It seems likely that no one person would be able to avoid devestating addiction if given full control over a DBS implant regulating electrical activity in strongly rewarding/dopaminergic regions of his or her brain, such as the ventral tegmental area or substantia nigra pars compacta. Like rats do in that situation, a person would probably self-stimulate to the exclusion of any other behaviour and to the point of complete exhaustion. To prevent such short-circuiting and allow rewarding brain stimulation to be tied to useful behaviours (thus generating motivation to perform such behaviours), iPlant users will have to accept restrictions (access control) on their ability to modify the software of their iPlant. Such restrictions are referred to as defence mechanisms.
Defence mechanisms will include restrictions on variables such as the strenght and frequency of stimulation, but also on less obvious variables such as the number of hours per day that a user can use his or her iPlant. Moreover, defence mechanisms should include prudent practises that prevent the degeneration of natural self-dicipline: the cortex must be allowed to activate dopaminergic midbrain neurons in a healthy way even if the user has the option of activating those neurons with an iPlant - in other words, users must not become too dependant on their iPlant for motivation.
06 August 2008
Here's the first of two updates to the programming section on the iPlant website and on Knol. If it's not clear why I'm calling these entities defence mechanisms it's because it's not clear to me either.