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Brain Power Boosted With Electrical Stimulation

samzenpus posted more than 3 years ago | from the power-up dept.

Medicine 153

Zothecula writes "With the possible exception of those affected by hyperthylmesia — a rare condition where a person has an extraordinary capability to recall events from their past — most of us wouldn't mind having our memory enhanced. That's just what appears to have happened to a group of mice when targeted areas of their brains were electrically stimulated. The treatment triggered an increase in the creation of new cells in the hippocampus, with experiment results suggesting the mice's spatial learning improved. The researchers responsible say the results could have implications for the treatment of memory disorders in humans."

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Future! (1)

m1ndcrash (2158084) | more than 3 years ago | (#37476516)

Performance enhancing chips and healing nanobots are coming. Just hang in there!

Re:Future! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37478400)

You don't need any of that. All you need is this.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WRVYzIP9SNo [youtube.com]

It's sfw and not rickroll, don't worry.

Augmentation (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37476524)

In addition to treating disorders, I'd be interested in seeing techniques like this used to augment people beyond normal human capability. Of course, then we'd have to listen to self-described bioethics experts blather on about whether or not actually doing that means we're "playing God" or something.

Re:Augmentation (2)

arth1 (260657) | more than 3 years ago | (#37476568)

The problem I have with augmentation is that unless heavily regulated, it will increase the gap between the classes, making it even more impossible to claim that people have equal opportunities.

And, if regulated, should it be mandatory, or voluntary?
For me, it's easy to say that I don't want this kind of augmentation - in order to be efficient, I need to forget a bunch of stuff. When I go to the parking lot to look for my car, I don't want to have to sort through 600 memories of having parked my car there, I just want one memory, which I can forget when I drive off. And I don't want to remember all the times my s.o. has said something that upset me. Forgetfulness is good.
But what about a child? Would it be able to object? Or understand reasons for objecting?

Re:Augmentation (2)

Bruce Perens (3872) | more than 3 years ago | (#37476590)

Harrison Bergeron was here.

Re:Augmentation (1)

Hazel Bergeron (2015538) | more than 3 years ago | (#37476730)

You forgot Poland.

Re:Augmentation (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37476824)

So, how is your husband nowadays? Haven't heard from him for a long time. Last I heard he went to have a beer from the fridge. Then there was some sad thing on TV. Good thing that our brains can forget such nastiness in a heartbeat. And how is America? Is it still ruled by the mediocre?

Re:Augmentation (2)

arth1 (260657) | more than 3 years ago | (#37478108)

Harrison Bergeron was here.

Non-sequitur, and you need to re-read Vonnegut if you read it with Heinlein goggles and only saw the top story, and missed the satire. The joke is on people who have a skewed view of what socialism is.

Socialism isn't about "from each the same, to each the same", and that's the lie Vonnegut wanted to expose through this story.

Not allowing the rich to increase the opportunities of their offspring is in no way comparable to decreasing anyone's inherent chances in order to enforce equality.

In the case of augmentation, the question isn't who can afford it, nor who deserves it, but who needs it.

Re:Augmentation (4, Insightful)

wealthychef (584778) | more than 3 years ago | (#37476606)

You are assuming that intelligence == more selfishness. In my experience, the more people learn and grow in life, the less selfish they become. As we progress as a culture, we are going to grow beyond the current view that men are inherently antisocial and competitive. Evolution has developed us to cooperate. Cooperation is a smart way to live. We'll figure it out. Don"t let all the bullshit fighting on television and newspapers make you think that's the way human beings really are. You know better. Look around. Don't be afraid of progress.

Re:Augmentation (2)

LanMan04 (790429) | more than 3 years ago | (#37479674)

In my experience, the more people learn and grow in life, the less selfish they become.

Does that mean most political conservatives stopped leaning and growing when they were 15 or so? :)

Re:Augmentation (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37476724)

Uh... if you memory is better, wouldn't you be able to remember where you parked your car that day?

Re:Augmentation (1)

arth1 (260657) | more than 3 years ago | (#37479182)

Judging by the number of people milling around in the parking lot, looking for their car in a spot they parked it some other time, I'd say no.

Re:Augmentation (1)

lpp (115405) | more than 3 years ago | (#37478472)

I don't know that you would have the problem you're referring to, being unable to distinguish from every instance of having parked your car in the parking lot. If you had perfect recall, surely you would begin to record EVERY detail of every instance and then when attempting to recall today's specific instance, I imagine your brain's capability for pattern recognition would sort through the most relevant results to pull up the correct one. We do that all the time really. There are any number of things which we repeat daily but with minute differences in each case, and we manage to filter out the least relevant results in order to be able to focus on what's most important to the matter at hand. Sometimes, yes, it fails, and we end up chasing a dead end. But the human brain seems a remarkably potent tool for filtering out the noise to reach the signal in many cases.

Re:Augmentation (1)

morgauxo (974071) | more than 3 years ago | (#37478758)

I don't know but I don't think that's how it works. Short term and long term memory would still be different things the brain would handle differently.

Re:Augmentation (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37479718)

lolz Class warfare for the masses. Don't worry, they'll have your legalized pot any day now.

Re:Augmentation (1)

jameskojiro (705701) | more than 3 years ago | (#37480022)

Pot for the dumb sheep voters and brain enhancing chips for the ruling elite.

The dumb sheep will votes the elite into power and will be dumb but happy with their pot, while the elite will be smarter and unhappy.

Maybe the smart people will get "soma" to keep them happy too....

Re:Augmentation (1)

jameskojiro (705701) | more than 3 years ago | (#37479970)

The more rich people who use it the more the price will go down as the market demands it.

Look at HDTVs, I was using a tube TV and only rich people had them 10 years ago, but now even the "poor" have HDTVs.

Same with computers, poor people used to not beable to afford a new PC, now they are so cheap and laptops are so ubliquitous that the 5,000 laptop from 1990 is now 350 dollars and 100 times as powerful. And you count inflation in there and the 350 dollar laptop adjusts to around 150 dollars.

