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怎样才能成为超级运动员(续 1 )

(2007-09-22 13:28:43)




I was peering inside an incubator at the Laboratory of Developmental Neurobiology at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Md. The incubator, about the size of a small refrigerator, held shiny wire racks on which sat several rows of petri dishes containing clear pink liquid. Inside the liquid were threadlike clumps of mouse neurons, which were wired to platinum electrodes and covered with a white, pearlescent substance called myelin. Within that myelin, according to new research, lies the seed of talent.


"In neurology, myelin is being seen as an epiphany," Douglas Fields, the lab's director, had told me earlier. "This is a new dimension that may help us understand a great deal about how the brain works, especially about how we gain skills."



The myelin in question didn't look particularly epiphanic, which is understandable since it would normally be employed by mice for sniffing out food or navigating a maze. Neurologists theorize, however, that this humble-looking material is the common link between the Spartak kids, the Dominican baseball players and all the other blooms on the talent map — a link all the more interesting for the fact that few outside this branch of neurology currently know much about myelin. In fact, as Fields pointed out, if indirectly, the talent map wasn't technically the most accurate name for my hypothetical landscape. It should be called the myelin map.

Skip to next paragraph髓磷脂的问题在于不能单独看出它的独特作用。它的作用通常在用老鼠做的寻找食物和走出迷宫的实验中被人们所认识。神经学家的理论和这些看起来粗陋的物质与斯巴达克的小运动员和多米尼加垒球运动员以及所有出现在天才分布地图的运动员都有着普遍地联系。这种联系目前受到除神经学研究部门之外的人们的重视。就象道格拉斯指出的那样,事实上,间接地如果天才分布地图在技术上不能精确地表示出我们假设的情景,那么它就应该称为髓磷脂地图。

"I would predict that South Korean women golfers have more myelin, on average, than players from other countries," Fields said. "They've got more in the right parts of the brain and for the right muscle groups, and that's what allows them to optimize their circuitry. The same would be true for any group like that."


"Tiger Woods?" I asked.


"Definitely Tiger Woods," he said. "That guy's got a lot of myelin." “很明显。”他说,“伍兹这家伙有许多髓磷脂。”

Fields, 53, is a sinewy man with a broad smile and a jaunty gait. A former biological oceanographer who studied shark nervous systems, he now runs a six-person, seven-room lab outfitted with hissing canisters, buzzing electrical boxes and tight bundles of wires and hoses. The place has the feel of a tidy, efficient ship. In addition, Fields has the sea captain's habit of making dramatic moments sound matter-of-fact. The more exciting something is, the more mundane he makes it sound. As he was telling me about the six-day climb of Yosemite's 3,000-foot El Capitan he made two summers back, I asked what it felt like to sleep while hanging from a rope thousands of feet above the ground. "It's actually not that different," he said, his expression so unchanging that he might have been discussing a trip to the grocery store. "You adapt."


Fields reached into the incubator, extracted one of the pink petri dishes and slid it beneath a microscope. "Have a peek," he said quietly.


I leaned in and saw a tangled bunch of spaghetti-like threads, which Fields informed me were nerve fibers. The myelin was harder to see, a faintly undulating fringe on the edge of the neurons. I blinked, refocused, struggled to imagine how this stuff might help my golf game.


Fields proceeded to explain that myelin is a sausage-shaped layer of dense fat that wraps around the nerve fibers — and that its seeming dullness is, in fact, exactly the point. Myelin works the same way that rubber insulation works on a wire, keeping the signal strong by preventing electrical impulses from leaking out. This myelin sheath is, basically, electrical tape, which is one reason that myelin, along with its associated cells, was classified as glia (Greek for "glue"). Its very inertness is why the first brain researchers named their new science after the neuron instead of its insulation. They were correct to do so: neurons can indeed explain almost every class of mental phenomenon—memory, emotion, muscle control, sensory perception and so on. But there's one question neurons can't explain: why does it take so long to learn complex skills?



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