Studying with diligent friends is fine, says Heidi Lessing, a University of Delaware sophomore.
But after a couple of hours, it's time for a break, a little gossip: "I want to talk about somebody walking by in the library."
One of those friends, however, is working too hard for dish -- way too hard.
Instead of joining in the gossip, "She says, 'Be quiet,' " Lessing says, astonishment still registering in her voice.
Her friend's attention is laserlike, totally focused on her texts, even after an evening of study. "We were so bored," Lessing says. But the friend was still "really into it. It's annoying."
The reason for the difference: Her pal is fueled with "smart pills" that increase her concentration, focus, wakefulness and short-term memory.
As university students all over the country emerge from final exam hell this month, the number of healthy people using bootleg pharmaceuticals of this sort seems to be soaring.
Rare counting ability induced by temporarily switching off brain region:
A minority of people with autism have one or more extraordinary intellectual talents, such as the rapid ability to calculate the day of the week for a given date, or to count large numbers of discrete objects almost instantaneously - they're often called 'autistic savants' or 'idiot savants'. Now Allan Snyder and colleagues have shown that by placing a pulsing magnet over a specific area of the brain, these kind of abilities can, to some extent, be induced in people who aren’t autistic.
For example, before the TMS, one participant had 20 goes at estimating the number of blobs onscreen, and each time she was more than 5 away from the true figure. Yet immediately after receiving the TMS, she made 6 out of 20 guesses that were within 5 blobs of the true figure. Before TMS, another participant scored 3 estimates out of 20 that were within 5 of the true figure, compared with 10 out of 20 immediately after the TMS.
The researchers think that by temporarily inhibiting activity in the left anterior temporal cortex, the TMS allowed the brain’s number estimator to act on raw sensory data, without it having already been automatically grouped together into patterns or shapes. In other words, they believe it caused the 'normal' brain to function more like an autistic 'savant' brain. “We argue that it removes our unconscious tendency to group discrete elements into meaningful patterns, like grouping stars into constellations, which would normally interfere with accurate estimation”, the researchers said. “By inhibiting networks involved in concepts, we may facilitate conscious access to literal details, leading to savant-like skills”.
I wouldn't mind having my own intelligence amplified a little...