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Can Humans Unlock 'Superpowers' Through Our Minds?

superhuman.jpgIf you're looking to find out how to fly or turn invisible, I'm afraid the Newton Blog cannot help you.

But if you're interested in superhuman abilities such as abnormal strength, regenerative powers, or hyper athleticism, you've come to the right place! Believe it or not, these talents are rare, but well-documented. And it may be possible that our brains are the key to unlocking these abilities.

Consider abnormal strength. Over the years, we have been provided with countless examples. You know the typical story: a 120 pound mother sees her son trapped under a car and lifts the vehicle a foot off the ground in order to save her child. This scenario, demonstrating "hysterical strength," has some science to back it up. Our muscle tendons feature a physiological component called a golgi tendon organ. It's purpose is to inhibit the muscles from producing too much contractile force, which could cause tissue damage. It is theorized that in cases of hysterical strength, the brain overrides the golgi organ, thus allowing a person to exceed their strength threshold.

Playing Devil's advocate, superhuman strength always seems to occur when motor vehicles are involved. Perhaps this pattern says more about the ease of lifting cars than it does about the potential of human strength.

Moving on, regenerative powers are demonstrated through the well-recorded placebo effect. The idea is simple: a doctor or researcher prescribes a drug to a person and tells the person that the drug will make them better. Even though the medication may be inert, the person's condition still improves. Placebos have reportedly cured a host of ailments, including depression and cancer. The success of placebos seems to indicate that our bodies have some kind of chained regenerative powers that need only be unlocked. Could the brain be the key?

The brain is undoubtedly key to athleticism. Just look at a recent study from the American College of Sports Medicine (as reported by the New York Times):

Cyclists were told that a [virtual avatar] would be going 2 percent faster or 5 percent faster than the cyclist had ever gone.

The other group was deceived. Each cyclist was told to compete against

an avatar that would be moving as fast as that athlete had in his best

effort. Actually, the avatar was programmed to race 2 percent harder or 5

percent harder.

The cyclists in the first group gave up from the start when they knew

the avatar would be moving faster than they ever had. [But], cyclists in the second

group, who were deceived, kept up with their avatars when they were

programmed to perform 2 percent harder than each athlete at his best.

"The brain appears to conserve the body's limited fuel to a certain degree, not allowing athletes to work too hard," the study's architect, Dr. Jo Corbett said. Yet Corbett's study found that it is possible to disregard this limitation by deceiving the brain.

Human cases of abnormal strength, regenerative powers, and hyper athleticism all have one thing in common: they require a psychological stimuli. By finding ways to reproduce these stimuli, could we effectually use our brains to think our way to superhuman powers? This would take the phrase, "Mind over matter" to a whole new level.