question from sci-fi-writer

maxwell mmmaxwell at hotmail.com
Sat Sep 1 03:52:00 EST 2001

JoshCahoon <joshcahoon at cs.com> wrote in message
news:20010831182518.04375.00000596 at mb-bh.news.cs.com...
> Kevin Hoffman wrote:
> >I am writing a sci-fi story that involves a hypothetical "procedure" that
> >increases concentration and memory by some large factor (say 1000X).
> >I would be very grateful for any information on:
> >- what region of the brain controls concentration and memory
> Bilateral loss of the hippocampus results in profound anterograde amnesia, ie,
> inability to acquire information after the lesion is sustained. One theory is
> that the hippocampus is required to convert short term memory into long term
> memory. Hippocampus patients, however, do show approximately normal ability to
> learn skills or procedures--they just don't remember having learned.
> Writings on patient HM and Korsakoff's syndrome might be helpful for you.

The above is correct, Josh.
> Children with ADHD are believed by some to  owe their symptoms to insufficient
> activity in the frontal cortex, which is believed to inhibit other structures
> that subserve impulsive or reflexive behaviors. That might be why a stimulant
> seems to calm them down and enhance their concentration abilities.

This is decidedly an odd view. I suggest you consider the co-morbidities of ADHD, OCD, and
Tourette's, and the commonalities of behaviour that are present.
Then, consider the deficits in sequence learning, and of attention, present in
Parkinson's, Huntington's, and supranuclear palsy patients.
Common to all of the preceding is evidence of involvement of subcortical structures,
especially of caudo-putamen, globus pallidus, pars interna and reticulata, and of
substantia nigra, i.e.,  basal ganglia complex (BG).
Consider BG with respect to cognitive switching and task-sequence generation.
Yes, there are reciprocal projections betwixt BG and frontal cortex (FC), but also to all
other cortical regions, and for that matter, to multiple thalamic and tectal nuclei, and
to cerebellum.
'Insufficient' activity in FC as you note, though consistent with notions of FC as
'executive' loci, does not adequately explain much about why stims work to 'focus' ADHD
kids-- though neuronal accomodation (similar to 'paradoxical' quiescence) in subcortical
structures *does.*
Take a look at works of Graybiel, and of Mink, for starters.
Apologies-in-advance as I'll not be back for awhile here-- however it's nice to see at
least someone new to the forum who is not spouting  'grand hypotheses' from an armchair
that is well-removed from any clinical or laboratory evidence of actual CNS activity.


> >- if there are any current, experimental procedures of this nature
> No, not for normal people. But if you do a websearch for "nootropics", you'll
> find thousands of pages selling "smart drugs". There is scant evidence that
> these are effective.

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