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Science >> N.P.Bekhtereva >> The Human Brain-Supercapacities and Prohibitions
The Human Brain-Supercapacities and Prohibitions
N.P. Bekhtereva, Academician.

Journal "Nauka i Zhizn'", N 7, 2001 г.

The ideas set in this article are rebellious, indeed seditious ones, but presently there is nothing to add and maybe there won't be. Everything can happen, though.

N.P. Bekhtereva

ХХ century turned to be a century of various fields of knowledge enriching each other with discoveries and inventions. Modern people have made their way from primers to Internet technologies but they still cannot manage to keep the world in balance. In many parts of the world and sometimes even globally the "biological" level of the human nature often prevails over reason. It is put into effect by aggression which is so useful as an activator of the brain's abilities when taken in right proportions but so destructive in large ones. Century of scientific and technological progress, century of blood… It seems to me that the key to the transfer from this century of blood to the century (or age?) of prosperity is hidden under several physical layers of protection in the surface and inside the human's brain...

XX century brought many valuable discoveries to the bank of thorough knowledge about the human brain. Part of this knowledge is already adopted in medicine but as for upbringing and education it is still of little use. A man as a member of the society still makes little profit for himself and for the society mainly because of inertness of social practices and difficulties of finding the language common to both sociology and neurophysiology. I.e. the achievements in brain work patterns study are hard to translate from the language of neurophysiology into terms acceptable for upbringing and education.

Let's try to make clear if we are on our way to the mystical wisdom of "Shambhala" (fairy land of wizards in Tibet - editor's note), and if we are, how far we have progressed? The only reliable way to necessary and sufficient wisdom in relationships of the "person-person", "person-society" and "society-society" types, the realistic and efficient way to "Shambhala" goes through further brain work principles study. The mankind paves its way to this knowledge by joint efforts of neurophysiology and neuropsychology backed by technological progress of today and tomorrow.

XX century inherited and developed data and notions about basic mechanisms of brain work (Sechenov, Pavlov) including human's brain (Bekhterev). It has also brought the most valuable achievements in study of principles and mechanisms of human brain work due to integrated method of human brain study and technological progress in medicine. Forms of organization of the intellectual activity brain provision are formulated as well as those of reliability of human brain functioning and mechanism of stable states (health and disorder). It is proved that brain has error detection; it's cortical and sub cortical sections are described. Various mechanisms of the brain self-protection are discovered. It is hard to over-estimate the importance of these discoveries for understanding the capacities and limits for sound and diseased brain.

The potential of brain is studied strongly and it will be studied. The task of revelation (or unrevelation?) of thought process brain code is on the doorstep. The human brain is prepared for everything in advance; it is living as though in the future leaving its own century behind.

What do we know in fact about those conditions and principles on which not only capacities but supercapacities of the human brain are brought about? And what are its protective mechanisms, superprotection and maybe prohibitions?

More than thirty years ago (quite a long period if we think of time flowing faster and faster) my colleague Vladimir Mikhailovich Smirnov was engaged in experiment stimulating one of the subcortical nuclei. He saw the patient becoming two times smarter just before his eyes, the memory capacities increasing more than twice as much. Say, before stimulating this certain brain center (I know which one but I shall not reveal it!) the patient could memories 7+2 words, which is within the standard, and immediately after stimulation he could memorize 15 words and even more. But there was a strict regulation that each patient should only get what is prescribed to him exactly. We didn't know then how to get this "jinn back to his bottle"; we decided not to play with it and prompted it back for the patient's sake. But this was the human brain supercapacity provoked artificially!

We have known about brain's supercapacities for a long time. First of all these are inborn brain properties which determine existence of people who can find maximum of right decisions with lack of information in their minds. People of this kind are appreciated by society as people of talent or even genii! Things that genii can do are striking examples of supercapacities of the brain; these are the so-called high-speed calculation, almost momentary vision of events of the whole life under extreme conditions et cetera. It is known that some people can learn a great number of both living and dead languages although 3-4 languages are generally almost a limit, and 2-3 languages are sufficient and enough. Now and then not only a talented person but anybody can perceive irradiation and sometimes these moments bring much gold to the bank of Humanity's knowledge.