Need I even get started on smartphones. Enabling tech will always end up cheaper after it gets mass produced.

Would you be saying the same thing about LASIK eye surgery 15 yars ago? Which used to be ultra expensive, but now you can get it done in for less than 500 per eye in a strip mall?

Point is the rich will always have the new toys and it will give them an advantage, but it won'y take long for the people who sell to the rich to start marketing to the masses, because the middle/lower class is far larger and in the end more profitable.

Re:Augmentation (1)

arth1 (260657) | more than 3 years ago | (#37480260)

Would you be saying the same thing about LASIK eye surgery 15 yars ago? Which used to be ultra expensive, but now you can get it done in for less than 500 per eye in a strip mall?

Very bad example. Laser vision correction was done in other countries at no expense to the patient a long time before it became available on the US market. It's a very cheap process in itself, but that doesn't prevent it from being too expensive for many. The prices in the US market are artificially inflated to start with, because of dubious patenting making it possible to charge an arm and a leg.

And the prices don't seem to drop either. Quoting an article I found [abcarticledirectory.com] :

"In 2006, industry sources reported that the average cost of LASIK was around $2000. In 2007, the price was charted to have a small increase to around $2100, and in 2008 it was reported that the average cost rose by only $5, to $2105. The most recent 2009 report shows the average San Diego LASIK cost to be $2140."

Hyperthymesia (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37476544)

there is no 'l' in the word.

Re:Hyperthymesia (2)

maglor_83 (856254) | more than 3 years ago | (#37476680)

How the hell did you remember that?!

Quick! (1)

Quiet_Desperation (858215) | more than 3 years ago | (#37476558)

BOOST ALL THE BRAINS!

Seriously. There's elections coming up.

Re:Quick! (1)

johnmorganjr (960148) | more than 3 years ago | (#37476708)

I could use a good old fashioned brain boost...........

Not just the brains. (2, Funny)

quenda (644621) | more than 3 years ago | (#37477084)

Attaching electrodes to the genitals has also been shown to enhance recall in the subject.

Re:Not just the brains. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37477638)

Ah, yes... CIA 101

Re:Not just the brains. (1)

linear a (584575) | more than 3 years ago | (#37481418)

Ve haf vays to stimulate your memory, Ja?

Brain boosting. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37479106)

I didn't ask for this.

This is a lot more complicated... (1)

Bruce Perens (3872) | more than 3 years ago | (#37476560)

Hm, why do you think we haven't evolved with perfect memory? Could there be a good reason?

Well, I know that people with really hot tempers usually have bad memories. They'd not be able to live with anyone else, or probably themselves, if they didn't.

I think that what we really want is really selective memory. Like for rapid learning of languages.

If you just want to remember facts, there are some memory tricks that work pretty well. Oops, I've forgotten the links :-)

Re:This is a lot more complicated... (5, Insightful)

bill_mcgonigle (4333) | more than 3 years ago | (#37476588)

Hm, why do you think we haven't evolved with perfect memory? Could there be a good reason?

Unless you believe in intelligent design, there may be no reason at all, except that we're only as far along as we are and we work well enough to reproduce. Same reason most of us have relatively poor hand-eye coordination, can't do without oxygen for more than about 3 minutes, have problems with cancers, have our eyes go out of round, etc. Many species of animals do much better on all these measures.

As my old bio teacher used to intone, "evolution proceeds towards what works, not what's best."

Re:This is a lot more complicated... (1)

dirtyhippie (259852) | more than 3 years ago | (#37476782)

Hm, why do you think we haven't evolved with perfect memory? Could there be a good reason?

Unless you believe in intelligent design, there may be no reason at all ... As my old bio teacher used to intone, "evolution proceeds towards what works, not what's best."

Intelligent design has nothing to do with it. Your assertion is that we don't have capabilities like this because we haven't needed them enough yet? Isn't it possible that such things (like being able to go without oxygen for a long time) would involve too significant a cost for the rare cases it would be needed and therefore is not worth the tradeoff?

Re:This is a lot more complicated... (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37476808)

No. There's no entity weighing up trade-offs, as you posit here. If we needed these extra abilities for optimal survival, those who tend toward those abilities would reproduce more often than those without. Eventually, those with would become a new species, and those without would be overtaken.

Re:This is a lot more complicated... (1)

dirtyhippie (259852) | more than 3 years ago | (#37480552)

The entity is called "natural selection" .... There's no such thing as a free lunch, so the cost (in extra food input) of maintaining extra neurons or what have you just to remember what kind of sandwich you had 823 days ago is not worth it. And by "not worth it", I mean that in the competition between a hypothetical species with the trait and one without the trait, the one without the trait will more easily survive, breed, and conquer.

Re:This is a lot more complicated... (2)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 3 years ago | (#37477912)

You seem to assume guidance for evolution. For a species to evolve a trait, two things need to happen:
  1. One individual in that species needs to mutate and develop that trait.
  2. The trait needs to give a sufficiently large advantage that members of the the species with that trait displace ones without it.

The first is often a stumbling block for evolution. For humans living on the coast, having gills as well as lungs would be a significant advantage, because it would dramatically increase their ability to find food. Part of the problem with this is that evolution can only optimise for local maxima. The intervening stages for developing lungs or gils are quite beneficial for simple organisms as they increase the size that the creature can grow to, but they are problematic for organisms that already have a large degree of specialisation among cells.

The second is also a problem. Consider short sightedness. This has a significant evolutionary disadvantage, but individual characteristics are not selected for. If the gene happens to be on the same chromosome as one that carries an advantage (increased sperm count, higher intelligence, or whatever) then it will be selected for to a certain degree, but the disadvantage may mean that it will never spread through the entire population.

There is also the question of timescale. If you have a characteristic that is such an evolutionary advantage that it will always be selected for (i.e. any member of the species will always choose to mate with members of that phenotype in preference to any others) then it will still take thousands of years for it to spread to the entire human population.

