Think about some of your favorite sci-fi films. How many of them reference futuristic technologies that are used to augment a character’s brainpower?
Turns out that not all these movies, books, and TV shows are based in completely in fiction. Modern scientific research is slowly working to make these brain hacks a reality. Here are five of the best hacks that might be coming your way soon.
1. Stop Sleeping to Increase Your Productivity
As seen in: The science fiction novel “Beggars in Spain” by Nancy Kress
Made possible by: Real-life DARPA scientists
Imagine how much more productive you could be if you didn’t need to sleep for eight hours every night. In her novel, Kress imagines a world where the ruling class are the “Sleepless”: genetically modified humans who no longer feel the need for sleep, and use the extra time to create goods and earn more money. But that sort of thing is just science fiction, right?
Wrong. Turns out DARPA developed a drug that replaces sleep back in 2008. The drug takes the form of a nasal spray, and contains certain hormones that eliminate the body’s craving for a nice long nap. According to Jerome Siegel, a professor of psychiatry at UCLA, “It reduces sleepiness without causing edginess.”
However, Dr. Michael Twery, director of the National Center on Sleep Disorders Research, is less optimistic about the drug’s promise. “New research indicates that not getting enough sleep is associated with increased risk of cardiovascular disease and metabolic disorders,” said Twery.
Can’t get your hands on this wonderdrug? Hack your brain with the Uberman Sleep Schedule, and train your brain to function perfectly on just two hours of sleep.
2. Controlling Intelligence in the Womb
As seen in: The novel “Brave New World” by Aldous Huxley
Made possible by: Real-life geneticists and proponents of the “Mozart Effect”
The novel “Brave New World” opens with a lengthy tour of a “hatchery”: a facility where human beings are created in test tubes. Each batch of humans is given a grade from Alpha to Episilon, and has their intelligence altered accordingly.
While we’re a long way from hatchery technology, solid pre-natal nutrition and genetic testing can help parents give their child the best possible chance for becoming intelligent. Parents looking to give their unborn child extra help also turn to “the Mozart Effect”: the belief that playing classical music for a baby in the womb can increase its intelligence.
This theory does have some scientific basis, and was first brought to the attention of the general public after being mentioned in a 1993 in the journal “Nature”. Not every scientist agrees, however…but maybe after another decade of research, we’ll have more power to alter intelligence in utero.
3. Altering or Retrieving Memories
As seen in: The indie sci-fi flick “Sleep Dealer”
Made possible by: Real-life neuroscientists and researchers
In “Sleep Dealer,” a woman sells her memories, which can then be uploaded into the minds of other people. And while altering or retrieving memories in this fashion seems far-fetched, a Wired article hints at a possible technology for boosting or retrieving memories using a PDA in the future.
According to the article, “Researchers have found a telltale mental signature that predicts whether an experience will be remembered. Once deciphered, the signals could be used to help people know when their brains are primed to remember, perhaps using an iPhone app.”
“There’s no reason not to believe that this is possible,” added one of the researchers. “It could be part of a PDA.”
4. Brain-Computer Interface Chips
As seen in: The TV show “Fringe”
Made possible by: Real-life sleep researchers
On the “Fringe” episode entitled “Dream Logic,” the team encounters a man with a Brain-Computer Interface Chip. The chip was originally installed to help the man control his sleepwalking, but instead the chip malfunctions and causes the patient to attack his co-workers.
These types of chips do exist in real life. According to Dr. David Carley, they have even been used on humans. “For example, deep-brain-stimulating electrodes have been used in an attempt to treat intractable epilepsy,” Carley says. “However, BCIs have not been used in an attempt to control sleep cycles.”
5. Brain Treatments to Reverse Mental Handicaps
As seen in: The film “The Lawnmower Man”
Made possible by: A study conducted at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology
In “The Lawnmower Man”, a doctor uses drugs, virtual reality treatments, and direct brain stimulation to increase the intelligence of a handicapped man. The mentally handicapped gardener learns Latin overnight and also becomes telepathic.
Telepathy is definitely off the table (for now), but researchers at MIT have been able to reverse Fragile X syndrome in mice. Fragile X is one cause of both autism and mental deficiency. According to reports from the BBC, “The researchers, based at MIT’s Picower Institute for Learning and Memory, targeted an enzyme called PAK which affects the number, size and shape of connection between brain cells. They found that inhibiting the enzyme stopped mice with Fragile X Syndrome behaving in erratic ways.”
What sci-fi brain hack are you most excited about? Tell us in the comments below!