The supervision by V.M. Smirnov shows the event that is seemingly contrary to ones mentioned in next passages but perhaps it has the answer to the question which has not been formulated yet: what provides the supercapacities and how? The answer is both expectable and simple. The most important part in intellectual supercapacities provision is played by activation of certain brain structures, maybe many of them. This answer is simple and expectable but not full. The stimulation was short, and phenomenon did not "stick". We were all so afraid of possible brain's requital for the supercapacities revealed so suddenly. After all they were revealed not under real conditions of irradiations but half-manually, so-to-say instrumentally.

Thus the supercapacities can be inborn (cases of talent or genius) and they can be revealed in form of irradiation under certain conditions of optimal emotional regiment with time speed change or in crisis situation apparently with time speed change as well. Or, which is the most important in our knowledge about the supercapacities, they can be developed by special training and in case of superproblem statement.

Life made me face a group of people who are trained to do many things, particularly seeing by closed eyes, under V.M. Bronnikov supervision. "Bronnikov's boys" have got the supercapacities acquired by systematic long-time training which cautiously reveals the alternative (direct) vision abilities, and now they are demonstrating it. The impartial study managed to show that in electroencephalogram (EEG) this training displays "conditionally pathological" mechanisms working for superstandard. They are "conditionally pathological" apparently under conditions of special proper brain protection mechanisms.

Quantitative accumulation of data about the brain's capacities and prohibitions, about two indissolubly united parts of many if not all brain's mechanisms is about to turn into quality. This is the boundary of getting the capability to develop the homo conscious on purpose. However, change from cognition of nature's laws to using them rationally is not always quick and easy, but it is always thorny.

Nevertheless, this way is the best no matter how difficult it can be, because possible alternatives are global terrorism, ecocatastrophe and life pending someone to push the nuclear button. This is the way of forming the homo conscious and correspondingly the society and communities of conscious people. But it is only possible to form this homo conscious on the basis of knowledge about principles and mechanisms of the brain work, its capacities and supercapacities, mechanisms of protection and limits as well as understanding that those mechanisms are united indissolubly.

So, what are those indissolubly united brain mechanisms, two faces of Janus, what is the problem at hand? Supercapacities and disease, protection as a reasonable prohibition and disease, and many other points.

The perfect case of supercapacities would be long-living genii who can take right decisions with minimum information introduced into their minds and who do not break down - as they have their own adequate protection. But genii often "break" themselves, as though "seeking" for their end. What is this? Is it lack of self-protection of brain "inside" of one particular function as well as in interactions of various functions? Maybe this protection can be formed and enhanced, especially in childhood, having recognized disposition for intellectual supercapacities in an able child?

For many decades and even centuries teaching some practical knowledge was hold in the way of memory training and upbringing, i.e. fixing in memory moral values. The mystery of memory is still unsolved in spite of Nobel prizes in medicine. For the society the importance of early formation of "moral" basis of memory (though it is not actually called like that) was huge. Most children, and then grown-ups, had memory matrix of precepts they learnt by heart turn into unassailable walls which did not allow to break them, practically determining a man's behavior and punishing a violator severely. Pangs of conscience, if it has been formed, tragedy of remorse activated via brain's error detection together with "terrible punishments" promised in childhood for breaking the rules, all this worked better for the society than penalties given by courts. In real contemporary life many things including "terrible punishments", pangs of conscience, etc., has been considerably transformed, and even in past times it did not stop all breakers. Neglecting the prohibitions which were built in memory of past generations and which are forgotten now, the Mankind is on its way to freedom for both mind and crime.

In the case mentioned above memory's function was first of all that of prohibition mechanism, mechanism of "local neurosis" so to say. Memory is the main mechanism which lets us survive both in good health and in disease; though people used to know nothing about the brain's memory matrix and did not even call it this name, in older education system they did treat the very memory much more carefully then now.

