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iPlant Brain Implant Advocated For Self-Improvement

The iPlant is a type of brain implant advocated as a means of programming yourself. The idea is that an iPlant would be similar to today's deep brain stimulation implants. The iPlant would electronically regulate the release of monoamines in the brain. Monoamines effectively determine motivation, mood, learning and creativity.

This kind of implant has been used in animal research since 1991 to force rats to repeat particular behaviors, for example, to run on treadmills.

Christopher Harris. is a neuroscientist at the university of Sussex, and is advocating the development of this kind of device.

The neuroanatomy of reward is very well known. A small group of nerve cells in the midbrain, when stimulated, release dopamine throughout the entire prefrontal cortex, which is our decision generator. Deep brain stimulation to control reward would be very similar to its application against Parkinson’s disease, in which dopamine signalling is impaired, leading to symptoms of the motor system. Thus, the technology is tried and tested in humans.

The human motivational system has been shaped over millions of years of evolution to a degree of robustness, which is why we find it so difficult to change. Sweet food is an instant reward for most people, as are alcohol and many drugs. The modern society has developed spectacular shortcuts to dopamine release, with the unfortunate effect of making many people’s lives less functional. Obesity and addiction are long-term scourges caused by the inability to resist short-term dopamine stimulation. Here is a technology that could change all that.
(From Evolving Ideas)

Apparently, there is already a product that is very similar to the iPlant, and it has been approved for use by the FDA.

Reclaim, a deep brain stimulation (DBS) implant that improves behaviour and mood by modulating activity in the human reward system (nucleus accumbens) was FDA approved for distribution in the US in February of 2009. Researchers who apply DBS to the human reward system are aware that the procedure could generate pleasurable, rewarding brain stimulation (RBS), but avoid this by using stimulation parameters different from those applied in animal experiments involving RBS.
(From iPlant news)

Naturally, science fiction writers have already explored some of the negative consequences of a device that allows an external person to alter or deeply influence someone else's brain chemistry. This example is from Ringworld Engineers regarding the use of a tasp, an external device which stimulates deep pleasure within the brain.

And he owed Halrloprillalar. They had needed her help, and Nessus had used a puppeteer's peculiar brand of force on her. Nessus had conditioned her with a tasp. Louis had let him do it.

Philip K. Dick fans will of course be reminded of the Penfield Wave transmitter, the heart of the mood organ.

Offhand, I can't think of an example of a science fictional character using an implant to positively change his or her or its own behavior. Read more about the iPlant via Futurismic. Thanks to Winchell Chung for pointing this one out.

Scroll down for more stories in the same category. (Story submitted 6/8/2009)

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