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怎样才能成为超级运动员(续 1 )

(2007-09-22 13:28:43)
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人文/历史

 

 

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.

我曾在培斯达国家健康学院神经生物学系的实验室观察过孵卵器里发生的事情。孵卵器的大小与较小的冰箱一样大。闪闪发光的网架上放了数个盛有粉红色液体的盘子。在液体里你可以看到象线团一样的老鼠神经细胞。每个细胞团里都有铂金电极,覆盖着神经细胞团的是一种白色的物质,人们称它为髓磷脂。在髓磷脂里,根据最新资料研究,它里面有天才的种子。

"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."

“在神经学中,髓磷脂被认为是一种使人顿悟的物质。”道格拉斯,这个实验室的主任,早先告诉我的。“这是一个新的领域,它会大大地帮助我们认识大脑是如何工作的。特别是关于我们是怎样获得技巧的。”

 

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."

“我预计韩国高尔夫女运动员有较高的髓磷脂,按平均来说,高于其他国家。”道格拉斯说。丰富的髓磷脂在她们大脑的右侧,对于右侧的肌肉群来说髓磷脂可以起到优化她们神经电路的作用。象上面讲的作用一样其他部位的髓磷脂对其他的肌肉群也有优化作用。

"Tiger Woods?" I asked.

 “泰戈伍兹怎么样?”我问道。

"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."

道格拉斯,今年53岁。他是一个面带微笑、步伐矫健而自信的人。以前他是一位生物海洋学者,曾经研究鲨鱼的神经系统。现在他开了一家有6位工作者,配备齐全的7个研究实验室。在这个研究室里有嘶嘶作响的铁罐子,嗡嗡作响的电器盒子,以及几束电线和软管等。这些地方看起来很整洁,显得是个非常有效的模范实验室。另外,道格拉斯具有水手长的那个习惯,将严肃的事情戏剧化。越是刺激的事情他把它做得越平凡。当他告诉我他用了6天的时间潜入3000英尺水下,在尤塞米特船上带回一根大梁。我问他,挂一根绳子在水下1000英尺的地方睡觉有什么感觉?“实际上没有什么不一样。”他回答说。他这样形象地说没有不一样就象我们谈论到一个杂货店一样的感觉。“只有适应它。”

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

道格拉斯将手伸到孵卵器中,取出一个粉红色的培替氏培养皿,把它移到显微镜下。“来看一下。”他小声地说。

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.

我斜着身子看到一把缠结的象意大利面条的线头。道格拉斯告诉我那时神经纤维。髓磷脂是很难看到的。它就象模模糊糊的、起伏波动的饰缘镶在神经元的边缘上。我眨了眨眼,重新调整了一下显微镜的焦距,设法看到这个帮我赢得高尔夫球赛的物质——髓磷脂的模样。

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?

道格拉斯仔细地讲述了髓磷脂。它就象香肠的皮一样是一种厚厚的脂肪包裹在神经纤维的外面。它看起来很钝其实很敏感。它的工作原理就象电线上的橡胶皮一样,防止电脉冲的泄露保持信号有力的传送。髓磷脂鞘是一种基本的、象电线一样的一系列相互联系的细胞的排列。它们被称为神经胶质(希腊人称它为胶水)。由于神经胶质无活动性,当神经元发现后,人们称它为绝缘体。神经元真正地解释了大脑的各种现象——记忆、情绪、肌肉控制、感官知觉等。但是有一个问题神经元不能解释,为什么一个复杂的技术要花很长的时间?

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