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Happiness Is A Warm Electrode

Zonk posted more than 6 years ago | from the everything-looks-so-vivid dept.

Biotech 199

sufijazz writes "A story by Gregory Mone on the Popular Science website talks about trials to use deep brain stimulation to cure chronic depression. It's a deeper exploration of the 'brain pacemaker' discussed here on the site before, and a practical application of research discussed even earlier. Why the pulses affect mood is still unclear, but scientists believe that they may facilitate chemical communication between brain cells, possibly by forcing ions through nerve fibers called axons. In turn, this may trigger the release of mood-regulating chemicals like serotonin and norepinephrine. Similar trials are being conducted in other places. Exact numbers are hard to ascertain, but it's estimated that fewer than 50 patients in North America are walking around with wires in their brain."

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199 comments

Please note (0, Redundant)

Daimanta (1140543) | more than 6 years ago | (#20718115)

The warm electrode is the thing that makes you feel warm and fuzzy inside when you're happy.

Eye-Friendly (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20718131)

Here [popsci.com] without the ads and annoying background.

Be careful about this understanding (1)

Futurepower(R) (558542) | more than 6 years ago | (#20718501)

Thanks for the link. I wish advertisers understood that annoying the reader is not the way to sell things.

Anyone who suffers from depression should understand that the article does not describe real science, which is based on fundamental theories. It just describes tinkering.

Quote from the article: "But first Rezai must convince his colleagues that attacking depression with electrical current is a good idea. Patients like Hire, who don't respond to drugs, therapy or ECT, reveal how little modern science really understands about depression, which is one reason why DBS tends to raise thorny scientific and ethical questions."

Another quote: "To some, acting on this rudimentary understanding of DBS and its effects on the brain recalls the notorious history of operating on the brain to treat mental disorders."

"The Primal Scream" (1)

Futurepower(R) (558542) | more than 6 years ago | (#20718519)

If you suffer from depression, read the book "The Primal Scream" by Arthur Janov.

Re:"The Primal Scream" (1)

CRCulver (715279) | more than 6 years ago | (#20718561)

Warning about OP's book recommendation: the Amazon reviews for The New Primal Scream [amazon.com] , Janov's updated defense of his ideas, suggest that this is highly controversial at best and outright crackpottery at worst.

Hah! Selective reading. (1)

Futurepower(R) (558542) | more than 6 years ago | (#20718823)

Interesting, but not accurate.

First Amazon 5 star review begins: "What an amazing book this is!"

Second 5 star review begins: "when one first reads janov, one gets to see things that seem to have always been waiting in one's unconscious, but never actualized in conscious form."

Third 5 star review begins: "Arthur Janov is a brilliant man."

Supporting information:

John Lennon of the Beatles before Janov's help: Did at least 4 drugs, apparently daily. Screwed around with numerous women.

John Lennon of the Beatles after Janov's help: Stayed home and took care of his child. Seemed much less desperate.

Advice: It doesn't work to just read the book. It is necessary to try what he says. Since that takes only an hour or so, trying it is not a big investment. Numerous people wrote to Janov's Journal of Primal Therapy and told of positive results with what Janov called "Self-Primaling".

Re:Hah! Selective reading. (2, Insightful)

Sunburnt (890890) | more than 6 years ago | (#20718913)

Defending Janov by pointing to an anecdote and encouraging the reader to "try it and see what you feel like," instead of linking to an empirical study of his clinical results, only adds credence to the GP's allegations of pesudoscience, since those are the typical rhetorical methods of its defenders. I'm sure at least one of this site's intrepid Googlers can find some actual research on either side, assuming it exists. Of course, if it doesn't exist, that's a statement in itself.

His technique certainly goes against my understanding of healing. What Janov calls a "release of suppressed emotion," I call "rehearsing anxiety states," and I question the psychodynamic concepts that underlie his explanation of the technique. Unless Janov can show better results than the cognitive therapies, there's probably a better use of an hour than reading his book. Do you have any links to these results?

Re:Please note (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20718407)

Nobody's made a Terminal Man reference yet?

(irony: the captcha is "impetus")

Insert a Q-Tip in your penis hole? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20718713)

In college, I knew a fellow who would insert a Q-Tip into his penis hole to "cure" his depression. I really don't know how or why that'd work, but somehow it would. He'd be crying one moment, he'd get a Q-Tip and insert it into his penis, and then a minute or two later he'd be overjoyed. It was really a sight to behold, but also confusing as all hell.

Happiness is a Warm Gun (1)

lag10 (667114) | more than 6 years ago | (#20718117)

Hmm, I always thought that happiness was a warm gun. Damn those kids and their new-fanged stimulation techniques. Next thing you know, they'll be sticking cattle prods into people's heads.

it's both (4, Funny)

User 956 (568564) | more than 6 years ago | (#20718149)

Happiness Is A Warm Electrode

Hmm, I always thought that happiness was a warm gun.

It's actually both, which means, logically, that happiness is a taser. [dailymail.co.uk]

Re:it's both (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20718195)

Happiness Is A Warm Electrode

Hmm, I always thought that happiness was a warm gun.

It's actually both, which means, logically, that happiness is a taser. [anonymouse.org]
That explains the screaming. They are angry that the pleasure gun has stopped.