Finally, remember that evolution only selects for things that are good for the species, not for individuals. The theory of evolution is a tautology: genes that are good at propagating themselves will propagate better than genes that are not good at propagating themselves. Consider rats. They have a very high mutation rate, which is good for the species because it makes them hard to poison: one rat in a population will probably have an immunity to whatever the poison is, and the next generation will all be immune. This sucks for individual rats though: the ones that aren't immune still die, and the ones that are die of cancer soon after.

Having the members of a species competing for resources after they've passed on their genes (and ensured the survival of their offspring for long enough to breed) is bad for a species, but I doubt many people in their 40s would consider that suicide is good for the individual...

Re:This is a lot more complicated... (1)

NoSig (1919688) | more than 3 years ago | (#37480856)

OP doesn't assume guidance in his post. If the energy requirement is such that a present trait is not worth it in the sense that people without that trait survive better because they don't have to spend the energy, all else being equal evolution will tend to remove that trait from the gene pool precisely because "it is not worth the trade off", as the OP said. The determination of whether it is worth the trade off is made through practice instead of by some deliberate intelligence, but that determination is still being made none the less.

Re:This is a lot more complicated... (1)

HiThere (15173) | more than 3 years ago | (#37480926)

Actually, evolution only selects for things that are good for the individual. The species can go hang. This is the reason for many problems.
N.B., however, that the individual in question is the "gene". This often promotes kin-group altruism. But it also quite often translates into the individual body, as a gene has no guaranteed way of recognizing another body as being host to the same gene.

Caution should be used in reading the previous text. If read incautiously they could be taken as implying intent on the part of the gene. This is not present. Genes don't have intents, merely effects. Like a byte of assembled code. (It's more like assembled or compiled code than it is like source code.) Of course, part of this hangs on your definition of "What is a gene?", and that's a question without a hard and fast answer. It's easy to answer "What is a codon?", but "What is a gene?" is a lot more difficult. The very concept of gene seems to drag along purpose as a part of it's meaning, and the same codon can be part of more than one gene, depending on which reactions that it is participating in at the moment...or even on which other processes are happening. The RNA produced from the DNA often has parts deleted during it's conversion into protein, and which parts are deleted can change the effect dramatically. Messy! Worse, much worse, than spaghetti code.

Re:This is a lot more complicated... (1)

geekoid (135745) | more than 3 years ago | (#37481310)

"evolution only selects for things that are good for the individual."
False.
Why have evolved the ability to put the 'group' ahead of ourselves.
We have evolved to work together.
People who take care of the species are more likely to survive because the specious will take care of them. Extremely strong survival trait when its applies to children. Meaning people who have this trait will take care of other children and visa versa. This means a higher likely hood of the gens moving on.

I am not intending to imply evolution has any type of fore site.

Re:This is a lot more complicated... (1)

Gripp (1969738) | more than 3 years ago | (#37479662)

actually, his statement about intelligent design made perfect sense. unless you presume that something is in direct control of what traits we do and don't develop then evolution is basically random. which it is. and having a good memory or extra smarts wouldn't seem to be something that would lend itself to propagating into our species well (as most of the /. crowd is likely well aware of :P ) so the chances of something like this mutating on its own seem fairly slim to me.

Re:This is a lot more complicated... (1)

geekoid (135745) | more than 3 years ago | (#37481322)

Until 100 years ago, true. But as more and more intelligence is needed for survival within society, smarts will be selected for by a mate more often.

Re:This is a lot more complicated... (1)

leifbork (1745672) | more than 3 years ago | (#37476864)

Actually, no. In this case, I don't think it's about 'good enough', in that way!

I spoke to an associate professor that work with cognition some, and she talked about that humans are likely not meant to have very good memory.
Humans process a lot of the stimuli they take in for a long time (don't know if that's the same as low latent inhibition, but maybe), and often, when eidetic memory is present in a person, they are pretty much screwed up somewhere else, she said.

Look at this if you haven't seen it; chimps out-performing humans in memory tests:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TC1nJ61l-h4 [youtube.com]

I believe it is likely that we might have had a it, or had a very good opportunity to have it, and might have lost it, or never got it, for an evolutionary reason.

(If it's related to latent inhibition, then I may inform you that the mighty Wikipedia speaks about latent inhibition some. There are theories basically about that latent inhibition works like a filter for stimuli in animals and that humans with low latent inhibition either get very creative, or crazy, or both, depending on how their brain processes all the information given to them.

It is also related to explanations for the existence of mental illnesses. People with e.g. bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, Asperger's, usually have lower latent inhibition. So, a little bit of that might produce more creative people, while too much of such traits make people ill. And that might be why people with mental illness keep popping up everywhere. I would put more emphasis on optimization than 'good enough', in this case.)

Re:This is a lot more complicated... (2)

flyingsquid (813711) | more than 3 years ago | (#37477110)

I spoke to an associate professor that work with cognition some, and she talked about that humans are likely not meant to have very good memory. Humans process a lot of the stimuli they take in for a long time (don't know if that's the same as low latent inhibition, but maybe), and often, when eidetic memory is present in a person, they are pretty much screwed up somewhere else, she said. Look at this if you haven't seen it; chimps out-performing humans in memory tests: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TC1nJ61l-h4 [youtube.com]

Humans might not need very good memory since we have language. We evolved in large social groups of dozens to hundreds of individuals (now thousands). It's not necessary for every individual in the group to remember, for instance, when certain trees are producing fruit, or where the best hunting grounds are, or how you make a tool. As long as a few people in the community remember, you can just ask around. You're doing a search on your social network.

Re:This is a lot more complicated... (2)

NeutronCowboy (896098) | more than 3 years ago | (#37480108)

Here's the reason why we don't have perfect memory:http://scienceblogs.com/cortex/2008/12/hell_is_a_perfect_memory.php [scienceblogs.com] . Perfect memory is great when your job is to tell stories about events, but for every other situation, it's complete overkill with significant downsides. Your bio teacher was right, and he was right when it comes to perfect memory: perfect memory is a hindrance in the vast majority of situations you encounter in life. Do you want to perfectly remember every broken bone? Every disappointment? Every failure? Every disaster that has struck around you?