From the early childhood memory forms matrixes which are later performed automatically. By this it relieves our brain for processing and use of the modern world's enormous information flow and maintains the health in stable state. But sometimes memory itself needs help, and it is particularly important to help reading, its most delicate mechanism, in advance. Apparently this used to be carried out by means of learning by heart of great volumes of information, especially prose works in dead languages which are hard to learn. Memory "shifts" all the stereotype data to automatic mode and releases and reveals to us the great potential of brain. Reliability of this great potential is determined by many factors. The most important of them are daily constant brain training by each and any factor of newness (reflex of orientation!), multilink structure of brain systems, the fact that for nonstandard activity maintenance these systems have flexible (variable) links as well as hard (constant) links, etc.. In process of creating the conditions for realization of brain capacities and supercapacities the same mechanisms, primarily memory, build protective "paling", particularly to protect a man from himself, from his "biological self", his negative inclinations as well as various emergency life situations.

This is the restrictive role of memory matrix in behavior ("thou shalt not kill"). This is its selective mechanism of restrictions and error detection as well.

What is that mechanism of protection against mistakes, restriction, prohibition, is it an error detector? We do not know if nature favors a man with it from his very birth, but most likely it does not. The human brain develops itself processing the information flow (inflow!) and adapting itself to the environment by trial and error method. At the same time the learning brain forms areas which maintain the functioning by means of activation and areas which react selectively or predominantly to deviation from favorable and "right under the circumstances" reaction to an error. Judging by subjective reactions (anxiety type) those areas are connected with attributes of emotional activation which are a part of consciousness. Human language has it as "something… somewhere… is wrong, something… somewhere… is not the way is should be…"

Up to this point we were speaking about possibility and physiological basis of supercapacities, including paramount discovery by V.M. Smirnov. But how can one stimulate the supercapacities in daily life? Is it always possible, and moreover, is it always permissible?

We do not know if it is always possible yet. But supercapacities can be stimulated much more often then it actually happens in everyday life.

We have already said that the genius' brain is capable of solving problems in the statistically correct way with minimum of information introduced in his mind. It is, as it were, the perfect combination of both intuitive and logical cast of mind.

We see the manifestation of the genius' brain by superproblems he solves, let it be Divine Comedy, Sixtine Madonna or discovery of heterojunctions. The easiness of taking the decisions by means of optimal activation mechanisms apparently must be because of emotional impulse. Those mechanisms are also responsible for the joy of creation, especially if the whole process is combined with optimal inner protection of brain. This optimal protection is formed first of all by balance of brain changes under emotions (physiologically speaking, by brain's inner spatial versatile development of superslow physiological processes of unlike sign) and optimal slow-wave night "clean-up" of brain (one should "pour the water and keep the child" but not to keep too much "rubbish")…

Still, though memory is the basic mechanism of capacities and supercapacities provision neither talent nor genius can not be attributed to memory only. Recollect for instance the book of Russian psychologist A.R. Luriya "Large memory of a little man"…

"Common" people's supercapacities unlike those of genii become apparent, if they ever do, under necessity of solving some superproblems. Under these circumstances to optimize its work the brain is capable to use the "conditionally pathological" mechanisms, hyperactivation in particular, of course using sufficient protection not to let this powerful ally to turn into an epileptic discharge. A superproblem can be set by life, but it can be solved both on one's own and with the teachers' assistance, and life can ask the decisions when one should be ready to pay a high price for the result. Please, do not mix it up with dolefully famous "choice of the end covers choice of the means".

We know from history of religion that Jesus Christ gave sight to a blind believer, presumably by touching him. Until very recently we tried at least to understand, certainly not to explain it by notion of the so-called psychological blindness, a rare hysterical state when "all's well but one can't see", but recovery is possible under strong emotional shock.

