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“We use the brain 100%”: Russian neuroscientist - about the work of memory and the education of geniuses


The study of neural processes significantly affects modern technology. About this in an interview with RT and reported. about. Head of the Laboratory of Neuroscience SIC "Kurchatov Institute" Olga Ivashkina. She told how the mechanisms of our memory work, how the man’s brain differs from the woman’s brain, and why neurosciences are trending. Also, according to the expert, in the future it will be possible to treat psychological disorders by selective erasure of the memory, and with the further development of technologies it is even possible to create digital copies of the person.

- How is the memory arranged and is it possible to manage it somehow using technology?

- The memory is encoded by special groups of brain cells - neurons. Neurons in these groups work together, remember various facts, form various memories. Using transgenic technology, neurons can be tagged and artificially influenced. We incorporate photosensitive proteins from algae or bacteria into the DNA of laboratory mice to control the activity of certain neural groups.

For example, when a rodent is afraid of something, we label its cells, which are active in associating the environment with unpleasant sensations. Further, in a safe place for the animal, we act on the neurons with the help of light, artificially evoke memories related to the previous situation and observe a reaction of fear.

  • Different forms of memory can be explored in mice.
  • Reuters

We literally look into the brain of our mice. When a particular neuron becomes active, it glows brighter, this happens with the help of special sensory fluorescent (luminous) proteins. Using a microscope, we see what happens to brain cells, we look for patterns - where the cells are located, how they relate to each other. If we have taught an animal something, then we look at the activity of neurons when we “ask” an animal to think about it in a day or in a month (which is already quite a long time for a mouse). If the mouse forgets something, then we see that, for example, other, “extra” neurons can connect.

- What are the prospects for this in human research?

- We can explore different forms of memory. For example, traumatic memory, when a person may develop post-traumatic stress disorder as a result of, for example, participation in hostilities or some kind of emergency. In mice, traumatic memory can also be modeled. We study its structure and look for a way to selectively erase without affecting other memories. In the future, this can be used in the treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder in humans. This is just one example.

- And how does this process happen, how can I erase the memory?

- Extra information is constantly erased in the brain. If I ask you what you ate three weeks ago for breakfast on Saturday, then you most likely will not be able to answer right away, because this information is not very important for you. We constantly remember and forget something - these are physiologically normal processes. You can also destroy memory-forming neural networks artificially using light or pharmacological agents. The network will not be complete, the memory will be completely erased or will not be reproduced.

  • Olga Ivashkina heads the laboratory of neuroscience at the Kurchatov Institute
  • © SIC "Kurchatov Institute"

- Is it possible, on the contrary, to increase the amount of memory?

- On the mouse model, we can update some specific memories that are forgotten. But to change the amount of memory, significantly increase it, connect a conditional flash drive to the brain - such technologies do not exist yet.

- What discoveries have been made to brain researchers over the past decades, how much progress have been made?

- Significantly advanced in understanding the structure of the brain. It is determined that neurons are assembled into groups that are associated with various functions. In theory, this was known from the 1960–70s, but experimentally was confirmed only now. In addition, we know quite well the molecular components of the brain, we know the genes that work in neurons, and we can influence them impactfully.

- Are there differences in the brain of men and women among representatives of different nationalities and races?

- This is a myth because the differences are not statistically confirmed. The brain of a man is larger, because men, on average, are larger than women. But after all, the brain of a whale is bigger than the brain of a man; it does not mean anything. But the basic principles that make it possible to learn and remember, which provide cognitive opportunities - they are exactly the same in the brains of men, women, people of different nationalities and races. Differences begin when, for example, children of different sexes begin to be taught in different ways. Of course, there are cultural features and there are specific differences. For example, certain structures in the brain of women that provide for the regulation of hormonal levels during pregnancy and childbirth. But in general, we are very similar, practically the same.

- There is a theory that both talent and genius do not exist, that everything can be achieved by training. Is it true?