No. On the contrary, you want to be able to forget a lot of things, so that you can move on and try again.

Re:This is a lot more complicated... (1)

geekoid (135745) | more than 3 years ago | (#37481348)

Don't confuse memory with emotional experience.

Re:This is a lot more complicated... (1)

martin-boundary (547041) | more than 3 years ago | (#37476630)

Evolution can only reach feasible outcomes. It's also clear that a brain with perfect memory is physically impossible (at best memories represent a sampling of sensory inputs, so full reconstruction of reality is certainly impossible). So it's obvious that we cannot evolve perfect memories, but it may well be that the trend is *towards* perfection nevertheless, since the benefits are substantial.

Re:This is a lot more complicated... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37476670)

I don't know that I'd be so quick to dismiss the possibility of full reconstruction of reality. I've had some dreams that were pretty damn real at the time... Hell I've had dreams that were similar enough to real situations to be not quite sure which memory was real and which the dream before...

Re:This is a lot more complicated... (2)

ldobehardcore (1738858) | more than 3 years ago | (#37476796)

Ah, But the problem there is that there's no solipsist's lemma.

Philosophically speaking, the only thing you can be sure about is your own existence. You can also see that your senses are flawed, so you can't trust them either. You vividly hallucinate at night, and constantly misinterpret your senses during the day.

On these grounds, who's to say what is real and what is simulation?

OTOH, if we focus on information theory, and don't think about philosophy for a second, the real world out there has more than 10^100 "moving parts" than your own brain has, even if you count down to the atoms and electrons that make up your neurons... How could you possibly hope to simulate all of reality if the simulation itself is embedded within reality? That's a recursive nightmare.

No, you can only make approximate models of the "Real World Out There" and then that's only useful if you can prove that the real world out there exists.

Re:This is a lot more complicated... (2)

migla (1099771) | more than 3 years ago | (#37476954)

How could you possibly hope to simulate all of reality if the simulation itself is embedded within reality?

Why, you'd use a good compression algorithm, of course. Every way of describing reality (except the wrong ways) is such an algorithm or part of it.

When we find the links between the different layers of abstraction, we're good to go, because then we know when we can apply, say Marxist analysis, to describe how capitalism oppresses the proletariat and leads to revolution also incorporating other abstractions like neuro-science and weather forecasting and such. At every level we just note the diff between the model and the specifics and when we get down to atoms bouncing off each other and strings vibrating (let's assume there is no randomness in quantum shit), we don't have to describe everything.

It's still kind of a daunting task, so I propose we wait for Moore to do it's thing until nearing the end of the universe and also build huge vacuum-cleaners that can pull lots of matter into them as to prevent those atoms and whatnot to interfere with measurements of other parts of the universe, so we can get a picture of exactly what there is, where it was going and how fast.

Re:This is a lot more complicated... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37477100)

the only thing you can be sure about is your own existence.

Are you sure of that? How do you know that thinking proves that you exist? Can you prove that (time to go insane and question everything)?

Re:This is a lot more complicated... (1)

q.kontinuum (676242) | more than 3 years ago | (#37476836)

But as far as I know the statistics show that the reproduction nowadays rate of humans is rather reciprocal than proportional to success (assumed that you take success in jobs, political success etc. as the metric for success). This might give evolution a hard time to help us here :-)

Re:This is a lot more complicated... (1)

Jeremi (14640) | more than 3 years ago | (#37476918)

It's also clear that a brain with perfect memory is physically impossible

Why is that obvious? My DVR has a perfect memory of its sensory inputs, why couldn't a brain (in theory) do the same?

Granted it would probably need to be much larger (and/or more space-efficient), or have lower-resolution sensory inputs, or both, but I don't see any fundamental reason why it would be physically impossible.

The obvious reason why it hasn't occurred (or at least hasn't occurred yet) is that our existing memory system is "good enough" from a survival/reproduction perspective.

Re:This is a lot more complicated... (2)

sourcerror (1718066) | more than 3 years ago | (#37476948)

And who would "change tape" in your brain when it's full?

Re:This is a lot more complicated... (3, Interesting)

phantomlord (38815) | more than 3 years ago | (#37476766)

I don't know that I have full blown hyperthymesia, I've never talked to a professional about it, I certainly don't recall EVERY day of my life in great detail but my friends and loved ones are often surprised at what I can recall and just how much trivial detail I can recall when doing so. I had a pretty bad concussion in 1997 which definitely affected my memory in a negative way, but I still still consider it to be far superior to most people.

Anyway, it is a curse to be forced to remember all of the worst days and moments of your life. Imagine constantly reliving your most painful or embarrassing moments. Imagine carrying around the burden of all of the not so nice things you may have done in your life, like the snippy retort you gave to the person that was marginally rude to you when you were tired. Imagine the insults and bullying that you endured not only through high school, but that the people you've cared about have thrown at you over the years during spats. Or maybe it was the time you made a suggestion at work or to a friend that everyone else has long forgotten but you still remember in vivid detail. I have detailed memories going back to the first house I lived in and we moved out of there when I was 6 months old.

Breakups can be hard, but remembering the little intimate details of your lost SO are worse, watching a loved one die in front of you, the laughter that still echoes in your mind from the time you had a piece of toilet paper stuck to the bottom of your shoe, etc. Sure, it's nice that you can remember all of the details the day your child was born or that trip you saved up your entire life for, but when you can't forget the things that your brain really needs to in order for you to move on, every day has the potential of being a living hell. It's basically a permanent state of PTSD and you never know when it's going to hit you.

After my concussion, I've lost some of the factual retention memory ability that wasn't related to my personal life, but, unfortunately, I still mentally "record" virtually every moment of my life. I can't always tell you the date (though I often can), but I can deliver the full visual, audio and tactile memory of those moments. Friends/family tend to love that I can remember the things that they can't and help refresh their own memories, but for me, it sucks.