Yet right now, almost in the end of my life, Larissa and I are sitting at a big "assessor" table. I am wearing a scarlet woolen mohair poncho that my son presented to me. "Larissa, what color is my clothes?" "Red", Larissa answers calmly. I am stunned, I keep silent, and she begins to doubt. "Maybe, it's blue?" I am wearing a blue dress under the poncho. "Yes, I can't always judge color and shape yet, I should have more training", Larissa says. This is the result of several months of intensive work of Larissa and her teachers. They are Viacheslav Mikhailovich Bronnikov, his colleague doctor Liubov Yuryevna and sometimes Bronnikov's beautiful daughter Natasha, aged 22. She can do it too… They all trained Larissa to see. I attended almost all sessions of training absolutely blind Larissa to see. She lost her eyes when she was 8, and now she is 26! The blind girl adapted herself to life, first of all owing to her incredibly caring father. And maybe owing to her own diligence, for the evil fate had seemingly left her no choice…

When she was told about the possibility to see after special training by V.M. Bronnikov Method neither she nor we could imagine all the difficulties and laboriousness of training which were the price of desired result.

How pretty Larissa is now! She straightened herself up, she cheered up, she believes in her new future so much… It's even fearful! She has not yet achieved that astonishing ability to see without eyes which is demonstrated by "senior" Bronnikov's students. But she has already learnt much, and this is worth of a special story.

People usually do not believe things which really exist. Journalists make films about them, show them, and tell about them. It seems that nothing is hidden, and maybe it is really so. But still the overwhelming majority is over-cautious. "I do not know what, but something must be tricky here" or "They are peeping through the bandage", black thick bandage on the eyes.

After I had seen an amazing film about possibilities of the Bronnikov Method, I did not think much about the science, about this scientific miracle. I mainly thought about Larissa, an unhappy, tragically robbed girl, a human being in a great disaster who can not even peep, for she has no eyes at all.

Larissa is what is called a difficult case for training. What had deprived her of her eyes is one of the most fearful horrors. That is why her psychological state is changeable. Along with the new possibilities her mind must be awakening a terrible scene of crime as well. Probably she is realizing anew its tragic consequences, long years of trials and errors in adaptation to the new for her world. But during these long years this girl's dream did not vanish. Larissa whispers: "I have always believed that some day I shall see." We examined her and the "Bronnikov's boys" (they are Bronnikov's son and his patients who achieved various stages of training) by means of the so-called objective examination methods.

Electroencephalogram (EEG), biological currents of Larissa's brain are absolutely different from a usual EEG look of a healthy grown-up. Rapid rhythm which is generally slightly scanned (the so-called beta rhythm) in Larissa's case is present in all the leads, in all points of brain. This is traditionally considered to indicate predominance of excitative processes. Well it's no wonder, Larissa's life is difficult and it requires constraint. And alpha rhythm which is a slower rhythm connected with the optic canal of healthy people was first hardly scanned. But generally Larissa's EEG is really a strain on a specialist's nerves. If one had not known whose EEG it is he could have thought that it shows epilepsy, a severe brain disaster. It is just full of the so-called epileptiform activity. But what we see here stresses one more time a "golden rule" of clinical physiology which is so frequently forgotten: "EEG consideration is one thing, and diagnosing the disease must consider the clinical onset as well". And then EEG to give more accurate definition of the form of illness. Epileptiform activity is also an excitative rhythm, especially when it has shape of sharp waves and groups of sharp waves. Generally it is present in an ill brain. Larissa's EEG displays many waves like these, and sometimes one can even see almost a "local fit", and EEG-fit equivalent, which does not even spread to the adjacent brain areas.

Larissa's brain is activated. Apparently we should seek for and discover new mechanisms in addition to those we know which have been protecting safely Larissa's brain for many years from the spread of pathological excitation which is the major reason of epileptical development. Of course this can only happen if the protective mechanisms are not sufficient or because of their insufficiency.

