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Some speculation on a neurological supercharger for a sapient alien species:

  • The supercharger is a natural biochemical compound of some sort produced and stored in a specialized brain-adjacent organ. Perhaps it's the byproduct of a symbiotic organism, perhaps something else.
  • A critical part of the process depends on filtered and pressurized oxygen (or an equivalent reactive atmospheric gas) to fuel the reaction in the brain. This is also stored in the aforementioned organ.
  • When in sufficient volume an individual can, at will, release the supercharger and gas mix directly to its brain (the bloodstream feeding it or a specialized circulatory system therein).
  • The individual immediately experiences a rush and is capable of intense focus, leaps of intuition and creativity, precise movement, savantism – everything you'd expect of something that boosts brain activity well above typical levels. It doesn't last very long and begins to taper off shortly after; once the effect wears off the individual is exhausted and can't repeat it for quite a while. Overheating the brain is a real danger.

Where does this fall apart and how can it be salvaged?

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  • $\begingroup$ I have got something much like this based on filtered and French pressurized coffee beans. $\endgroup$ – Willk Nov 16 '17 at 0:03
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    $\begingroup$ The only part where this falls apart is your terms: oxygen would not be a "fuel", it is the oxidizer that make the actual fuel — you call it "supercharger" — oxidize, and with that release its potential. $\endgroup$ – MichaelK Nov 16 '17 at 7:38
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You are basically asking for self-produced amphetamine.

It is possible and even "normal" (if in a lesser degree) it's called "adrenaline".

You "just" need your "aliens" to produce, with similar mechanisms, a hormone a bit more efficient (and, possibly, more brain-centered, as adrenaline acts also on other systems, including muscles).

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  • $\begingroup$ So why would this xeno-adrenaline evolve to need a blast of pressurized *oxygen to work? $\endgroup$ – rek Nov 23 '17 at 16:50
  • $\begingroup$ @rek: Psychotropic drugs (natural as adrenaline or artificial as many amphetamines) have no use of "pressurized Oxygen" (which, if released anywhere in the blood stream, would produce dangerous embolism), but could benefit from a higher oxygen content in the blood and muscles. This could be done via higher hemoglobin content or using some more efficient substitute for it. If you want to keep that mechanism you may want to speculate about an "inner lung" feed by pressurized oxygen reserve (perhaps evolved to cope with ancient marine dwelling) which can be used to help oxygenating under stress $\endgroup$ – ZioByte Nov 23 '17 at 17:38
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It would work (within reasonable limits)

There is always side-effects to tampering with brain-chemistry. If it was the best for the brain to simply work faster then why would it not have evolved that way? Of course you burn a lot more calories, but there is other stuff, too. Hormones might be released and you get into emotional distress or you could have long-term effects like depression or dependency.

Differing results

Let's take current day drugs that work with brain-chemistry in different ways. Marijuana as an example. It does different things with every person. Of course the main tendency is to calm them down and make them hungry, but for some rare people the same strain causes panic attacks, paranoia or even psychotic episodes. (note: marijuana is a rather weak drug and is comparably not that dangerous)

Body chemistry imbalance

Also the side effects do not even have to be psychological or neurological issues, but can make your body chemistry go nuts and cause an imbalance in other organs causing them to malfunction when effected to severely.

Physical limitations

Then there is also the hard limits of the body. In the human body a signal travels about 128 m/s. So even if you were to enhance the speed in which neurons fire you wouldn't greatly increase that speed. If a signal is supposed to travel 20cm in your brain it would at least take 1.5ms to reach the destination. You can not enhance the 'computational power' indefinitely.

Conclusion

There are already methods to enhance focus, but they all have side-effects to some extend. None of the methods can boost indefintely. You could argue that an aliens physiology might be better "boostable" and with futuristic technology it can work to much stronger extends, but even then it will have its limitations. There is no inherent issue with "boosting" biochemistry. Just side-effects and limitations.

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    $\begingroup$ I just wanted to add the obvious, you are talking about the possibilities of alien biology, the possibilities are almost endless. $\endgroup$ – anon Nov 15 '17 at 16:40
  • $\begingroup$ @anon if the question was meant that way i doubt it would have been asked. If "alien technology makes anything possible" was an answer he was looking for he wouldn't have bothered asking. He wanted to know reasonable criticism on the idea of supercharging a biological organism. $\endgroup$ – ArtificialSoul Nov 15 '17 at 16:42
  • $\begingroup$ @ArtificialSoul If the biology is alien it is kind of by definition unknowable to us. $\endgroup$ – sphennings Nov 15 '17 at 16:47
  • $\begingroup$ Im not saying your answer is wrong, it has very good points. I'm just saying there's a fairly obvious fact that should be mentioned in that its "Alien Biology" the possibilities are endless. Heck alien biology could be such that absolutely all of your points are irrelevant. $\endgroup$ – anon Nov 15 '17 at 16:48
  • $\begingroup$ @anon Well, even then it would have limitations. Processing anything takes time, chemical reactions take time. Even if you enhance the speed at which the biochemistry works without side effects physics still puts a limit on the maximum enhancement possible. $\endgroup$ – ArtificialSoul Nov 15 '17 at 16:50
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As you cannot increase neuron transmission speed according to artificial soul, you should seek to increase amount of active grey matter in the brain. That means doing parallel computing with more neurons. It is like few computers working together, and each tackles a part of the solution's algorithm. This increase also needs extra oxygen and sugars.

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  • $\begingroup$ The how of it really isn't central to the question I've asked: why it works this way rather than some other more likely alternative, is. $\endgroup$ – rek Nov 16 '17 at 6:21
  • $\begingroup$ It may still give you the desired effect: Intense focus if more parts of the brain work together simultaneously (Opposite to focusing on a single event), would still need more oxygen for more cells, and sharpen reflexes like Adrenalin does. The brain controls this process, yet your mechanism just provides the fuel for it. Where it falls apart: Intelligence hinges on what problems you CAN solve, not just how quickly. If a concept is beyond the person's understanding, be it because of intelligence or learning experience, then most likely this Adrenalin rush will be in vain. $\endgroup$ – Christmas Snow Nov 16 '17 at 11:06

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