Re:This is a lot more complicated... (1)

bronney (638318) | more than 3 years ago | (#37476910)

I also have exceptional memory but it's on the decline with age. However I would like to give you an advice. Don't dwell on the sad / embarrassing details. They are the past and unchangeable. Your remembering and not remembering them does not change the fact that your kitten is dead because you exercised your arm too much. The next time you find yourself dwelling on these shitty memories, go live life a little bit more. Clean the house, fix a car, help an old lady, load starcraft, make pancakes.

New memories.

Re:This is a lot more complicated... (2)

phantomlord (38815) | more than 3 years ago | (#37476972)

Unfortunately, it's not as simple as keeping myself busy... to go along with my autobiographical memory, my brain seems to be very parallelized too. I'm often focusing on a number of different tasks independent from each other. Doing something in the foreground doesn't make the background thoughts go away.

Funny you mention dead cats... that immediately brought back the memories of finding both of mine dead. Where they were, what they looked like, how they felt, the slight warmth still left in their bodies, how their faces were positioned, how I felt emotionally, what was going on at the time, what type of day it what as well as the time of day, the other things I did during those days (visiting my dad in the hospital on one, waiting for my life insurance agent to come over to review my policy on the other).

Anyway, I suffer from Avoidant Personality Disorder and over the last 5 years or so, I notice I'm becoming increasingly agoraphobic as well. On top of that, I take care of my dad (who has been disabled for the last 13 years now), so I don't get out much (and for that matter, I don't have a job anymore, which further limits my ability to be around other people in several ways). My new memories are generally a mix of the mundane tasks of every day life combined with the time I spend with my mom and nieces usually on the weekends. The oldest niece seems to exhibit a lot of the same traits I did at that age, so I worry about her too.

I have some other issues going on as well that I'm not going to talk about in public, that contribute to my daily negative reinforcements. On top of that, something about me seems to attract predatory women and every woman I've ever cared about in my life has used and abused me (including my mom and sister) at some point. That, too, just reinforces the AvPD.

Mix it all together and most days, I wonder how I manage to cope... the guilt of knowing those around me would be worse off if I wasn't there is the main thing that keeps me going. I've had a lot of time to reflect on things and I understand pretty much everything ticking inside my head that makes me the way that I am. Unfortunately, even with the best of help, most of what's wrong with me isn't exactly easy to fix. I've tried cognitive behavioral therapy, pills, etc and none of it sticks for more than a few months at a time. Ultimately, it's the inability to repress my past (and ongoing) trauma which always seems to overwhelm the positive steps I try to take.

Re:This is a lot more complicated... (1)

bronney (638318) | more than 3 years ago | (#37477538)

I don't know if a piece of my experience can provide some insight but your "not going out much" rang a bell. Most of my friends find me weird that I remember things so vividly that if they weren't my friends, they'd think I am some godlike bullshitter like Kevin Spacey in The Usual Suspects. Only a few people in the world knows the truth, those being my closest friends. And I don't mind sharing it with you here as nobody reads past the grandchild of any slashdot post lol.

The truth, why I think I remember stuff so well was because I immigrated to Canada when I was 13. It was so hard to do anything without knowing English, that I stayed home most of the time doing mundane things just like you. Later, when I grasped the language totally, I found that there're nothing much to do in Canada if you don't drive, and had no money. The social circle got so small that my best friend was also my cousin. It's in these time that I find I almost developed a photographic memory. After I grew up though, I notice they weren't photographic, but merely "repetitive dwelling" that reinforced every single event (though not as extreme as yours) so vividly. Funny that you mentioned the warmth. I know EXACTLY what you mean. Even the smell and everything.

I noticed it was the "boredom" that made me refresh all those memories repeatedly that they totally engulfed my time. I would say during that time I was pretty lost. Had no time for real life, and lived in a cocoon or past reality.

After finishing school, I came back to Hong Kong for work. The dynamic city slowly overwrites the details of my precious memories, and after 11 years here, most of the details are gone. Although, I still remember all that I've played back countless times. The happy ones still makes me smile and the sad ones still makes me hate myself. You can probably read between the lines and see all the hardships and friendships over the years. It's until recently I got so sick of the sensory overload here in HK, that I start to see the beauty of Canada again.

That's why in my previous post, I think somehow, you're locking in yourself too much and your mind got so used to playing back the tapes that they become parallel to you in thought. While mundane tasks doesn't really use your CPU cycles up to stop thinking about the sad things. Do something more engaging like playing Starcraft 2 ladder etc :D but meh what do I know, I don't have the responsibilities you do yet.

Good luck man.

Re:This is a lot more complicated... (1)

phantomlord (38815) | more than 3 years ago | (#37479538)

Likewise, it's funny you mention the sensory overload of cities... I don't mind visiting cities, but I could never live there precisely because of the sensory overload. My brain picks up on and remembers every little detail and, on top of the anxiety issues I have, it really stresses me out between the visual, audio and odor overload. It doesn't dull my autobiographical memory at all, it's still fully functional recalling in another "thread" of my brain while I'm there and outside of the city, I still have a full "recording" to recall of my experiences later.

I was born in the city, lived there for my first 6 months, then moved out to a trailer park in the sticks, moving further out again when I was 7 ... I was a pretty active kid and my memory of those days is just as good as my teen and adult memories. I can remember full days of playing, riding bikes, taking apart a calculator, even daydreams I had from back before I even started school, like it just happened today. I occasionally get this sense of prescience, knowing that I will recall a particular experience I'm having in the moment at some point in the future and years or decades later when that memory resurfaces, I'll even remember thinking about that feeling of prescience in that moment, however mundane as the moment might have been. I frequently get a sense of deja vu, knowing I've seen something before or that though will be the first time, the exact same thing will happen to me again in the future (down to specifics, not just "I'm gonna buy groceries and check out at register 3." I even get the occasional recurrent dream (one of several) that I've had randomly for decades. Oddly, I very rarely dream, or at least very rarely remember them, which may have something to do with my memory processing overall.

As far as doing something more involved goes, playing action oriented FPS games probably does the most to dull my ability to immediately, involuntarily recall past memories, but it's probably only 50% effective overall and will trigger other detailed memories of playing games (by myself, with friends, whatever).

