Precentral Gyrus and the Atom Manipulation SSI
One of the neatest things about this gig, writing blogs for Broken Crown Games, is that when I first sat down with Tyler Yohe to discuss the Neuroscience behind the Synapse Stimulating Implants - he got it. He really got the idea that the abilities of the SSIs could be piggy backed off of the known functions of the brain. We had a few discussions about what should go where - and he took those to heart.
So each month as I start this blog, I go back to some emails that originated a year ago as we first worked through ideas of SSIs, the Science Behind the Sci-Fi blogs, the composition of the panels - and the monthly blog topic lists. I often have to stop and go "Wow, yeah. That's what we talked about. This is neat stuff!"
...And that's where I am today as I start in on the final SSI topic - The Atom Manipulation Ability. I'll cover the basic ideas regarding the SSI this month, then talk about brain location and areas for the mini-game in November, then wrap-up the year in December with a look back at matching SSI abilities with brain function.
So what makes this "neat stuff" is that when considering an ability such as "Atom Manipulation" - in other words, the ability to move single atoms and more complex molecules around to build up or tear apart the matter that surrounds us. Think of this as the ultimate telekinetic or psychic power! You can heat things up by making the atoms move faster - cool it down by making atoms move slower. You can take things apart, and put them back together in a totally different place - just like Star Trek Transporters. At it's simplest, Atom Manipulation is telekinesis at the large, small and ultimately the atomic level.
So how would this work? Well, to start with, I recommend checking out the scene in Iron Man II where Tony Stark discovers the clue his father left him and uses that knowledge to design a totally new element. If you haven't seen the movie, here's a clip showing the scene: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JXAgs5NN6eM
In the scene, Tony interacts with the fictional holographic display by physically touching and moving portions of the "element" around with his hands - and that is actually the key to the Atom Manipulation SSI: If we can touch something and move it with our hands, then we can manipulate it. Therefore, the portion of the brain in which we place the SSI should be one related to physical interaction with the environment. Behold: The Precentral Gyrus.
[Image by Gray, vectorized by Mysid, colourd by was_a_bee. Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons]
The Precentral Gyrus is the location in the brain associated with control of all of the voluntary muscles in the body. We discussed the Dorsal Premotor Area many months ago in the context of the Self-buff Ability - and mentioned that Dorsal Premotor was the planning area for movement. The Precentral Gyrus is where those plans get executed, and is often known by another name: The Motor Strip, or primary motor cortex. Note that there is a nearly mirror image area "behind" the central sulcus, the Postcentral Gyrus, which is forms the primary somatosensory cortex - the region which includes precise location of all sensory information about the body. We'll discuss the implications of that in next months' blog, but for now, it is important to note that the two areas - motor and somatosensory - have a very specific mapping to the body:
[Image is public domain, adapted from W. Penfield and T. Rasmussen, 1950]
The rather distorted "homunculus" drawn against the contour of the brain shows which body parts map to regions of both somatosensory and motor cortex. Note also that the body parts are not scaled to size
, but rather to the preciseness with which the body region can be moved or how sensitive it is. Also keep in mind that vision, hearing and taste are not included here, this is strictly sense of touch, position and movement.
Thus, to have an SSI which allows a virtual, telekinetic version of Tony Stark's atom manipulation, we need to invoke the part of the brain most associated with those same manipulations - I vote for the hand area of the motor cortex, wouldn't you?
Which brings us back to the precentral gyrus as the ideal site for the Atom Manipulation SSI. We probably need to include a visual element, but I envision the Ability as the means to sense and move atoms at their most basic:
...just reach out (virtually) and give them a wiggle.
Until next time, take care of your brain... and with the Escaping Titan SSIs, your Brain will most certainly take care of you!