Re:it's both (1)

BakaHoushi (786009) | more than 6 years ago | (#20719619)

So, using Ohm's Law, amd realizing that a taser sends a current through your body and that a current in your body produces heat...

Well, V=IR. The taser provides the current (I) as does your own nervous system. Your body provides a natural Resistance (R). Multiplying these two, we get voltage. And as anyone who has been shocked can say, it warms you up. Now, happiness is also known to cause a "warm" feeling in people. Therefore, our only conclusion is that IR = Happiness = Voltage, where happiness is also measured in volts.

I can presume, then, that a person who is "happy" is so because his central nervous system is using an unusually high current.

Re:Happiness is a Warm Gun (4, Funny)

dkleinsc (563838) | more than 6 years ago | (#20718429)

Well, I've always liked the Russian answer to happiness:
"You come home from work, are sitting in your broken-down chair reading Pravda, when three men in badly-fitting suits knock on your door.
'Mr Voyslatovich?'
'No, he lives 3 floors up.'"

shag carpet (1)

PrinceAshitaka (562972) | more than 6 years ago | (#20718121)

I wonder if these people have to be careful about walking around in socks on shag carpet on cool winter days. pzzzt!

Re:shag carpet (1)

FudRucker (866063) | more than 6 years ago | (#20718263)

and/or...

what about picking up radio waves? wires do make good conductors (antennas)...

Re:shag carpet (1)

Sunburnt (890890) | more than 6 years ago | (#20718303)

So you get your depression cured by electrical stimulation, but you kill yourself due to the inescapable stream of crap-pop in your head brought by the stimulator? I'm pretty sure that counts as irony.

Re:shag carpet (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20718347)

Pseudo programming sigs != going to change people's modding/tagging behaviour.

Re:shag carpet (2, Insightful)

Sunburnt (890890) | more than 6 years ago | (#20718625)

Pseudo programming sigs != going to change people's modding/tagging behaviour.

Well, first off, it's not a "pseudo-programming" sig. It's a sig that's been abbreviated using logical operators so that it doesn't run over the character limit. I'm a science and philosophy nerd, not a programming nerd, and it wouldn't even occur to me that my sig looks like a fake computer program.

Secondly, I disagree with your contention. True, it is highly unlikely that one person's sig will effect lasting changes in the uses and misuses of /. features. However, I certainly believe that an individual moderator, with no consistent behavior towards conscientiousness or abuse, could be reminded by my sig to side with the former after disagreeing with one of my posts. I have no way to test this hypothesis, but it makes sense given what I know of decision-making, and it costs me nothing to implement. So, I believe that my sig can change people's behavior, although certainly not in a widespread or meaningful way. This belief is not the motivator for my sig choice, though.

Let me point out that it's pretty presumptuous to even assume that a sig is meant to change behavior. Most sigs are just expressions of some tiny fraction of the author's opinion, frequently given indirectly through quotes or cultural references, that indicate a little something about the author's personality. So's mine: it points to my personal distaste for tag and mod abuse. On another level, it lets the reader know that I am the kind of stickler who cares enough about such things to make them the focus of my sig (which is every /.er's privilege, being a legitimized form of comment spam.) I previously had a Schopenhauer quote about the abuse of anonymity - not because I thought it would stop posters from abusing anonymity, but because I wanted to let the abusers know that I think they're cowardly assholes, and because I figured (correctly) that I might get e-mails from people who shared my interest in Schopenhauer.

I hope this helps, and I thank you for your concern.

Re:shag carpet (1)

cheater512 (783349) | more than 6 years ago | (#20718343)

Who cares? Just tell me when they locate the pleasure centers of the brain so I can electrocute mine. :D

Unsatisfactory (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20718123)

it's estimated that fewer than 50 patients in North America are walking around with wires in their brain
This is truly unsatisfactory. What can we do to help the rest of the population have pleasure wires in their brains?

Re:Unsatisfactory (1)

Sunburnt (890890) | more than 6 years ago | (#20718315)

it's estimated that fewer than 50 patients in North America are walking around with wires in their brain

This is truly unsatisfactory. What can we do to help the rest of the population have pleasure wires in their brains?

Good marketing.

Re:Unsatisfactory (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20719127)

I know it's a joke, but there is a marketing problem here - what are they going to sell you? Medicating a large portion of the population earns billions a year. An operation and followup care? Not so much.

Corporations believe that unless you can market it that it isn't a product, if it isn't a product then they are not going to spend money to develop it, and will seriously consider lobbying to make sure it isn't developed by anyone.

Re:Unsatisfactory (1)

Sunburnt (890890) | more than 6 years ago | (#20719279)

I know it's a joke, but there is a marketing problem here - what are they going to sell you?

I think the major revenue stream would be high-margin service contracts.

Re:Unsatisfactory (1)

profplump (309017) | more than 6 years ago | (#20719455)

If only there we're a second company somewhere in the world that wasn't already trying to sell something in the same market space. For them an operation and follow up care is a whole new revenue stream with little or no impact on their other revenue sources. Look, a viable product. One they might spend money to develop, and will seriously consider lobbying to make sure it isn't blocked by development by anyone.

sounds familiar (2, Funny)

User 956 (568564) | more than 6 years ago | (#20718137)

Why the pulses affect mood is still unclear, but scientists believe that they may facilitate chemical communication between brain cells, possibly by forcing ions through nerve fibers called axons.

