10 Things an Electromagnetic Field Can Do to Your Brain

Illustration for article titled 10 Things an Electromagnetic Field Can Do to Your Brain

We all know that electromagnetic fields are magic and can do anything at any time for any reason. Sometimes, though, they can be harnessed to do certain things in particular. Electromagnetic fields can be applied to the skull, making your brain do strange, and sometimes completely inexplicable things. Find out how scientists use magnetic fields to rip your mind apart, make it better, and have it do tricks like a trained puppy.


10. Shred its DNA

Well, it's no surprise that not all the things a high electromagnetic field can do are good. Actually, even a mild electromagnetic field can wreck a brain if it's applied over a long time. Scientists found that an electromagnetic field applied to lab rats over time resulted in broken strands of DNA in the brain. Not just anywhere - the brain specifically. It's possible that this DNA damage is the cause of brain tumors, and the reason why people don't just walk around with brain-boosting electromagnetic hats all the time.

9. Stimulate its Growth

Oh, electromagnetism! It's such a trickster! One moment its ripping through DNA strands like a pit bull through an old sock, the next minute it's tenderly nurturing the growth of neurons. Scientists found that brains subjected to regular transcranial electromagnetic stimulation for only five days showed an increase in stem cells in the hippocampus. This is the part of the brain that governs memory, making electromagnetic stimulation a possible treatment for Alzheimer's and stroke patients.

8. Train you off food and water

Rats who had been deprived of water were placed in a strong electromagnetic field and offered a sweetened solution. Although they did drink, they drank less than those given the solution without exposure to the electromagnetic field. When rats were given the solution and later exposed to the field, they developed an aversion to the solution over time. Enough electromagnetism may turn you off your favorite food.


7. Make you spin in circles

Other rats (who have a terrible time of it during experiments like these) were found to walk in tight circles under the influence of an electromagnetic field. Scientists think that the field takes out the rats' sense of balance, making them lurch in circles. The lack of balance also may have induced nausea, which causes lethargy and could be one of the reasons that rats go off their feed.


6. Pacify you completely

Transcranial electromagnetic stimulation - subjecting people to strong electromagnetic fields aimed at specific parts of the brain - is sometimes used as a treatment for bipolar disorder or clinical depression. Some patients find an immense relief in this. Other people, who don't suffer from depression, have reason to worry about it. People without any diagnosed medical illness while under such stimulation can be relaxed to a state where they can't think of anything, at all, that bothers them. If that kind of relaxation can be induced at will, it could be used to pacify large parts of the population.

Illustration for article titled 10 Things an Electromagnetic Field Can Do to Your Brain

5. Alter your morality

All that relaxation has a price. Sometimes we're meant to fret. For example, if someone is about to cross a dangerous bridge, and we're aware of the chance it can collapse, and they aren't. Those without a magnetic field dancing around their brain, think that allowing the person to cross the bridge would be immoral. Those with a field gaily capering through their neurons think that, as long as this hypothetical person made it to the other side in one piece, there's no real moral problem. Judging the morality of a situation strictly by the outcome makes any crimes with 'attempted' in their description no longer crimes at all. It takes away a person's intentions and bases morality entirely on what happens to occur. Morality becomes a matter of chance.


4. Take out your power of speech but leave your ability to sing

Broca's area in the brain controls the ability to speak. A large electromagnetic field applied to the area takes out that ability entirely. Subjects under this kind of stimulation simply stop speaking the moment the field disrupts that part of the brain, while the rest of the functions are unimpeded. One of those other functions is singing. Although many people think that singing words and speaking words are much the same function, the ability to perform each action is housed in completely different parts of the brain. So people who are unable to talk will sing perfectly normally.


3. Induce panic, disorientation, and deep fear

Although some kinds of electromagnetic fields, applied to certain areas of the brain, pacify people and put them in a good mood, others are said to induce fear. Sometimes people report a persistent, if mild, sense of unease. Others have a more visceral response, feelings of despair and paranoia, sliding into overwhelming terror.


2. Cause Seizures and Death

Under the worst circumstances, exposure to electromagnetic fields can cause a number of serious effects in the brain. Studies have shown that it can change the flow of blood in the brain, and turn off neuron groups. Some people, under the influence of high magnetic fields have caused people to have violent seizures, and even lose consciousness, slip into comas, and die. This is one of the reasons why houses under high electromagnetic fields have ghost stories associated with them. In conjunction with the deep feelings of unease, mysterious seizures and deaths start all kinds of rumors. Of course, those rumors aren't as bad as . . .

Illustration for article titled 10 Things an Electromagnetic Field Can Do to Your Brain

1. Make you see ghosts

Electromagnetic fields, or electric shocks, have induced specific hallucinations in people. Those who are exposed to them, even in laboratory settings, have caused people to complain about a feeling of people following them, talking to them, or watching them. This is not always an uncomfortable sensation. Some people interpret this presence as a malevolent presence, especially if it's coupled with a feeling of unease, but others say they felt an inspiring or comforting presence. Ghost hunters will sometimes say the reverse - that ghosts cause a high electromagnetic field, or sometimes that a high electromagnetic field will allow ghosts to appear. Nobody is sure, yet, what these fields do to ghost brain DNA.


Top Image: Softpedia

Ghost Image: Wikipedia, Public Domain

Via IT Business, HOUP, Guardian, PoPSci, How Stuff Works, Telegraph, Neuroprotective, and NY Times.




I'm looking forward to the unveiling of the new supervillain: Dr. Electromagnetism!

A neuroscientist studying the effects of EM fields on specific parts of the brain loses his grant due to questionable ethics, so he turns his experiments on himself (or constructs a horribly unsafe homemade version in his garage) and accidentally gives himself the power to manipulate electromagnetic fields, which, he uses in conjunction with his knowledge of the brain to commit dastardly crimes, often through proxies.

I'm picturing him as an enemy for a hero like Spiderman or Nightwing, someone acrobatic just so every time they fight, he could frak up the hero's sense of balance for some quick, cheap drama in the fight before the hero drags himself over and beats up the physically weak Dr. Electromagnetism.

Also, costume: Totally skintight supervillain jumpsuit showing off a nonexistent physique, covered with inexplicable gadgets. In lieu of a mask, goggles, and of course, crazy white mad scientist hair.