The most interesting upgrades aren’t for your computer, your car, or even the internet – they’re for you. We’ve always tinkered with our own thought processes (using crude equipment like “alcohol” and “regular exercise”) but now mankind has the tools and time to tune the system directly, and one team of scientists may make yellow sticky notes obsolete: they’ve found a way to boost visual memory.
A team of scientists at the Spanish University of Malaga were working with rat brains, because of the combination of ethics and wimpiness that prevents human trials. They found that a particular protein (RGS-14) boosted a region of the brain known as the “V2 secondary visual cortex”, which makes rats sound significantly more like Terminators than you previously thought. (Nightmares resulting from that image are not our responsibility).
Increasing the levels of this protein upgraded the rats visual memory allowing them to remember things for fifteen hundred times longer than normal (two months instead of an hour). The interesting aspect is that this upgrade isn’t a new property, but a re-routing of existing processes – the protein seems to cause the formation of long term memories instead of short term, gifting the rat with what could be a photographic visual memory. Which, considering that these are actual lab rats with needles being jabbed into their brains, probably sucks quite a lot. The team also found that destruction of the V2 region utterly eliminated all visual memory of the past – which you can view as research, cruel, or gifting the the rats with a Zen state that takes decades of meditation to achieve.
The potential applications are obvious, and enormous, but beware the hidden downsides – the human brain is the most incredibly sophisticated system ever even conceived of and any tinkering can have huge side effects. This doesn’t mean don’t do anything (we’d still be in caves otherwise), but be aware that you can’t say “IF this THEN that” where neural networks are concerned. Intelligence-upgrades are an inevitable field, already in progress with prototype products like piracetam and caffeine, so it’s time to make up your mind if you’re going to make your own mind.
Source: Daily Galaxy