Isn't that the same way World of Warcraft works?

heh. (4, Funny)

apodyopsis (1048476) | more than 6 years ago | (#20718169)

the rise of the wirehead!

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wirehead [wikipedia.org]

Re:heh. (1)

CRCulver (715279) | more than 6 years ago | (#20718399)

I'm pretty sure Niven's vision of the wirehead has been debunked.

Re:heh. (1)

rucs_hack (784150) | more than 6 years ago | (#20718469)

Oh I don't know, it's not an unrealistic idea, just unlikely.
Of course Niven had a particular aim in mind, exploring the boredom inherent in living beyond a normal lifetime. When Louis Wu was using it, it was because his life had become too boring to cope with.

This use was made clear when the Hindmost tried to give it back to him once life had livened up again, and he wouldn't take it.

Re:heh. (1)

MichaelKaiserProScri (691448) | more than 6 years ago | (#20719805)

Debunked? There are numerous drug that cause no chemical or physiological addiction, but are psychologically addictive merely because they are pleasant. This will cause PURE pleasure with no drug like side effect. It will CERTAINLY be psychologically addictive and is EXACTLY what Niven had in mind when he described the Tasp.

I used to take anti-depressants (4, Insightful)

Das Modell (969371) | more than 6 years ago | (#20718171)

When I was on anti-depressants I acted in a way that, in retrospect, wasn't natural for me. I did some very weird things and occasionally embarrased myself, which is something that I don't like to do. What the fuck was I thinking back then? And was it really caused by anti-depressants, or have I simply changed? I don't know, but I'm now very wary of any artificial means of making yourself happy or less depressed. Besides, this technology doesn't address the root cause of why someone is depressed. I suppose it's useful to someone who's really badly depressed, but personally I wouldn't want to try it.

Oh, but it is addressing the root cause (5, Insightful)

gbutler69 (910166) | more than 6 years ago | (#20718185)

If the root cause is that your Axons are not releasing enough neurotransmitters, then this technique is addressing the root cause.

Re:Oh, but it is addressing the root cause (5, Insightful)

replicant108 (690832) | more than 6 years ago | (#20719635)

"If the root cause is that your Axons are not releasing enough neurotransmitters, then this technique is addressing the root cause."

The problem is that modern medicine assumes that this is the root cause.

When antidepressants work, they aren't "artificial (4, Informative)

sirwired (27582) | more than 6 years ago | (#20718269)

While I am not depressed, I am very close to some who are, and they universally describe the feeling of getting on the proper drug regimen as "having a curtain lifted from my eyes", or "feeling a great weight off of my shoulders". Not high, not weird, just no longer crushingly depressed most of the time. On a properly tuned, working, medication regimen, anti-depressants enable the patient to again experience a "normal" range of emotion. Working, properly tuned, anti-depressants don't make you feel happy; instead they enable you to be happy under circumstances that most folks would be happy in, and you feel normal on normal days. You still feel like crap on crappy days.

That said, everyone does react differently, and some can have the side-effect of sending you into a manic state (which can include the symptoms you described). Usually a dosage or timing adjustment can fix this.

Drug tuning is still more art than science. A new drug to treat depression is considered a great success if 50% of the users experience a 50% improvement. Many successful regimens involve combinations of drugs, and it can take a year or more to find the right combination. (It doesn't help that many common drugs take over a month to have any effect.)

SirWired

Re:When antidepressants work, they aren't "artific (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20718593)

Read the Hedonistic Imperative.

And until that golden age dawns, these self-obsessed idiots need a reality check - they're living in such LUXURY that they can afford to feel 'unhappy' - TOUGH LUCK. Get over yourselves. I wonder how many thousands of animals will be tortured and killed for them to eat, before they die? About 4,000. Is the life on one miserable, selfish human being worth the torture and murder of 4,000 animals? Do any of these 'depressed' idiots ever think about this? Of course not! They are incapable of thinking about anybody but themselves and their own 'problems', and apparently they think that's just 'terrible' compared to the REAL physical suffering of 4,000 animals...

Re:When antidepressants work, they aren't "artific (1)

Sunburnt (890890) | more than 6 years ago | (#20718683)

Is the life on one miserable, selfish human being worth the torture and murder of 4,000 animals? Do any of these 'depressed' idiots ever think about this? Of course not!

Sorry, but you're wrong. Many do think about it, they just disagree with the the ethical conclusion that you derive from your thought about it. Slandering everyone who disagrees with you as unthinking idiots doesn't convince anyone of your ideas' correctness.

I hope you enjoyed your little anonymous scream at the world, though. Hey, here's a hint: happiness comes when you learn to stop screaming. Anonymous ranting doesn't bring anyone closer to the pleasure you claim to value so highly.

