An interesting area of research:
Just by pointing his supermagnets at the right spots on your head, Dr. Alvaro Pascual-Leone can make you go momentarily mute or blind.
He can disrupt your working memory or your ability to recognize faces. He can even make it harder for you to say verbs while nouns remain as easy as ever.
Weird, yes. Fringe, no.
Pascual-Leone is one of the premier scientific pioneers exploring a new technique called transcranial magnetic stimulation, or TMS, which shuts down or revs up the electrical doings inside the brain by sending a potent magnetic field through the skull.
This is no try-it-at-home parlor trick and no “Relieve your Pain!” magnetic bracelet or insole. Invented in 1985, modern-day magnetic stimulators charge up to 3,000 volts and produce peak currents of up to 8,000 amps — powers similar to those of a small nuclear reactor.
That pulse of current flowing from a capacitor into a hand-held coil creates a magnetic field outside the patient’s head. The field painlessly induces a current inside the brain, affecting the electrical activity that is the basis for all it does.
The promise of TMS as a scientific tool seems similarly powerful. And it has generated a range of intriguing practical effects as well, from improving attention to combating depression, that have been published in reputable, peer-reviewed journals.
Via Brad DeLong.