing. You don't want to lose that in general.

Do you have any evidence to support said claim that "normal" experiences somehow differ in learning than "classroom" learning? While "street smarts" and "book smarts" are accepted differences, they refer to knowledge, rather than learning.

Re:And here's what happens when you do that (1)

holophrastic (221104) | about 3 years ago | (#35815142)

You really need to re-read what I said. I said nothing about experiences between classroom and normal. I spoke of artificially stimulated -- as is the context of the article, which I put into the classroom -- and normal as in not stimulated.

But, I like your point. Yes, many people can't learn in the classroom, but can in actual experience, and others -- the vast majority -- can't learn without benig taught. But that's a skill thing, in each direction, not a restriction effect -- which is plainly obvious here with the stimulation scenario.

Re:And here's what happens when you do that (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35815628)

Slower learning isn't usually a lack of learning skill -- it's often a stubborness to stick with existing knowledge, and that is most often a very good thing. You don't want to lose that in general.

I second that.

If learning is slow, it is either a sign of too much BS (expectation for student to just believe it uncritically) in learning material, or new facts in it open too much additional questions, inducing a storm of thoughts in student's brain.

I recommend to anyone having trouble learning to take note of ones thoughts while doing that, instead of "trying to concentrate" (forcefully silencing the complaints from your mind). Resolving the conflicts, eliminating unnecessary multitasking in the background is the only way to boost your concentration and mental capacity*. However, if the learning material is the source of new thoughts, then you just have to go slower and service each one of them, perhaps by writing them down ("I'll get back to this later"). That's why I am very skeptical to any method of super-fast reading an learning - it is like driving 100mph with blindfold on your eyes, you can't do it just anywhere and just as long as you please. If the text you are reading or learning from has any real significance to you, you just can't advance through without giving it a thorough thought.

*Speaking of which, perhaps some physical and chemical methods for that do the same? Perhaps they suppress the multitasking, by introducing some kind of positive feedback, reinforcing already dominant thoughts and weakening or drowning in noise the weaker ones. The latter may lay in the basis of using white noise, ambiental music, background radio chatter, repetitive physical movements, learning by reading aloud etc. as aids for concentration boosting. However, IMHO, much more there is to be gained if there is nothing to suppress to start with.

Re:And here's what happens when you do that (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35815780)

Rats pulling a lever to get food do not have to integrate their marvelous discovery into a complex existing framework of lever philosophy and food-pellet-delivery-tube related science. The original article seems to be talking about learning in the sense of training yourself to achieve a defined goal.

In tasks that are more physical than intellectual, like learning the controls of a simple machine, or playing an instrument, there is a very rapid feedback on any error. If you can notice that you've made a mistake within a fraction of a second, your own neurons really are going to be the limiting factor in how fast you learn.

Re:And here's what happens when you do that (1)

wye43 (769759) | about 3 years ago | (#35816124)

Even for such a "simple" fast-feedback learning process, its not the "speed" of the neurons that matter, but the other thoughts that prevent the desired target neuron(s) to reach the desired threshold-to-trigger-signal weight ratios.

In fact, when we are talking about a neural network of human-brain size, there are no simple learning processes, its always a battle between at least millions of neurons(of total 100 billion) on whom on them need to adjust their weights.

Re:And here's what happens when you do that (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35816042)

People learning only what they are teach, and nothing more... This would be a tyrant's wet dream.

Re:And here's what happens when you do that (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35816144)

[citation needed]

That is all.

We're all doomed (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35814862)

This coupled with smarter rats [slashdot.org] - they'll be unstoppable!!

re: "Temporary" brain changes lead to learning (2)

mysidia (191772) | about 3 years ago | (#35814946)

I would imagine... as long as the brain you are replacing yours with comes from someone smarter than you, it should learn faster.

Another probable outcome not mentioned in the article as tested was the body that received the changed out brain probably lost all the advanced things learned previously.

took long enough! (2)

ae1294 (1547521) | about 3 years ago | (#35815004)

Now I can finally read and understand all those "Learn programming in 24 hours" books I've purchased over the years...

woot!!! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35815180)

sign me up, zap away!!!

I was waiting for the phrase "in rats"... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35815254)

... oh look, more blatant FRAUD from so-called 'scientists'.
Yes, I'm sure this amazing 'discovery' will work in humans, because human brains are exactly the same as rat brains.

Ridiculous, absolutely ridiculous, yet the brainwashed Slashdot crowd will suck it up and comment as if it's truth.

DUH (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35815354)

How is it that things that are stimulating (to the brain) accelerate learning? "Good" teachers have know this for YEARS.

LSD Research (1)

flyneye (84093) | about 3 years ago | (#35816152)

Now this is what I''ve been complaining about guys! Research dollars going to cover ground that's already been mapped.
This has been discovered over and over. My personal favorite however is the independent research conducted by the common man, flipping ALL the switches in a few LSD sessions while incorporating study of ANY subject during the months of experimentation. Results are the same as the rat/electricity but with obvious benefits of not being shocked and having a whale of a good time.( having a good time on LSD is directly proportional to predisposition to enjoying psychedelics,ie not for everyone) I like to think of it as college on blotter paper. Tuition seems to be much more acceptable in light of the huge return.
Hell, If I were doing this research you can bet I would break out the LSD day one and forget the already pricey electricity. Not a green solution.

Sure thing (1)

Legion303 (97901) | about 3 years ago | (#35816428)

"In an advance that could help the treatment of learning impairments, strokes, tinnitus and chronic pain [...]"

It *could* help those things, but more likely it will be used by college kids cramming the night before finals after fucking off all semester. At least, that's what I would do.

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