Re:When antidepressants work, they aren't "artific (4, Insightful)

speaker of the truth (1112181) | more than 6 years ago | (#20718759)

If the brain isn't producing enough chemicals to allow you to experience happiness then no amount of luxury is going to lift you from depression. A common comment from people who have no clue about depression is "what do they have to be depressed about?" The answer to this is typically nothing, except for a brain that isn't working correctly.

Re:When antidepressants work, they aren't "artific (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20719585)

There are actually two types of depression. One can be caused by a traumatic experience, like losing a loved one and these types of depressions can sometimes be completely cured with time or counceling. In these cases, it might not be wise to just use anti depressives, as they can make things worse.

There are however also people who have a chronic brain disease that cause them to be depressed, where medications are usually always necesarry.

Re:When antidepressants work, they aren't "artific (1)

replicant108 (690832) | more than 6 years ago | (#20719757)

What about those who suffer from unhealthy opinions?

Are you saying that wrong opinions cannot also make us unhappy?

Re:When antidepressants work, they aren't "artific (2, Insightful)

Dachannien (617929) | more than 6 years ago | (#20718813)

If we weren't supposed to eat those 4000 animals, they wouldn't taste so good.

Re:When antidepressants work, they aren't "artific (0, Offtopic)

Sunburnt (890890) | more than 6 years ago | (#20718947)

Now, just wait to get modded down by someone who doesn't spot the scientific truth of your statement, assuming it to just be a callous flame aimed at vegetarians and vegans.

Re:When antidepressants work, they aren't "artific (4, Insightful)

ScrewMaster (602015) | more than 6 years ago | (#20719469)

Do you have any idea what you're talking about? I will rephrase that. You do not have an idea what you're talking about. I'm not even going to debate with you about suffering: I put human beings first and animals second. If it comes down to a choice between a human being and 4,000 animals, I know which way I'd choose. Period. End-of-statement.

When you've finished dealing with the fact that I disagree with you on every point, go read this [nih.gov]. After you've educated yourself on how wrong you are, come back tell me that what you said is even slightly relevant. Like the GP, I've had two family members suffer from severe clinical depression, suicide was narrowly averted multiple times. In one case the onset was before the age of antidepressants: he drank to mask the effects of the depression, but overall alcohol simply worsens the problem. When one of the early drugs became available we got him on it (Elevil in the late seventies, I think ... it's been a long time) and the difference was like night and day. "I have my life back" he said, and stopped drinking ... he didn't need it anymore, just to feel normal for a while. It was astonishing, and the relief we all felt was palpable. He still suffered from the effects of his condition 'til he died, but at least he had a life. If that drug hadn't come out when it did he wouldn't have lasted another six months, a year tops. He switched to different drugs over time, as better ones became available, but he got an extra twenty five years because of them.

People who claim that no-one needs antidepressants ("Tom Cruise, are you listening?") are fools. Ignorant assholes who would cheerfully consign other human beings to a living hell contained within their own skulls. I still don't understand how it must feel to suffer from this disease, and yet I had to deal with the consequences of it for almost thirty years. All of us did, and it was ... very difficult. I'm not saying that antidepressants (like virtually all drugs) aren't capable of being abused, but to claim that people suffering from clinical depression should just "get over themselves" is a preposterous falsehood. Period. End of statement.

If there is a God, I hope He delivers people like you a sample of what you say doesn't exist. For just a few years: I wouldn't want you to get so depressed that you actually off yourself. Maybe then you'll understand why what you just said offended me to the core.

Re:When antidepressants work, they aren't "artific (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20719563)

Sounds like somebody needs some antidepressants here...

Re:When antidepressants work, they aren't "artific (1)

replicant108 (690832) | more than 6 years ago | (#20719725)

Working, properly tuned, anti-depressants don't make you feel happy; instead they enable you to be happy under circumstances that most folks would be happy in, and you feel normal on normal days.

Circumstances must be filtered by opinions before they affect a person's happiness. The most effective and least risky way to control one's emotional state is to modify one's opinions.

Directly tampering with brain chemistry is expensive, risks your health, and creates a dangerous dependency on the supplier.

Re:I used to take anti-depressants (4, Insightful)

Sunburnt (890890) | more than 6 years ago | (#20718275)

this technology doesn't address the root cause of why someone is depressed.

It may, if the root cause of the depression is genetic.

I generally agree with your sentiment, though. A great deal of depression is comorbid with personality disorder, or can be strongly correlated to environmental factors.

In the former instance, there is probably little to be done in the clinical sense. Changing this person's emotional reactivity is likely to just bring different aspects of their disordered personality to light, and the chaos and alienation this can induce in the patient and their social group is probably no healthier than the depression. There's much more to this, but a discussion of therapy for personality disorders would be long and outside the scope of this discussion.

It is the second instance, I believe, where you hit the nail on the head. If a patient gets depressed by their own self-defeating thoughts and patterns of abuse in their life, then it is the role of the therapist to facilitate change in those thoughts and behaviors within the context of everyday life, not to recommend tinkering directly with the patient's neurons.

It is, of course, quite possible that some folks genes provide them with an abnormal system of emotional regulation, and that "rewiring" this system is the best way to enable them to participate in the full range of human experience. Given what I know of ethics review boards, it is likely that the few dozen folks who've undergone this procedure had not responded positively to the normal range of treatment, and that they have not been diagnosed as PD'd. I'll bet that getting cerebral electrodes implanted for depression probably requires at least as much review and investigation as bilateral cingulotomy, [wikipedia.org] for example.

