[ABC] tiny electric current makes others look better
13. 7. 1. TinyElectric Current Makes Others LookBetter
Tiny Electric Current Makes Others Look Better
Scientists Manipulate Part of the Brain, Causing Changes in Human Behavior
COLUMN By LEE DYE
June 30, 2013—
Scientists at the California Institute of Technology have figured out how to make you look
better in the eyes of your mate. All you have to do is run an extremely weak electrical
current through a key part of your lover's brain, and you will look better than you did
For a few minutes, at least.
But these folks aren't trying to create a love drug. They are developing the technology
that may help unravel some of the deepest secrets of the human brain, possibly leading
to new treatments for some of life's most tragic diseases.
And it all depends on a surprisingly simple gizmo that can be powered by a 9-volt battery.
The instrument sends a tiny current -- only 2 milliamps, or 10,000 times weaker than you
can get from an ordinary household outlet -- through the brains of volunteers on
Caltech's campus in Pasadena, Calif.
That incredibly weak current was enough to make the volunteers judge images of human
faces as more attractive than they had seemed before the current was applied.
"You don't feel anything," biomedical engineer Vikram Chib, lead author of a study
published in the journal Translational Psychiatry, said in a telephone interview. "It's not like
shock therapy. I've done it on myself. You don't feel anything."
It may turn out to be a bit of a milestone in brain science. The Caltech team believes they
are the first to demonstrate a correlation between human behavior and activity among the
brain's billions of neurons, or brain cells, according to experimental psychologist
Shinsuke Shimojo, coauthor of the study.
In other words, they were able to modify activity in the brain and observe a change in
behavior resulting from that modification. To the participants, those faces really did look a
lot better, and the strongest effect occurred in participants whose neural activity was
modified the most.
It's worth noting, however, that the experiment also demonstrates just how vulnerable the
human brain is to seemingly trivial external forces. Two milliamps is practically nothing, yet
it produced a measurable effect. So it doesn't take much to make a difference.
"Very small imbalances in your brain chemistry, which is related to brain electrical
activities, can cause big problems," Crib said.
Does that explain why some kid shows up at school with an AK-47? Probably not entirely,
and that's not the point of this research.