Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Monday, November 26, 2007

most reliable memory optimizer is still brain training

Salomon's memory, "savant" seems like unlimited. He repeated 30, 40 even 70 numbers , words or voices after one reading and he could tell them backwards, on demand of wish. As well many of parts of Dante Divine Comedy. Also months and years later he could all that he taught or read call back in memory together with circumstances in which he was reading.

Stephen and Edelson from Center for the Study of Autism from Oregon are describing "savant syndrome" as one of most fascinating cognitive phenomenon of psychology studies and people diversity. Syndrome was first described by doctor Down in 1887, and it became wide known after with Oscar awarded movie Rain Man. Expression is relating to individuals- some of them are autistics, others can have different types of brain damage or other disturbances in development- that have above average abilities. Some are saying that we will never understand human cognition and memory , till we wont understand "miracle talents"of savant. Reason, why some people have this abilities is unknown.

Risky manipulation

For normal people are scientists developing medicines that would help improve our memory and sharpen our thoughts. Memory just to be total riddle. Explorers have done many studies with which they help explore mechanisms that are enable complex function of memory. But how far are we aloud to go in manipulation with our "gray cells"? The subject is attractive, because those that are normally forgetting stuff,
constantly fighting with that memory weakness, so they have to again and again look for telephone number of doctor, they quickly forget names of friends or they find it hard to learn some other language. All this come on surface after we become 20 years old and it is more obvious after 40. The lost of read, experienced or learned content can be very painful in our modern world that is based on richness an power of data. From Antic times we are fighting forgetfulness with help of memo techniques for memory training. In last times we are able to try it in different ways. Neurobiologist and psychologists have strength their knowledge in last decade exponentially. They explored ways of data storage, they defined features of forgetting and they defined cartography of brain functions. On that way they tried also biomedical possibilities how to manipulate with processes between and in neurones, that are interceding our memories, so they would improve memory in sick or healthy individuals. To awake exhausted memory, to sharpen and make faster our memory, so children and adult would preform better concentration and studying. Nobel prize winer E. Kandel thinks, that this kind of interfere into our brain would mark history same or stronger as genetics marked end of 20 century or mechanization marked industrial revolution. So called smart drugs and stimulative substances as caffeine or biloba are part of everyday life, even if their effect is mostly unproven. Which don't hold back their protagonists when they sell brain booster formula (mostly in states), that includes also mix of amino acids, vitamins, lipids, lecithin , hormones and so on.
Psycho-Pharmacologist are remaining skeptical and are researching other possibilities, for example Ritalin (
Methylphenidate), that is common prescribed for interference of attention or hyperactive kids. In USA is popular between students as creative drug , that are preparing for examines, because it is keeping them awake, clever and full of energy. Long term effect and risks are unknown. New similar medicament, that is big of promise, is stimulant modafinil.
People that were tested improved their cognitive functions in most fields, and it is common for healing narcolepsy - neurological dysfunction, where people during daytime suddenly fall asleep while working on their day activities. Army is also exploring it to prevent sleep shortage and as hel while traveling to prevent jet lag and in chronically tired.
Pharmaceutical competition
Meanwhile there is world competition between pharmaceutical companies, that are dealing with mind optimizer products. Some of them are focused mostly in biochemical-signal cascade reactions in neurons, that is based on switching memory genes, manufacturing new proteins and growth or short superfluous synopsis- nerve contacts that are changing, getting stronger in case of memory. They found out, that you can from firm cells grow new neurones, what was science fiction not so long ago. As reaction on outside teasers there are new and new structural changes in brains: neurons get reconnected, connections that are not useful get lost. But brains are in charge which from teasers are useful and they save them, others are deleted as fast as possible. In companies they defined target molecules inside signal ways that are making possible for them to interfere pharmaceutically into mind process. As Axel Unterbeck (president of such company) is saying, for example protein CREB, which is main switch for creation of long term memory. Substance MEM 1414 takes care that in cells is enough cAMP molecule, that activates CREB. That is the way to normalize memory on animals that was affected by aging. And they started to test on healthy volunteers. Others are focusing on earlier
phases of process and changes of AMPA receptor . This receptor as aerial activates close receptor NMDA which is important enter chanel for chemical signals between neurones. It translates calcium, which after entrance into cells activates different memory cascades. They already started with first clinical tests, using substances that makes receptor AMPA more sensitive on reactions.
All experts are not as enthusiastic about the deal as the pharmacists industry. They say that changing of functions of targeted molecules to little, that to change the whole we need changes in way to memory, and not only in one part of mosaic. This means that we should focus on on memory mechanisms from micro level of each neuron, like are electrochemical processes on neuron membranes, functions of ion channels and regulation of membrane potentials, working of neurotransmitters, receptors and translating of impulses on action potentials till the macro level, where importance is memory neuron net activation (interaction, communication between
targeted neurons). So their function is connectivity, electrical synchronization process or coherence.
They say, that there is little chance to expect pill that will in all mental views make us more efficient, but maybe we find substance to improve specific abilities in specific situations. Steven Rose, famous neurobiology master is critical on using animal models to study human memory, so on that basis we can not expect "smart pills". He is also looking for answer if perfect long term
memory is something that we really want? Psychological mechanisms to filter our percepts are without doubt of great importance, because in that way we prevent that irelevant or information of little importance would create crowd in our long term storage.