Re:I used to take anti-depressants (2, Interesting)

suv4x4 (956391) | more than 6 years ago | (#20718389)

When I was on anti-depressants I acted in a way that, in retrospect, wasn't natural for me. I did some very weird things and occasionally embarrased myself, which is something that I don't like to do. What the fuck was I thinking back then? And was it really caused by anti-depressants, or have I simply changed? I don't know, but I'm now very wary of any artificial means of making yourself happy or less depressed.

Few weeks ago when we talked about Singularity AI (AI that produces smarter AI and so on), I made a post and within it had ironic remark that AI's happiness level you could imagine as some sort of mood_level number. Training the AI to increase it's mood level when it meets our criteria would be a way to keep its behavior within given guidelines.

Thing is, of course, it's the same for us. People replied that the robot would just up its mood_level with a tool or a program, and go on a killing spree.

In the end though, AI or actual intelligence is a very complex system. If the system says you're sad, you'd rather look into why you're sad and try changing things in your environment or actions.

The current state of psychology science would rather look at the symptom of another problem and try to "hack it". You can fool yourself you're happy by tweaking your "mood_level", but you realize the one you're lying you is yourself, it's no different that measuring your temperature with a thermometer with "it's all ok! don't look at the scale" written all over it.

Depression is apparently a big problem. There's the argument some people are depressed because of chemical imbalance, well but is there any research going into the difference between both? Nope, instead let's prod rods in our brain, and take drugs.

They should sell those rods and meds together with pink glasses.

Re:I used to take anti-depressants (1)

Kris Thalamus (555841) | more than 6 years ago | (#20718541)

Unlike mass, heat energy, and electromagnetic radiation, joy and pain do not exist outside the brain. Electrically induced joy is every bit as real as monetarily induced joy.

Re:I used to take anti-depressants (1)

CRCulver (715279) | more than 6 years ago | (#20718573)

Only if you reject dualism and think that a human being is purely material. However, a number of philosophers are now turning back towards dualism (Swinburne has an excellent defence in one of his popular works published by Oxford University Press) and make the case that at least some emotion can be attributed to the "soul".

Re:I used to take anti-depressants (1)

Kris Thalamus (555841) | more than 6 years ago | (#20718705)

What can a soul do that a brain cannot? Claiming that the nervous system contains a supernatural element doesn't make joy and suffering objective. How would one objectively demonstrate that an experience is pleasant or unpleasant?

Re:I used to take anti-depressants (1)

Sunburnt (890890) | more than 6 years ago | (#20718817)

Only if you reject dualism and think that a human being is purely material.

You don't have to embrace dualism to disagree with the GP's claim. You just have to reject the notion of epiphenomenalism. [stanford.edu]

You and I are probably interested in the same problems, judging by your Swinburne reference, but I don't think that one's philosophical predilections toward monism or dualism say anything definitive about their beliefs about epiphenomenalism, nor does denying it require positing a soul (see Searle's Rediscovery of the Mind for an example.) Both seem to be inherently confused and artificial strictures of thought that don't say anything profound in the moral sphere (and I don't believe there's anything profound to say in the metaphysical sphere.)

If you haven't read any D.Z. Phillips, I'd recommend his Wittgenstein and Religion for an interesting and unconventional perspective on this subject.

Re:I used to take anti-depressants (1)

Kris Thalamus (555841) | more than 6 years ago | (#20719053)

Are you claiming that my post makes me an epiphenomenalist?

Re:I used to take anti-depressants (1)

Sunburnt (890890) | more than 6 years ago | (#20719347)

Are you claiming that my post makes me an epiphenomenalist?

No. I'm claiming that this statement is only supported by epiphenomenalist reasoning:

Electrically induced joy is every bit as real as monetarily induced joy.

I would suggest that this equivocates the reaction involved in two entirely different circumstances for a reason that only makes sense from the epiphenomenalist standpoint. If you reject epiphenomenalism and at the same time stand by the above quote, I would suggest that this is a contradiction deserving your attention.

I don't think of "epiphenomenalist" as some sort of slur, by the way, since it described my own answer to the mind/body problem until relatively recently. It's a reasonably compelling argument that seems to underpin a lot of mainstream scientific thought. I just don't believe it supports its claims about character and free will.

Re:I used to take anti-depressants (1)

Kris Thalamus (555841) | more than 6 years ago | (#20719755)

If you reject epiphenomenalism and at the same time stand by the above quote, I would suggest that this is a contradiction deserving your attention.

I don't see the contradiction. My point was that no event is joyous or depressing without an observer that is capable of experiencing the subjective effects of said event. This idea is suggested in an oft quoted line from Shakespeare's Hamlet, "...for there is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so..."

Some people want to externalize pain, pleasure, and aesthetic preferences. For an example of this, read any slashdot debate about the merits of various musical genres.

Re:I used to take anti-depressants (1)

grumling (94709) | more than 6 years ago | (#20718977)

What part of the brain contains this "soul" you speak of? Are there humans alive that don't have a soul? Can I buy yours? Can I sell you mine? Will an angry God take it and throw it in a lake o' fire if I'm not worthy? Am I pissed off because my "soul" is dark and out of alignment? Can I get it realigned?