Re:This is a lot more complicated... (1)

cheekyjohnson (1873388) | more than 3 years ago | (#37476952)

Imagine constantly reliving your most painful or embarrassing moments.

What painful or embarrassing moments? You might feel that way, but what is painful or embarrassing to you isn't necessarily painful or embarrassing to someone else. There's no reason that I see to be upset over a memory. There's likely nothing you can do to change it, so there's no point. For people that don't care, I don't think that remembering moments that would be painful or embarrassing to a normal person would matter. Or perhaps someone sees it as a good trade off.

Re:This is a lot more complicated... (1)

phantomlord (38815) | more than 3 years ago | (#37477026)

You might feel that way, but what is painful or embarrassing to you isn't necessarily painful or embarrassing to someone else. There's no reason that I see to be upset over a memory. There's likely nothing you can do to change it, so there's no point. For people that don't care, I don't think that remembering moments that would be painful or embarrassing to a normal person would matter.

First of all, if someone has no emotional connection to their memories, there is something wrong with their brain... the limbic system tags memories, connecting them with the emotions we felt while experiencing them, which helps us to relieve them and to trigger anticipations of future similar circumstances. Secondly, two people will see the same incident in different ways - what may be a painful embarrassment for one may be completely unnotable for another. The type of memories I'm talking about are the ones that affect my life, many of which ARE pretty meaningless, I record the mundane memories just as often as the important moments, not necessarily the perspective of those around me (though I often remember what I thought they were thinking in connection to that moment as well).

Anyway, it isn't a matter of it being a simple snapshot in your mind. I constantly relive those moments, begging for the ability to do something different, when you know what the outcome is always going to be. Surely, you have something in your past that you regret... most people can eventually accept that regret, process things and mostly fade the ability to casually access those memories as time goes on unless there is a specific trigger that causes the memory to resurface.

Those things never fade for me and I'm always consciously placed back into that scene, remembering everything I felt, saw, heard, etc. The day I was 17 and balled my fist at my dad telling him I hated him, the time I stole a pack of baseball cards when I was 12, or the time I forged a note to help a girl pass our civics class my senior year, etc. I can't simply repress those memories and I tend to punish myself for them daily. Nobody can beat me up the way I beat myself up.

Re:This is a lot more complicated... (1)

cheekyjohnson (1873388) | more than 3 years ago | (#37477108)

there is something wrong with their brain

I disagree. I think it would be a positive thing. Well, certainly, they'd be somewhat different.

There's no point in regret that I see. It changes nothing. Feeling sad or angry changes nothing. Maybe some people would have trouble just not caring, but I think others wouldn't.

Re:This is a lot more complicated... (1)

phantomlord (38815) | more than 3 years ago | (#37477146)

people with little or no emotional response to the events of their lives are most likely sociopaths... I'm not saying that in a negative connotation, that's simply the definition, for better or worse.

Remorse/regret is a very useful tool, in that it will help us prevent doing harmful things again in the future. Someone without a feeling of remorse will likely do whatever benefits them in the moment without care for the consequences of that action.

Re:This is a lot more complicated... (1)

cheekyjohnson (1873388) | more than 3 years ago | (#37477220)

Remorse/regret is a very useful tool, in that it will help us prevent doing harmful things again in the future.

If doing something will likely cause you to be harmed in some way (not emotionally), then neither remorse or regret is necessary for someone to avoid it. They know what will likely happen, so they avoid it. Emotions aren't necessary to realize that much.

Re:This is a lot more complicated... (1)

phantomlord (38815) | more than 3 years ago | (#37477260)

I suppose it's possible for people that don't feel emotion to not be harmed by what would cause normal people emotional pain... but emotional pain is a real consequence for the vast majority of people, they can feel negatively about something even if there isn't a physical consequence to doing it.

However, it only takes one more step for the emotionless to go from "well, I can get away with it because it isn't illegal" to "well, I'm so much smarter/more powerful than everyone else that I'll get away with it even if it is illegal." The group that proceeds to the latter step generally makes up politicians, CEOs, serial killers, out of control celebrities, griefers and the like.

Re:This is a lot more complicated... (1)

cheekyjohnson (1873388) | more than 3 years ago | (#37477496)

However, it only takes one more step for the emotionless to go from "well, I can get away with it because it isn't illegal" to "well, I'm so much smarter/more powerful than everyone else that I'll get away with it even if it is illegal."

That could be said about anyone (even people who have emotions). Those who have normal emotions still commit crimes (some feel justified, others feel they need to). Honestly, I don't think they're very intelligent if they think they can get away with it so easily (especially if others failed many times), so they're not much different from normal criminals. Like with normal people, it depends on the person (or sociopath).

And not feeling emotion towards past events probably doesn't ensure someone is a sociopath, anyway.

Re:This is a lot more complicated... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37479488)

Remorse/regret is a very useful tool, in that it will help us prevent doing harmful things again in the future.

If doing something will likely cause you to be harmed in some way (not emotionally), then neither remorse or regret is necessary for someone to avoid it. They know what will likely happen, so they avoid it. Emotions aren't necessary to realize that much.

You misunderstand. Often, the only "harm" that comes to you is the regret. Therefore, you avoid a lot of nasty/bad behaviour because you know you will regret it. "There is no harm in beating up smaller people regularly. Not for me." Except that society would fall apart if everybody did that. So we have evolved to regret bad stuff and have empathy - because those that did not failed to have the benefits of society.

Many people doesn't understand this too well - which is why these emotions are useful. There's even plenty of people who fail to see that we can't all make a living stealing from each other. So they plunder...

Re:This is a lot more complicated... (1)

cheekyjohnson (1873388) | more than 3 years ago | (#37479682)

Therefore, you avoid a lot of nasty/bad behaviour because you know you will regret it.

But nasty and bad are both subjective. And if it isn't already illegal, then I probably don't care about it.

Except that society would fall apart if everybody did that.

That's why we have laws. That's where the "harm" comes from. There doesn't need to be any emotion involved to create laws. All there needs to be is a consensus that it would benefit society in the end.