- This is only partly true. On the one hand, training, training is very important. Two different people, on the other hand, have innate differences. Despite the same basic principle of the structure of the brain, the power of connections between the hemispheres or one area of ​​the brain with others can vary. Not everything is explained by training, part is genetically encoded - it is the result of a combination of parental genes. Therefore, for example, it is easier for one person to memorize what he read, and for another he heard.

  • Genius may be the result of a combination of parental genes
  • © Imgorthand

- Another common myth: we use only 10% of the brain. This is true?

- It is important what tasks we solve, but, nevertheless, the coverage is complete - we use the brain 100%. On the other hand, its full capabilities are still unknown to us. Hypermonemonics, for example, have a unique memory, they remember every second of the day they lived. Moreover, the brain of such people is similar to the brain of an ordinary person.

- Can you somehow make your brain more efficient?

- You can make it more diverse, more plastic. It is necessary to sleep a sufficient amount of time, to receive a sufficient amount of the necessary substances. A good idea is to try different new things. When we find ourselves in some new situations and gain new experience, the formation of new connections, new cognitive groups takes place in the brain. In the future, when solving new problems, we will have a greater space of opportunities, because we and our brain are used to think broadly.

- Is it true that the ancient people were smarter than us, because they had to solve a large number of problems on a daily basis, on which life depended?

- The direct answer to this question can only be obtained experimentally, but this access is denied to us. Therefore, this is all speculation. Ancient people were adapted to the conditions surrounding them, and we adapted to our environment. One cannot unequivocally say that someone is smarter.

- Are there any evolutionary changes in the brain of modern man?

- Yes, there has been an increase in various areas of the brain associated with the complication of speech and socialization. For example, we have a very large area that is busy recognizing faces and emotions. Therefore, we constantly see emoticons in pancakes or clouds. Resizing brain regions is also possible within the framework of one person’s life. Known studies of London taxi drivers at a time when there were no navigators. It turned out that the hippocampus, a structure associated with the coding of space, in taxi drivers takes up more space in the brain than other people.

- And what happens to the brain during aging?

- With aging, there is a decrease in metabolic rate, the necessary substances are synthesized worse, neurons take longer to form in cognitive groups. Specific aging rates may vary from person to person. But the general trend is this - the brain is aging with the whole body.

- This year, a study was published where, with the help of stem cells, elderly rats were returned the opportunity to restore their neurons. Is it possible to treat diseases related to the brain with the help of such technologies?

- Yes, there are ideas to use these technologies to treat, for example, strokes. If the stroke is extensive, then part of the neurons die. Animal experiments show that this situation can be corrected. So far only in mice, but in the future it can be transferred to humans.

- Which sciences and technologies are now more influenced by neurophysiology?

- Neurophysiology and neurobiology constantly use the achievements of all sciences, there is also a reverse effect. Related areas are medicine, genetics, molecular biology, various physical, optical, mathematical methods, artificial intelligence and related research.

  • Related areas for neuroscience - medicine, genetics, molecular biology, artificial intelligence research
  • © Adam Gault

- The study of the brain in a trend among the popularizers of science. What is the reason for the brain fashion, if I may say so?

- Yes, the study of neural processes is in trend. All large countries have brain research programs. This is due to the fact that science was ready for these studies. In addition, it is important for all of us to understand how we are organized, whether it is possible to somehow influence this. The number of studies in the field of neurobiology is very large and growing exponentially, therefore, interest in this direction is growing, popularizers of science are pulling up.

- I want to talk about "digital immortality", what is it - fiction or our near future?

- At the moment, it’s fantastic, while there are no technologies that would allow us to copy an identity somewhere so that it continues to live in the digital world. On the other hand, it seems to me that this is a future, albeit not a short one. One day we will be able to understand what exactly in our brain makes us us, and somehow transfer it to electronic media. But we, most likely, will not find this, no matter how sad it sounds.

See the full version of the interview on the RTD website.

Source: russiart

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