Re:I used to take anti-depressants (1)

suv4x4 (956391) | more than 6 years ago | (#20719231)

Unlike mass, heat energy, and electromagnetic radiation, joy and pain do not exist outside the brain. Electrically induced joy is every bit as real as monetarily induced joy.

If you believe that you must consider it amazing to take drugs that make you happy.

The fact we exist as complex beings today, is that we evolved to understand out environment and synchronize our being to our surroundings. This means, unless there's some catastrophe that selects simpler, sturdier organisms, natural selection generally "prefers" creatures that better understand their environment and are able to act out in it with better understanding and efficiency.

You equating billions of years of evolution to reach this level, to a rod in your brain that makes you happy, is kinda sad.

Re:I used to take anti-depressants (1)

Kris Thalamus (555841) | more than 6 years ago | (#20719939)

You equating billions of years of evolution to reach this level, to a rod in your brain that makes you happy, is kinda sad.
I think electrical stimulation of the brain is fascinating. You may find it sad. This just demonstrates how emotional states are subjective.

Re:I used to take anti-depressants (1)

Antique Geekmeister (740220) | more than 6 years ago | (#20719237)

Saying that pleasure and pain are all in the brain is flat-out neural nonsense. Pain and pleasure are hardwired into many sensory nerves, and the responses to it play out in all sorts of biochemistry and neurological responses with little to no brain involvement.

If you don't believe this, I suggest you examine the basic pain responses of your feet and hands and the testing of RSI in the hands of us geeks.

Re:I used to take anti-depressants (1)

Kris Thalamus (555841) | more than 6 years ago | (#20719835)

I was referring to emotional pain when I wrote that, but, yeah, I should have written nervous system instead of brain.

Re:I used to take anti-depressants (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20718489)

When I was in love I acted in a way that, in retrospect, wasn't natural for me. I did some very weird things and occasionally embarrased myself, which is something that I don't like to do. What the fuck was I thinking back then? And was it really caused by love, or have I simply changed? I don't know, but I'm now very wary of any natural means of making yourself happy or less depressed.

You know, the brain is very complex and ever changing mix of various chemicals affecting your mood and behaviour in various ways. If you want to retain the same personality your entire life and always act natural (what the hell is natural anyway?), well, good luck trying. Oh, and better throw away that chocolate, it's artificial after all.

Wireheads (1)

MichaelSmith (789609) | more than 6 years ago | (#20718177)

It won't be long until we know if Larry Niven was right about brain stimulation. If the current makes you feel better, will you be less likely to switch it off?

Re:Wireheads (2, Insightful)

pla (258480) | more than 6 years ago | (#20718425)

It won't be long until we know if Larry Niven was right about brain stimulation. If the current makes you feel better, will you be less likely to switch it off?

Niven didn't pull that idea out of nowhere - He based in on experiments on rats and chimps contemporary with his writing that found they would rather zap their brains than eat, sleep, have sex, or take favored drugs such as cocaine and heroin.

So yes, it would almost certainly have the exact same effect on people. Imagine the best orgasm you've ever had, while eating your favorite meal, while high on your favorite intoxicant, then quadruple that. The most restrained willful human alive would turn into a drooling zap-junkie, no question at all.

Re:Wireheads (1)

vertinox (846076) | more than 6 years ago | (#20719963)

So yes, it would almost certainly have the exact same effect on people. Imagine the best orgasm you've ever had, while eating your favorite meal, while high on your favorite intoxicant, then quadruple that. The most restrained willful human alive would turn into a drooling zap-junkie, no question at all.

One of the points I always raise when transhumanism is involved (and technically that person in this story is you could define as a low level transhumanist) is that given complete control of your brains inner workings that you would basically crank on the part for the orgasm and sit there until you starve to death or the life support system gives out.

But at the same time if you could regulation other emotions such as discontent and boredom, you might be able to get around this. Rather a proper regulated system which has to see certain stimuli before you could enjoy it and not at that scale.

Sort of like if you didn't like Beethoven's 9th but if you programmed the electrode kit to zap your happiness in your brain every time you played the mp3 file that you might start to appreciate classical music.

Or better yet... Associate learning with a video game that you have to learn certain tasks such as... Learning a Japanese phrase correctly (or any foreign language) or for ever formula you get correct on your math exam you are immediately zapped with a reward and you have a great motivation for improving yourself.

However, I supposed this could be abused if say your employer had the ability to reward its employees by giving them a zap which would create a legion of slave workers kow towing for a meager zap of the brain.

Let the probing begin! (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20718199)

Now I know why I've been happier since I was abducted. Oh wait, this is about a brain probe...

I love how all these brain techniques... (3, Insightful)

tjstork (137384) | more than 6 years ago | (#20718201)

say "we don't know why this works... but we think it makes you happy..."

Yet, somehow, a good joint and a stiff drink are evil.

Re:I love how all these brain techniques... (1)

pshumate (1004477) | more than 6 years ago | (#20718363)

Well, yeah. The government has the potential to tax the hell out of happiness wires.

