Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Nootropics and Alterable Brains

One of my big philosophical hangups is the nature of the Self. What defines what we are? I don't believe in the idea of soul (although I love Soul music...).

However I also believe that our physical brains are malleable enough to alter any identifiable characteristic of our personalities; our temperament, how we respond to different stimuli, how we react to situations; our emotional, social, philosophical, and intellectual temperaments...

All these can be altered by the twisting and rewiring of neurons in the brain.

This is a fascinating story in The New York Times about Dr Anne Adams, a teacher and scientist, who suffered from a neurological condition called frontotemporal dementia.

This caused her skills, abilities, and interests to shift away from mathematical, language-based, and scientific, and towards visual, spacial, and artistic.

FTD also changes your temperament.

Another story I noticed in the news today was a feature in The Independent about nootropics: these are drugs that improve the abilities of the brain in certain ways.

This sort of technology and this area of study is going to do the same for the 21st century what automobiles, HTA flight, and computers did for the 20th.

We don't even have the language required to describe many of the ideas of how our brain works and psychology and neurobiology are surrounded by myths and perceived weirdness.

Combining greater understanding with an ability to combat pathologies of the brain and even alter the brain to improve it's abilities will lead to a revolution, not just in medicine, but a revolution in what it means to be human.

1 comment:

mw said...

I think you’re right. Climate change, peak oil and such may reconfigure our lives dramatically, but once the brain/mind system is understood the result is not just more of the same at whatever level of sophistication, but of a different order altogether.

The result is always dramatic as soon as some system is no longer our master but the roles have become reversed.

Whether it’s good or bad for us depends on our respective position in the scheme of things (as usual).

As far as the mind side of the issue is concerned, the answers are in. Look at my website (not the blog), and there it is.

By the way, I’ve put “Lady of Mazes” on my reading list. Since you know Iain Banks you would have come across his “A Few Notes on the Culture”. And if I. Banks is one of your favourites, that’s good enough for me.