Using Laser to Improve Concentration

I'm a big foe of multitasking: I find that I can't concentrate and actually get less things done when I try to do multiple things at once (i.e. parallel processing) rather than just doing 'em in series. Perhaps I'm old fashioned that way, but science appears to be on my side.

Here's a very interesting article by John Tierney of The New York Times about the science of concentration and how it may be possible in the future to have a gadget that actually boosts your concentration by using lasers:

“It takes a lot of your prefrontal brain power to force yourself not to process a strong input like a television commercial,” said Dr. Desimone, the director of the McGovern Institute for Brain Research at M.I.T. “If you’re trying to read a book at the same time, you may not have the resources left to focus on the words.”

Now that neuroscientists have identified the brain’s synchronizing mechanism, they’ve started work on therapies to strengthen attention. In the current issue of Nature, researchers from M.I.T., Penn and Stanford report that they directly induced gamma waves in mice by shining pulses of laser light through tiny optical fibers onto genetically engineered neurons. In the current issue of Neuron, Dr. Desimone and colleagues report progress in using this “optogenetic” technique in monkeys.

Ultimately, Dr. Desimone said, it may be possible to improve your attention by using pulses of light to directly synchronize your neurons, a form of direct therapy that could help people with schizophrenia and attention-deficit problems (and might have fewer side effects than drugs). If it could be done with low-wavelength light that penetrates the skull, you could simply put on (or take off) a tiny wirelessly controlled device that would be a bit like a hearing aid.

Link (Photo from the always entertaining I Can Has Cheezburger)


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