Re:I love how all these brain techniques... (1)

speaker of the truth (1112181) | more than 6 years ago | (#20718791)

I haven't heard of anyone killing people because they were driving while under the influence of a cattleprod to the brain. I have however heard of it happening while smoking marijuana or alcohol.

Re:I love how all these brain techniques... (1)

grumling (94709) | more than 6 years ago | (#20718925)

Since there only about 50 people who have had the procedure done, there are no statistics available. Just wait until these are commonplace and the same people who hack iPhones will be happy to hack your brain implant to make you euphoric with the push of a button. The perfect drug, driven by software. Now excuse me while I buy some stock in Duracell.

Re:I love how all these brain techniques... (1)

vertinox (846076) | more than 6 years ago | (#20719625)

I have however heard of it happening while smoking marijuana or alcohol.

But that number is still far less than those that killed under the influence of religion, collectivism, nationalism, and racism.

Tsp? Wirehead? (1)

cpuffer_hammer (31542) | more than 6 years ago | (#20718221)

For those who have read Larry Niven's Ringworld or Spider Robinson's Mindkiller (and I am sure there are others) this sounds like the concept that thay have explored. Not to be alarmist but, the downsides of this being abused could be as big as any drug in history. I think while there could also be up side in that it is a drug that can be turned off. I personally like the chapter in Mindkiller where the main character finds a nearly dead wirehead while braking into her apartment.

People need exercise: (3, Insightful)

LuxMaker (996734) | more than 6 years ago | (#20718229)

Exercise on par with drugs for aiding depression:: http://news.yahoo.com/s/nm/20070919/hl_nm/exercise_depression_dc;_ylt=AqwvsOoXYw0l3eNh11Gw1O0DW7oF [yahoo.com]

So get unglued from your computers occasionally and get some fresh air. =)

Re:People need exercise: (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20718431)

Punching bags are great fun. I feel much better after flailing madly against the heavy bag.

Re:People need exercise: (1)

speaker of the truth (1112181) | more than 6 years ago | (#20718847)

1) Isn't 202 kinda small for a study?
2) Good luck trying to get someone who is so depressed they can't get out of bed to get the energy to go for a jog. On the other hand shoving a tablet down their throat takes minimal effort.
3) Good luck finding a group of people who will be both understanding of your condition and able to exercise at the same times as you.
4) The most severe depression sufferers I know typically exercise and take medication to combat their depression. One or the other simply isn't enough for them.

The study also doesn't (at least according to the article) differentiate between how depressed people are beyond whether or not you have major depression. Of everyone I know whose depressed (and unfortunately there's quite a few) my own depression is the mildest. However I, along with the most severe person I know, are still said to have "Major Depression" despite the fact my own depression is much more milder. So that would be a very important factor to include in the study.

Only 50 wired brains? Count again (4, Informative)

Antique Geekmeister (740220) | more than 6 years ago | (#20718285)

Take a look at the cochlear implant wearers in the US. The auditory nerve is considered part of the brain in the paper I read a few years ago. There are 10,000 children in the US alone wearing them, according to Wikipedia. Then there are the implants for epilepsy, Parkinson's, and attempts to provide them for balance disorders.

It's interesting work: they're apparently much more effective for transmitting a signal than picking up signals, so the idea of using them for artificial limbs or thought-control of aircraft has never really worked well.

Stupid symptom fighting (-1, Flamebait)

jointm1k (591234) | more than 6 years ago | (#20718365)

If you are unhappy you should do something about your situation (or your perception thereof) rather than having LEDs jammed up your nose.

Re:Stupid symptom fighting (2, Informative)

mattpalmer1086 (707360) | more than 6 years ago | (#20718439)

depression != unhappy

Unhappy is what normal people feel when something exists to make them unhappy.
Depression is what depressed people feel all, or most of, the time, for no apparent reason.

Anti depressants allow a depressed person to feel normal - i.e. they can feel unhappy again, as well as happy and everything in between. It reconnects their emotional response to everything, rather than being permanently, well, literally depressed.

Re:Stupid symptom fighting (2, Interesting)

VanessaE (970834) | more than 6 years ago | (#20718549)

As someone who suffers from both chronic depression and the more acute or short-term version of it (yes, there are two different diagnoses), I can say with complete confidence that you have absolutely no idea what you're talking about. Yes, changing your situation can sometimes help, but the root cause is not environmental, it's something physical in the brain. Unlike a lot of medicines, anti-depressants actually try to treat the cause of the problem rather than just the symptoms. It's just that this is the brain we're talking about, and we all know the brain is a tricky bastard to tinker with.


I feel more "stable" when I take my meds than I do otherwise, and if you were to ask my husband, he would tell you that it's like night and day. No, I don't walk around all smiles, but I'm not exactly crying all the time either. Depression sucks as bad as any other major disease. If I could get some kind of implant put in that could fix the depression in a permanent manner, I'd jump on it in a heartbeat, if only to be able to give up the pills (I have problems remembering to take them).

What makes matters the worst for a depression sufferer is if their triggers happen to be something that themselves are either long-term or essentially unsolveable problems which the sufferer is stuck with. In those cases, pills simply aren't enough, and so you're back to feeling like hell all the time. That's where I stand (two such conditions), and I hate it worse than the most rabid Linux user hates Microsoft.

