July 01, 2004

Freeing the Mind

Neuroscience: Change of mind (Nature 430, 14 (01 July 2004)). There are also some links at Dr. Lythgoe's site.

A neuropsychology sunshine story about how a cerebral haemorrhage turned an ex-convict into an artist/poet. Goes to show that not all brain damage is entirely negative.

I'm reminded of the "gourmand syndrome" where a stroke or trauma in the right frontal region turns people into food hedonists. It seems to be similar to the above case in involving the frontal regions. The article describes how the artistic patient has trouble switching between mental tracks, a typical frontal symptom. There also seems to be an almost compulsive component in creation and enjoying food.

Maybe it is all just about lifting the prefrontal inhibition of behavior: we all have a potential artist or gourmet inside ourselves, but learned behavior patterns ("don't play! don't eat too much!") inhibit ourselves. This suggests interesting drug targets. Rather than just try to generally disinhibit the brain with alcohol, what about temporarily inhbiting the connections between the frontal lobes and (guessing wildly here) the basal ganglia-hypothalamic complex? It has likely to be fairly local to just one "drive" such as artistic impulses or food, which might be tricky to achieve chemically. But the rewards would likely be high: showing people what potential worlds and persons they carry around within themselves.

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