Anyway to make story a bit shorter:
Pharmaceutical companies are promising us that in future we will be able to use more substances that will be more specific and efficient, and off course with less side effects.
This new tools to control our brain are on other side opening Pandora Box full of ethic and philosophic dilemmas, including what kind of society and of our selves do we really want.......

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Thursday, November 15, 2007

Do we really want to know what all is hiding in our genes?

What medicine is the best, do you carry inside of you marks of Dingiskan or you are perfect candidate for depression or alzenheimer,s disease. Science is armed with unraveled sequence of human genome, and is digging dipper in our biology, at the same time is dropping more and more genetic tests, which from our DNA reading mysteriously messages from our past, present and future.
Our genom is script , that is saved on molecule DNA , which is coiled in 23 pairs of chromosomes, and is leading in core of our cells. Not long ago was this script terra incognita: on the maps of scientists there was big black mark, in which was here and there small part of light of already looked into areas.
Everything turned upside down in year 2001, when scientist presented to world, that they read complete human genome, they defined sequence of nearly three hundred milliards chemical letters, which make our encyclopedic of life. The action is similar as reading some very dick book, whit that exception that book is written with only four chemical letters
A, C, G and T.
Discovery of human genome opened the doors to new brand of science- genomics., and it seems that it will finally discovered the deepest questions in our biology, like: what is genetic ground of our superiority related to other beings living on earth, and the mystery of our beginning of existence. Along this they are working on our in between differences which is consequence genetic factors , and also our acceptance on diseases as cancer to intellectual and physical potentials.
Rummaging of researchers in genome gave many surprising findings. In usa, great britain, are in last few years forming companies , which are giving service in many varieties of genetic tests, from ones that discover is coffee harmful for you to tests that discovers if you are descendant of some famous person like Dgingiskan.

Chaos And Dark Matter
Six years ago when scientist had for the first time in front of them uncovered human genome map, they were astonished over the look of it.Most sophisticated plan of biology is not even a little comparable to map that we can imagine. All together looks like a big mes without a leading thread or shape. So that this is platform for beginning of human creature, which is able to think, seemed unbelievable. Bizarre, but in our genome there is plenty of parasites and dead bodies, it has more similarities with hundred years old tree, full of dead ropes than healthy source of life.
In some points of view it looks like yours garage, it is very individual, but not tide up: there is little evidence on organization; there is so much old crowd; practically nothing is not thrown away; and there is a bit of things with great value messed around without any organization.
Half a century ago, in beginnings of molecular biology, the experts imagined that genome is only a simple and nicely organized book of genes
where in style to gene A follows gene B, and then gene C and so on, like in some kind of cook book the recipes. After all the genes were unbeatable primadonas of genetics. Genes are those demands from general base, which command the cells what to do. People we are results of our genes, so our genome is nothing else than catalog of all our genes that is the way that went the public logics.
But it failed apart together with glamorous status of genes, when we realized and it became public, that that genes occupied as little as one percent of genome. It is like the Encyclopedia Britannica would have on thousands of pages only ten pages with explanation of facts, and those ten pages would be lost incaotic relationship with the whole book, hiden in the sea of unuseful data. Can you imagine? that is the way our genome is organized.
And if there is only percent of gene, why we need 99% of script around in our genome? At first the investigators thought that all that data is not usefully, that most of it it is simply waste and crowd, that got collected through millions of years of evolution and so just stayed there, because there was no one to erase it. It seems really heretic, that the nature would neglect and behave uneconomic. In all that disappointment that part of genome got calling JUNK DNA.
Lion part of that not useful crowd are presented as sequence with not much of a kind name PARASITE DNA. It is also known as jumping gene or Selfish DNA, which got that name because of a habit , that is jumping around over genome and and are leaving their marks as it falls. It can also happen that it falls in some gene and then it destroys. How carefully it is accomplishing its mission are showing facts that the prime champions of parasites are elements L1 and Alu, in human both of them loaded in around million copies and together they occupies third of space in genome.
In genome we can also found creatures as are Zombie gene or so called pseudogene. These are dead genes, that like some kind of ghosts scary around our genome and somehow meanwhile some of them awake from their grave. Pseudogenes were million years ago normal genes, that got the death shoot- they were buried by mutation. Our genome is mass grave yard, because in there lays at least twenty thousand pseudogene corps, which is enormous number, if we think that this amount is not much less than amount of our normal genes.(I found some nice explanation of them in someones blog:"The zombie gene, when attached to human DNA mutates it so that only the most primitive of impulses are received. This has to do with synapses along the central nervous system. Due to the fact that zombies are now dead and subject to decay, these synapses also degenerate so they are no longer receptive to more sophisticated or refined impulses.") And also between those normal genes we can found some that are out of space. So who is the god then, what is so gorgeous about it... Guys I'm amazed by those facts and i will write more about it soon.