And people with emotions commit crimes all the time. Oftentimes because of those emotions. The fact that someone doesn't feel regret (or doesn't feel much of it) won't necessarily make them commit a crime or abuse others. I haven't.

Re:This is a lot more complicated... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37480904)

Not feeling remorse != not understanding the consequences. The former does not prevent the person from acting rationally. The later is a perfect example of your common school shooting psychopath.

Re:This is a lot more complicated... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37478628)

That sounds terrible. Whatever you do, don't think about breathing. Once you pay attention to the constant in, out, in, out of breathing it is hard to ignore. Don't think about how every breath produces a gentle woosh noise as it passes through your nose. But don't forget to breath either you wouldn't want to die from holding your breath.

Re:This is a lot more complicated... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37479136)

On the flip side of things, I have a very poor memory. I've been to a neuro-psychologist and have been fully analyzed. My IQ is very high, but, due to a very poor memory the overall effect is nullified. Poor memory is also a curse, especially when you have the smarts to pull things off that the average joe can't. People hold a certain expectation to you and you find that people are disappointed easily and end up wondering why you "ignored" them. Not being able to remember those small details, like your wedding, your children's births, what you ate yesterday, and what you posted on (so don't expect a reply lol). All joking aside, things can be remembered by taking extensive notes and reviewing those notes in the morning and in the evening so that way you're constantly fresh and don't drop the ball. Any procedure that could be developed to help folks like myself would be welcome.

I would give anything to have your ability to recall, I wouldn't focus on the "devil" of the details if I were you. Instead, focus on the blessings you've experienced in your life because there's some of us who can't.

Re:This is a lot more complicated... (1)

phantomlord (38815) | more than 3 years ago | (#37479302)

My dad had a brain aneurysm and stroke... the ultimate result of which was he basically lost the entire top half of the right side of his brain. Other than the most obvious effect that he's paralyzed on the left side of his body, it affects his short term memory in particular (his long term memory is mostly intact, but confabulation has corrupted some of it). Whereas I remember every minute detail, he'll often forget a wide array of things and constantly need to be reminded of both trivial and important things.

Being familiar with both ends of the spectrum, I'd say they both suck pretty bad in their own ways. I don't want to be on the other extreme anymore than where I am now, I'd settle for just being able to be normal.

Re:This is a lot more complicated... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37479396)

My memory was always crap, but still every embarrassing and painful moment in my life is burned into it. That's just the way the brain works. Being able to also remember details of things that weren't terrible would be a bonus.

Re:This is a lot more complicated... (1)

phantomlord (38815) | more than 3 years ago | (#37479696)

My mom and her siblings were raped and abused by family friends and ultimately abandoned by both parents... some of them managed to repress the memories on their own (only for it to resurface in their late 20s/early 30s, where they eventually processed it and moved on as best as they could or turned into the next group) or they coped through alcoholism and drug abuse, where their entire life is dysfunctional as they try to avoid dealing with what happened to them as kids.

My sister is flat out evil and spent her entire life using people for her own gain, often fabricating lies, including 3 false rape charges against different guys, to get what she wanted.... a few months ago she started having psychogenic seizures caused by the stress of suddenly gaining a conscience and not being able to repress what she's done to people. Either she'll find a way to make peace with what she's done, possibly by trying to make amends to those she's hurt, or she'll probably spend the rest of her life constantly seizing because the guilt will linger if she can't be honest enough with herself to process and move on.

Lots of people have bad things happen to them... most will repress the lesser bad memories entirely though the more significant trauma only seems to be able to be repressed for a period of time. It's possible that you're overly conscious to criticism and thus those wounds stick out for you more than they would for a "normal" person. I'm certainly not minimizing what you're feeling as I remember all of the negative things that have happened in my life too, regardless of how minor or petty those sleights may have been.

Re:This is a lot more complicated... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37479878)

Check this out: "Pill could erase painful memories, study shows"
http://bodyodd.msnbc.msn.com/_news/2011/05/31/6757302-pill-could-erase-painful-memories-study-shows

It's possible that by lowering your cortisol levels thru resistance training (weightlifting), supplementation (e.g. fish oil) and/or medication like the referred to pill in this article that you might be able to reduce the impact of those bad memories on your daily life...

Re:This is a lot more complicated... (1)

phorm (591458) | more than 3 years ago | (#37480106)

Good memory seems often as much a curse as a blessing. I don't know what causes some things to stick more than others - I can't remember a textbook word-for-word after reading it - but I can remember tons of things that I'd rather I didn't.

The worst ones seem not to be those which happened to me, but stupid things which I did. Many of those were things that seemed OK at the time (hey, I was a big dork/dweeb pre-college), but weren't overly memorable at the moment. Now though, I can remember them as dweebish things I've done, spiteful things I've said, all the way back to early elementary. I don't know WTF caused them to be lodged in my brain, but remembering a jerk'ish thing I've done is a whole lot more painful than remembering things done to me.

Re:This is a lot more complicated... (1)

geekoid (135745) | more than 3 years ago | (#37481360)

Wow, some self diagnosis themselves to have something they want to have. No bias there.

Re:This is a lot more complicated... (2)

benjamindees (441808) | more than 3 years ago | (#37476860)

Hm, why do you think we haven't evolved with perfect memory? Could there be a good reason?

Glucose limitations, probably. Sugar is something of a limited resource in most of the habitable zone and throughout human history.

Well, I know that people with really hot tempers usually have bad memories.

PTSD causes both irritability and atrophy of the hippocampus [wikipedia.org] .

Re:This is a lot more complicated... (1)

kvezach (1199717) | more than 3 years ago | (#37477174)

Hm, why do you think we haven't evolved with perfect memory? Could there be a good reason?

