Wow. That's a neat idea.
Who hasn't wanted to be able to make the teacher decide not
to give that quiz today? How about making that special guy or gal pay attention to you?
No? You say you're more grown up than that?
Okay - then how about the driver in front of you that makes a right turn from the left lane, the person with 25 items in the 15 items-or-less check-out lane or the person special ordering enough latte's for a soccer team?
Right. Now you're talking!
In Neuroscience, we seldom even think about metaphysical or psychic phenomena - and yet we still continue to work with the physical means of transferring the effects of our thoughts to machines and even animals! In a recent news article, it was shown that brain recordings from a human could be used to cause a rat's tail to twitch. The article and video are here http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-2305803/Mind-control-experiment-lets-researcher-wag-tail-RAT-using-just-mind.html
[Image copyright 2013, Maslov Dmitry. Used under license from Shutterstock.com
In actuality, it wasn't mind control - instead, the human was viewing a computer screen while scalp electrodes recorded the EEG. It has long been known that flashes of light cause deflections in the EEG that synchronize with the flash rate. So researchers detected the flashes in the EEG, then used the detection to operate a stimulator in the rat's brain. It just so happens that the stimulation was of a part of the motor cortex (see previous blogs on Dorsal Premotor Area) that controls tail muscles. Each stimulation cause the tail to twitch, so that every time the human saw the light flash, the rat's tail was made to twitch.
The problem is, it's not real mind control. The human operator had no voluntary control of when to cause the tail to twitch, nor did the stimulation cause anything more than a momentary movement. Still - it's a step toward mind control, right?
One of the things that cross my mind as a writer in the field of science and science fiction (generally such thoughts occur at very inappropriate times!) is if "psychic" powers existed? Where would they be placed within the brain?
My usual answer is that such abilities ought to be located in or near the parts of the brain that normally control those functions without
assuming psychic power. Thus, sending ones thoughts as "mind-to-mind speech" should involve an area near the speech centers of the brain (Broca's Area). Likewise, the ability to hear (and understand) thoughts should be located in the hearing and language centers (Wernicke's Area). Better yet, since these areas are "lateralized" (meaning they are found in the dominant - usually left - side of the brain) the "psychic" ability may be hypothesized to occur on the opposite side of the brain. By the same token, "telekinetic" ability - the means to move objects by mind alone - ought to involve the motor cortical areas of the brain.
But where does that leave us with a location for mind control of another creature (human or otherwise)? What location of brain represents control of thoughts and actions? From several of the previous blogs, you should be thinking in terms of the frontal or prefrontal lobes of the brain, center of executive decision making and planning. For the purpose of game-play in Escaping Titan
, the developers have selected Inferior Frontal Gyrus. for the site of action of the Synapse Stimulating Implant (SSI) that conveys the power of mind control.
IFG is a particularly good location, since it's most notable function is to enable subjects to perform what are known as "Go-NoGo" tasks. In a Go-NoGo task, subjects encountered one of two signals - a "Go" signal, to which they must immediately respond, and a "NoGo" signal to which they must not
respond. Responses are usually touching a screen, moving a lever, pressing a button, and NoGo responses are particularly difficult because the subject must hold perfectly still for a set period of time to keep from accidentally responding. Thus the task tests the ability to control impulses related to responses and reveals defects and errors in self-control and decision-making.
Imagine that! An area of the brain known for self-control
as the part responsible for mind control
In the next couple of blogs we will look closer at the Inferior Frontal Gyrus, it's functions, location and implications of the Mind Control SSI. Between now and then is the big SF and media convention Dragon Con in Atlanta. If you're attending, be sure to look for the "Whatever Happened to the Six Million Dollar Man" panel in the Science Track. My alter-ego Tedd Roberts
will be giving an update on the current state of the art of bionics and brain-operated prosthetics!
Until then, Go and enjoy yourselves, but NoGo so far that you can't be back next month!