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.
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.
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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