Friday, April 15, 2011

How magnets affect the human brain

New Scientist magnets brain_20110413121229_JPG

Put a powerful magnet against the side of your head and it can interfere with the neurons working underneath. The technique is being used to treat severe depression, but it can also produce some nifty party tricks. In this video, a magnet held to left side of New Scientist editor Roger Highfield's skull interrupts his ability to speak a nursery rhyme. But when Highfield sings the same rhyme, there's no effect. That's because the neurons that control speech and the neurons that control singing are in separate parts of the brain. The magnet disabled Highfield's speech centers, but left his ability to sing untouched.

via How magnets affect the human brain - Boing Boing.

Feeling down? Grab an electromagnet and hold it close to your skull. Thanks to a technique called transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS), you can enhance or suppress the activity of neurons just beneath it.

You can see the process at work in this video posted by New Scientist .

The magnetic fields interfered with the camera and made the video look somewhat psychedelic.

In the video, New Scientist editor Roger Highfield tries to recite "Humpty Dumpty" but is interrupted by magnetic interference. He was able to sing parts of the nursery rhyme though, as singing is control by a different part of the brain that the speech center.

Vincent Walsh from the Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience at University College London used magnets to shut off Highfield's speech center.

Highfield also demonstrated TMS in 2008 while science editor at The UK Telegraph .

New Scientist reported that because TMS does not require surgery, it is considered one of the safer forms of brain stimulation. However, some people experience pain in the scalp, headaches or facial spasms.

Fortunately, those side effects can be relieved by limiting TMS intensity and frequency and giving patients regular breaks in treatment.

Another plus for TMS is that researchers can disable parts of the brain at will, and the procedures can be reversed entirely.

In the United States, TMS is a legal way to treat severe depression. Unfortunately, treatment is done at a hospital, for about 35 minutes a day, five days a week, for four to six weeks.

Researchers at Emory University in Atlanta last year made a promising discovery regarding TMS. They found that a month's worth of treatment could be done in a few days with no apparent ill effects. Those results could lead to wider use of the procedure, according to New Scientist.

via my9tv

Once they learn a bit more focus I wonder what else they can stimulate in there? Could you turn someone into a puppet?

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