Image Source: Kim Zetty.
In yesterday's post, I mentioned a reader's mysterious radical discrepancy in memory from the memories of those around him. Today, a natural but disturbing possible explanation for his experience comes from the field of medical research, where scientists are performing experiments on the effect magnets have on the brain.
Magnetic fields, when applied to the brain, can improve memory and video game play. But they can also change your moral compass. In other words, 'moral compass' is not just a figure of speech. It reflects a real relationship between human morality and magnetic fields.
A reporter's ability to speak is temporarily interrupted due to exposure to magnetic fields. Video Source: Mercola.
ABC reports that some of this research, which is going on at MIT, could be used to treat medical problems such as depression. But the moral suasion that the treatment could also have military applications:
An electromagnetic jolt to your brain can temporarily impair your sense of morality. No, this isn't a comic-book tale -- just the most recent research coming out of MIT's moral psychology lab.
In a study published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, researchers found that subjects were less able to judge the morality of others' actions when activity in the right temporo-parietal junction (RTPJ) -- a region of the brain located above the right ear -- was disrupted by a strong magnetic field.
"This suggests that there are multiple systems for morality and that you can selectively target and impair one at a time," says Liane Young, the lead author of the study. "The hope for moral psychologists is to discover the physical processes that give rise to moral decision and deconstruct morality by looking into the brain." ...
"It typically matters to us when people cause harm intentionally; typically intent is the dominant factor in our moral judgments. What we showed here is that we can interrupt intention processing so people go more with the outcomes," Young says.... Compared to the control group, those who had their RTPJs disrupted during decision making were about 15 percent more likely to make moral decisions based solely on how a make-believe scenario came out -- a sort of "no harm, no foul" approach to morality. ...
"It's less about a 'moral center in the brain' and more about how we infer another's mental state when making judgments about their actions – and mis-infer … after transient disruption of the RTPJ," says Kristina Visscher, assistant professor at the University of Alabama at Birmingham.
In the past, researchers have found evidence that the RTPJ may play a key role in our moral judgments. One study by Young found that people who naturally had more activity in the RTPJ were more likely to forgive those who cause harm unintentionally, for example. ...
"Previous studies…have shown that this brain region lights up when you are making moral judgments, so this study predicted you could impair that function…and it did," he says.
It seems that magnetic disruption of brain function can also alter memory. This report was quickly incorporated on the Web into the fabric of Millennial neo-mythologies. It received some attention in conspiracy forums, where X-files-style online chatter merged fears of government experiments with beliefs in alien abduction; there were some other familiar 2012-apocalypse fears in the mix too - pole reversal meets super-soldiers meets the controlled citizen:
Unexplained magnetized objects have been removed from the bodies of close encounter witnesses by Dr. Roger Leir. Now we know that magnetism can be used to alter the mind, so maybe we're not far from understanding what the implants are doing inside abductees. It's also possible that the reversal of magnetism between the north and south poles, which is on the way, could affect the way our brains work — the same way it seems to be affecting migrating animals.
By holding a special type of magnet at different places on the head, Dr. Alvaro Pascual-Leone can alter different brain functions. He can to make you go momentarily mute or blind. He can disrupt your memory or your ability to recognize faces and make it harder for you to say verbs while nouns remain easy. This is all done using transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS), which alters the electrical signals inside the brain by sending a potent magnetic field through the skull. The hand-held magnetic stimulators of 3,000 volts produce currents of up to 8,000 amps.
''You can create a very transient disruption of the brain,” says Pascual-Leone. “For a few milliseconds, it is as if those cells were not there. So you are able to ask questions about what role a particular brain part plays in a particular behavior.'' He wants to use TMS to treat depression, without the unpleasant side effects of electroshock treatment. It may also be helpful for stroke, Parkinson’s Disease, schizophrenia and post-traumatic stress. It may even relieve annoyances like tinnitus (buzzing in the ears).
But TMS could also be used as an interrogation tool, to block the brain’s ability to lie. ''It opens up all kinds of cans of worms,'' he says. It can also rev up our brains to make them more like computers, by speeding up problem-solving, sharpening attention and improving memory. Would rich students not only be able to take SAT tutoring, but also get zapped by TMS before taking the test? Dr. John A. Cadwell of Cadwell Laboratories, who produces TMS machines, says, ''I think it's a good tool, but it's not one that should be sold at Wal-Mart just yet.''
Those questions will be irrelevant if the military classifies it and removes it from public use. They say they want to produce a TMS helmet which will keep sleep-deprived soldiers awake. We suspect it may also be used to get them to obey orders for things they otherwise might not want to do.