The standard answers to this kind of question are:

1. Local optimum: Evolution is a black box optimization process. No black box optimization process that progresses in reasonable time can cover all of the search space, so they will get stuck in local optima. The eye is a good example of a local optimum. The nerve fibers are on the wrong side of the eye, so you get a large blind spot where the fibers go "out of the eye" and into the brain. However, to fix this suboptimal design would require a rather large trek through solution space, and some of the intermediate solutions would be so bad that evolution would weed them out. Therefore, the eye remains as it is. The same may be the case for memory structures in the brain.

2. Shifting tradeoffs: Evolution is also quite slow. Therefore, its tradeoffs are based on an environment in which we no longer reside, where food was scarce and one had to save energy lest one died. This sort of wrong-tradeoff optimization is evident everywhere you have obesity, for instance.
In this case, perhaps near-perfect memory was too heavy a weight to bear in conditions of scarce resources. If it was, evolution would not have optimized in that direction, because the losses (due to having to expend more energy) would be greater than the gains (of greater planning or what have you). Now, on the other hand, we do have much more energy available, but evolution hasn't caught up.

So to sum all of that up: to the degree that the evolutionary process visits close to optimal solutions, it is slow, and to the degree that the evolutionary process is fast, it skips certain solutions that might be very good. In both of these cases, technology can cover what evolution does not - when evolution is blind, technology can be less so; and when evolution has its blind spots, technology have others so they can make up for each other's partial coverage.

Re:This is a lot more complicated... (1)

BJ_Covert_Action (1499847) | more than 3 years ago | (#37481608)

Undoing Mod.

Do you recall? (2)

SilentLynx (2467344) | more than 3 years ago | (#37476584)

"Well, don't. A friend of mine tried one their "special offers," nearly got himself lobotomized." "No shit?" "Don't fuck with your brain, pal. It ain't worth it."

Re:Do you recall? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37476592)

Throw in pleasure center stimulation for only $15k extra?

Too bad a good memory (1)

hcs_$reboot (1536101) | more than 3 years ago | (#37476702)

Unfortunately, enhancing the mice memory won't help them to forget about their ill-treatments.

Re:Too bad a good memory (1)

ldobehardcore (1738858) | more than 3 years ago | (#37476822)

It's alright,
They tend to cull off all the mice used in the study, except for the controls.
Good science requires elimination and minimisation of variables you know.

Didn't we have this news item before? (2)

jeffrey.endres (1630883) | more than 3 years ago | (#37476728)

I could swear that I have seen this news item on slashdot before. Maybe my brain needs a jolt.

Re:Didn't we have this news item before? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37477112)

>>I could swear that I have seen this news item on slashdot before. Maybe my brain needs a jolt.

Pain is the best teacher.

Welcome (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37476760)

And I, for one, welcome our new mouse overlords

I wouldn't mind wearing a shock collar... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37476806)

.. if I could remember every Chemistry lecture.

Ben..... (1)

kawabago (551139) | more than 3 years ago | (#37476852)

you've got a friend in me.

Re:Ben..... (1)

Custard Horse (1527495) | more than 3 years ago | (#37477148)

Not every night...

I'll be right back... (1)

villain222 (1120485) | more than 3 years ago | (#37476882)

Where did i put that stun gun? Last time I tested that on myself i was a bit tipsy. I wonder if that cancelled out the brain cells i killed that night. If only i could remember.

Stimulated cell growth. (1)

nitehawk214 (222219) | more than 3 years ago | (#37476936)

I know something else that stimulates cell growth.

Cancer.

Google and Friends (1)

dredwerker (757816) | more than 3 years ago | (#37477124)

I have google and my friends. Its all about the keywords and remembering which friends from which time periods you need to speak to. O and facebook is quite useful nowadays. Obviously IMDB,Wikipedia and ermmmm -- - thingummmy ------ Snopes thats it, are useful too. o look hackaday is calling ;)

Algernon (2)

dunkelfalke (91624) | more than 3 years ago | (#37477140)

I can bet the name of the mouse in question is Algernon

Not recommended (1)

E.I.A (2303368) | more than 3 years ago | (#37477472)

I lost two large patches of hair trying this at home. I used a few 9volts, some alligator clamps, and my gangster friend's gold chains, and although I did feel a little wittier, it just aint worth the new image.

hrmmm (1)

Charliemopps (1157495) | more than 3 years ago | (#37478480)

I have always had an amazing memory and can even remember being in the crib. Freaks most people out... specially my mother when I describe the room and such. I've mentioned it to doctors over the years thinking they'd want to investigate it but never had any interest. Alas, as I've gotten older it's faded. I can still remember all the stuff that occurred when I was younger, but things that happened in the past 6-12 months are far less clear to me than most of when I was a toddler.

Re:hrmmm (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37479936)

I remember being born by caesarean section. (Waking up to the sound of something going beep-beep-beep, being lifted out past the meaty edge, into a bright room with much green. Seeing a knee and a leg much longer than myself before the story ends.) That memory came to me in a dreams when I was a child - identical everytime. Took me a long time to figure out that it indeed was a memory - and of what.

I generally have good memory but not fantastic . Probably just lucky to remember those first seconds, I have only a few memories from being 2 years old and such.

Re:hrmmm (1)

sgt scrub (869860) | more than 3 years ago | (#37480960)

In all seriousness I'd recommend a physical. Noticeable memory loss is an early sign of heart disease.

Krell (1)

the eric conspiracy (20178) | more than 3 years ago | (#37478652)

Crikey the Krell have been doing this for millenia, You guys need to get out more.

I'm ready to be overclocked (1)

XiaoK (1468565) | more than 3 years ago | (#37479124)

Next they need to work on a cooling solution.

Ringworld (1)

kmahan (80459) | more than 3 years ago | (#37479498)

While they are putting the wiring in how about one into the pleasure center -- then we can have a new group of addicts called Wire Heads. Cheap since it only takes a bit of electricity.

That's just silly! (1)

mr_resident (222932) | more than 3 years ago | (#37479542)

I've been sticking forks in electrical outlets for years and I'm not any smartyer.

Forced Exercise? (1)

sgt scrub (869860) | more than 3 years ago | (#37480864)

I know that exercise helps brain function but shocking somebody in the head with an electrical probe isn't a very nice way to motivate someone.

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