The objective examination of brain's biopotentials can be estimated in various ways. One can write: "domination of beta-rhythm alongside with single and group sharp waves". Is it frightful? No, and it is actually true. Otherwise: "spread and local epileptiform activity". Is it frightful? Yes, and this phrase leads away of truth about Larissa's brain. Absence of any epilepsy manifestations in Larissa's medical biography does not give any grounds for this actually illegitimate disease diagnosis, including the indications by all those EEG which had been registered during Larissa's sight training by V.M. Bronnikov's Method. I think that in this very case it would be right to speak of Larissa's brain using not only usual excitive mechanisms but hyperexcitation as well to solve her life's superproblem. In EEG it is displayed by already described combination of spread beta-activity and single and group sharp waves (conditionally epileptiformal). The connection of what the EEG showed and Larissa's actual state was very apparent; EEG was rather dynamic, dynamics depending both from initial EEG background and training sessions.

In stock of examination methods we also had superslow processes, their various correlations and the so-called evoked potentials. The analysis of superslow potentials also stressed the high dynamics, depth and intensity of physiological changes in Larissa's brain.

Method of evoked potentials is widely spread and generally it provides reliable enough information about openings into brain of signals which are received through sense organs channels. Apparently now we can examine Larissa's reaction to some light signals, because EEG has already displayed reaction to bright light, but some months ago it seemed to us more reasonable and reliable to get this information from someone with good natural sight but who is fully trained to see alternatively (directly) as well.

The most "advanced" Bronnikov's student and son, Volodia Bronnikov, was shown visual images via display (these were pictures of animals and furniture) with his eyes both opened and closed by a thick black bandage. The quantity of presentations of these signals was quite enough for a statistically reliable revelation of local evoked answers (evoked potential). Evoked reaction to these signals presented with the eyes opened showed quite common results, for the evoked answer was registered to the back areas of hemispheres. First attempts of registration of evoked potentials for the same visual signals with the eyes thoroughly closed failed, because analysis was interfered with enormous quantity of artifacts which are generally registered when eyelids are trembling or eyeballs are moving. To eliminate those artifacts Volodia's eyes were covered by one more bandage, this time fitting very tightly to eyelids (this comes from clinical physiology practice). The artifacts disappeared gone, but for some time the alternative vision, the sight without eyes disappeared as well! In a couple of days Volodia restored the alternative vision again and gave right verbal answers with his eyes double closed. His EEG changed both in the first and in the second cases. However visual evoked potentials were not registered when Volodia's eyes were practically "immured" by our extra bandage. Still, Volodia continued to give right answers to the signals, he recognized the presented objects without mistakes! EEG gave the impression that signal is entering the brain directly and changes its general state. But the very entering the brain by a signal, the evoked potential, it had not been registered anymore. One could imagine… well, it is always possible to find an explanation. Still, that is what has narrowed the possibilities to explain in an easy way the vanishing of evoked potentials, the eyes closed.

The thing is, after Volodia had mastered alternative vision, say, in more difficult conditions (common bandage plus slight tension on the eyeballs), the evoked potentials were not registered by the examination with the eyes opened as well. By the information got by our objective methods (which we usually trust more then subjective ones) Volodia Bronnikov was as though using alternative vision when he could use the common one. This statement is a serious one. It requires checking and rechecking.

Besides Volodia there are others who are already well-trained in alternative vision. Eventually, Larissa is also "maturing" for such examinations. But if this phenomenon will prove true, we'll have to think about alternative (by the way, which channels are used?) visual information transfer or about direct input of information to the brain omitting sense organs. Is it possible? The brain is "fenced off" the world by several layers, it is thoroughly protected against mechanical damage. But through all those layers we can register everything that happens in the brain, furthermore, losses in signal amplitude getting through all those layers are surprisingly small. Regarding direct registration from brain the signal amplitude decreases not more then by a factor of two or three (if any at all!).

So what I am referring to, to what point do the facts under review bring us?

S. Davitaya, a physicist, suggested that forming of alternative vision should be estimated as direct vision phenomenon. So we are referring to the possibility of information to receipt into brain immediately omitting the sense organs.

The developing effect proves easily the possibility of direct activation of brain cells by environment factors and particularly by electromagnetic wave during medical electromagnetic stimulation. Apparently one can assume that in the context of superproblem of forming alternative vision the result is really achieved by direct vision and direct activation of brain cells by environment factors. But for this moment this is nothing but a breakable hypothesis. Maybe the very brain's electric wave are able to "search down" environment in the same way as "radiolocations" do? Maybe there is another explanation for all these points? It must be carefully thought of and studied!