Stupid symptom fighting (0, Troll)

speaker of the truth (1112181) | more than 6 years ago | (#20718865)

If you have cancer you should do something about your situation (or your perception thereof) rather than having LEDs jammed up your nose.

Sounds ridiculous doesn't it? And yet what you've said is just as ridiculous.

Re:Stupid symptom fighting (0, Flamebait)

jointm1k (591234) | more than 6 years ago | (#20719069)

Not as rediculous as jamming LEDs up your nose hoping to cure cancer.

Psychedelic baby! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20718371)

" Similar trials are being conducted in other places. Exact numbers are hard to ascertain, but it's estimated that fewer than 50 patients in North America are walking around with wires in their brain.""

And there's a magazine [wired.com] just for these people.

Hope this can treat self-injurious behavior, too (1)

Two99Point80 (542678) | more than 6 years ago | (#20718401)

Mother Jones [motherjones.com] ran an article about the use of electric shock to manage severe self-injurious behavior. It'd be a Good Thing if deep brain stimulation could do this in a more humane way...

Happiness is a frontal lobotomy (0, Troll)

ruinevil (852677) | more than 6 years ago | (#20718487)

Isn't this basically an electrical frontal lobotomy.

Re:Happiness is a frontal lobotomy (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20718569)

Isn't this basically an electrical frontal lobotomy.

Great question! If you mean "electrical frontal lobotomy" as in "a way to use electricity to separate the frontal lobes of the brain from the rest of the brain", then no I don't think it is. Then again, I'm no doctor, but I did read the article!

On the other hand, if you mean "electrical procedure that is supposed to cure mental illness and that a lot of people really want to believe in to the degree that they may be willing to overlook gruesome consequences for several decades", then maybe. Who knows? Once upon a time, people thought sliced brains were the best thing since sliced bread.

For a great story on the topic, check out http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=5014080 [npr.org]

Dear Lord, Don't they know the dangers!?! (1)

porkchop_d_clown (39923) | more than 6 years ago | (#20718495)

Haven't they read The Terminal Man?

Happy psychopathic serial killers, walking the streets, humming their little happy tunes....

Well, if we're just limiting it to reality... (2, Funny)

unitron (5733) | more than 6 years ago | (#20718507)

...it's estimated that fewer than 50 patients in North America are walking around with wires in their brain."

Yeah, but I bet there's a much bigger number who think that they are!

Dear Penthouse: (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20718567)

As my mistress removed the nipple clamps from their storage trunk I became aroused.... watching her connect the other end of the jumper cables to the car battery I could feel warm and fuzzy feelings toward her beginning to build as she threateningly arced the cables by placing the positive and negative ends close together. She first clamped my right nipple and then my left and I could feel happy thoughts enter my mind as she called me a miserable little worm. When she proceeded to sear the skin of my chest in increasingly long sessions of applied voltage I could remember thinking "I've never felt happier" as I passed out to the smell of burned flesh.

This is clearly in its early stages (1)

nih (411096) | more than 6 years ago | (#20718581)

where is the version that turns you into a zombie?
and where do i sign up!

Pacemaker (1)

Ceriel Nosforit (682174) | more than 6 years ago | (#20718661)

Pacemaker for the brain, eh. So if I up clock rate of the pace...

Excuse me, I'm going to look for the appropriate nitrogen ice cream recipes to keep my brain cool for what I have in mind. ;)

Re:Pacemaker (1)

chudnall (514856) | more than 6 years ago | (#20719737)

Careful with that overclocking, you'll void your warranty. Besides, thermal grease is a poor substitute for hair gel.

Leery of the idea of Implants (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20718893)

I'm leery of the idea of implants especially for treatment of depression. Depression is a medical-neuorlogical problem yes, but it is often treated as a medical disorder by doctors and psychologists when it is sometimes a social disorder. I think before even considering surgery - especially brain surgery since it is very high risk and irreversible damage may occurr - the patient should at least consult with other professionals to identify if the problem is social, family or substance abuse related.

OTOH, I have epilepsy. Mine isn't bad as I'm seizure free for many years now. Some of the medications that are used were first used to treat depression and it was found to treat epilepsy. So, I ask is there someway to make these devices to prevent epileptic seizures? I realize the trigger mechanisms may/are very different. But I've seen posts from MDs and neuroscientists here .... hoping to give some ideas anyways. :)

Don't convulse me man! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20718895)

Starring Will Smith coming soon to a screen near you. A Tony Scott production.

might .. Brain .. may ... Surgery .. could . Death (1)

icepick72 (834363) | more than 6 years ago | (#20719181)

There are a lot of "may"s and "might"s in this article. They can try your brain first. I'll go second thank you very much.

Why the pulses affect mood... (1)

Jeremiah Stoddard (876771) | more than 6 years ago | (#20719817)

I love this: "Why the pulses affect mood is still unclear."

So apparently some scientist thought it would be fun to try electrocuting someone's brain, not knowing what would result of it. I know some people would be outraged at the idea, but it sorta makes me want to become a neuroscientist if I get to play around like that...
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