What type of a protective mechanism must play a major part to provide Larissa's brain the possibility to use both normal and "conditionally pathological" activity types? Many years ago when I was engaged in purposeful study of an epileptical brain I came to a conclusion that not only local slow activity reflects brain tissue change and at the same time performs a protective function (the well-known English physiologist Gray Walter proved this in 1953). Many physiological processes shown through high-tension slow activity of paroxysmal type can neutralize epileptogenesis. The suggestion was checked by presenting sinusoidal current modulating these slow waves locally to the area of epileptogenesis, and the current suppressed the epileptiform activity accurately!

With epilepsy this protection is already not sufficiently active, it is just "not enough" to neutralize the epileptogenesis. Further on this most important physiological protection turns into a pathological effect itself, "turning off" mind for increasingly longer periods of time. We tried to guard Larissa against not obligatory overwork in every possible way and thus we have not yet made a sleep EEG. This is mainly interesting for us and not dangerous for Larissa, though and even may be of some use for her. By Larissa's EEG and by analogy with that enormous international experience in study of epileptoform activity and epilepsy, Larissa works for formation of seeing ability (direct vision) at the expence of various activation mechanisms balanced by physiological self-protection. But it would be incorrect to neglect entirely the fact that Larissa's EEG show much of both single and group sharp activity including high-voltage one; she is as though on the "verge" of physiological potential. And high-voltage paroxysmal slow activity appearing from time to time in her awake-state EEG shows that physiological protective process turns to be a pathological one! In this very case it is apparently still playing its major physiological part, for no clinical presentations of epilepsy are present.

The ability of controlling oneself is estimated first of all as manifestation of adaptation. Physiologically that means that emotions are realized "with few casualties", i.e. without spread of pathological excitation. It can happen when superslow processes are balanced; these processes are connected with both development and restriction of emotions (superslow physiological processes of unlike sign). This form of protection alongside with one described above can also have a pathological side, for while it is gaining strength the development of emotions is impeaded, and sometimes it can lead to state of affective flattening. So is this protection viewed via EEG not only a protection but a prohibition? To some degree and to a certain extent it is true, first of all considering pathology or conditional pathology, conditionally epileptogenic activity in this very case. At some stretch we can speak of insoluble unanimity of physiological protection in this very case already. Protection from and prohibition of emotion development is much more distinctive in second protective mechanism.

While advancing from a physiological process to a pathological one its prohibitive function becomes more and more apparent.

In contrast to the protective mechanism formed by memory both protective mechanisms mentioned here have physiological correlates what makes them "convenient" for study. Some information about them is given here concerning the case of Larissa, but not all this information comes from direct study; the "prohibitive" part of the error detector does not declare itself through its physiological correlates though they actually exist. The prohibitive properties of the error detector become apparent through subjective, emotional, sometimes behavioral and motional components. But the potential two-sidedness of error detection phenomenon exists as well. Error detector is normally our protection, but under conditions of hyperfunctioning it causes pathological presentations like neurosis, states of obsession. Error detection can take different forms; from fear that protects us from our mistakes' consequences (which sometimes can be very painful) it develops into neurosis when the detector does not "suggest" (remind, hint!) but demands, dominates and in extreme cases drives a person out of social life.

In contrast to all mentioned above everything we know about memory turns to be only driven from analysis of human activity manifestations. But memory is major basic mechanism which determines the stable states of both health and disease, and to a considerable degree it is memory that holds behavior of most members of our society within the limits of our moral values, moral "law code". As I have already said we still can see only results of invisible work of memory; the direct physical correlates of this major brain work mechanism are unknown.

Brain work mechanisms should be studied intensively further. To my mind, all physiological patterns which are known by this time including those cited here should already be applied in teaching the study of human nature, "cognize yourself" subject, to put it plainly.

This work is made on grant of scientific schools support N 00-15-97893.

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