About this author
Zack Lynch is author of The Neuro Revolution: How Brain Science Is Changing Our World (St. Martin's Press, July 2009).
He is the founder and executive director of the Neurotechnology Industry Organization (NIO) and co-founder of NeuroInsights. He serves on the advisory boards of the McGovern Institute for Brain Research at MIT, the Center for Neuroeconomic Studies, Science Progress, and SocialText, a social software company. Please send newsworthy items or feedback - to Zack Lynch.
Follow me on Twitter at @neurorev
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Brain Waves

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November 26, 2003

Thanksgiving Wine Recommendation

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Posted by Zack Lynch

Comments (0) | Category: X-tra

November 25, 2003

Laptop Crashed

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Posted by Zack Lynch

After two days of having my IBM R32 Thinkpad crash on me every few minutes, and hours with tech support (who were wonderfully helpful), I'll be shipping my machine on for 4-5 business days to get fixed.

Now I might actually have time to prepare for the Thanksgiving Dinner I am cooking for the 20 people from my family that are showing up. Gobble, Gobble.

Comments (4) | Category: Writing & Blogging

November 24, 2003

The Neurotech Business Carnival

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Posted by Zack Lynch

Neurotech Business Reports overviews the most recent business news from across the neurotechnology industry. Among the highlights:

- Analysts probe into issues related to commercializing neuroprostheses
- Market projections suggest growth from $2.4B 2004 to $7.2B in 2008
- James Cavuoto reacts to monkey's controlling a robot arm with cortical implants
- Research Institution Profile: UCSF at forefront of neurostimulation devices
- Vendor Profile: Neurome parlays brain database into neuropharma contracts
- For the whole report

Also, don't forget to check out this week's "Carnival of the Capitalists".

Comments (0) | Category: Neurotech Industry

November 21, 2003

Understand Emotions, Become Profitable

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Posted by Zack Lynch

Business Pundit points to "Welcome to The Feelings Economy" which explains that "in an oversupplied economy, customer feelings drive purchase decisions and profitability....Your new imperative is to assess and appeal to your customers’ feelings—period. Feelings are the basis for all profit generating consumption in a market at the mercy of customer choice. Focus on feelings, especially the subtle ones that customers themselves cannot articulate."

I agree with the writers up to this point, but then they make a fatal flaw by trying to distinguish emotions from feelings.

"For our purposes, feelings are not the same as emotions. Rather, “feelings” refers to a very specific quality: pleasantness, unpleasantness, or neutrality in an experience. Pleasant feelings—excitement, fun, reward, increased self-esteem, etc.—habitually condition desire. Unpleasant feelings—pain, effort required, decreased self-esteem, etc.—condition aversion. And neutral feelings condition forgetfulness. Given this definition, the purpose of every business in an oversupplied market should be to increase customers’ pleasant feelings while minimizing their unpleasant ones."

As Paul Zak has mentioned, "emotions play a critical role in decision making" (see Neurobiology of Trust), and I've detailed in Emotions and Neurotechnology and The Future is Emotional Economics, understanding the emotional motivation behind purchase making decisions is critical to long-term success.

Why not "feelings" as described above? Because people always overestimate the happiness a product will bring them (see Forecasting Happiness) and if you oversell the "end feeling" all you will ultimately create is disillusionment and dissatisfaction, not long-term loyalty. The critical issue for brand management and profitability comes from satisfying your customers emotional needs so that they trust your brand and will continue to come back.

Comments (1) | Category: Neuromarketing

November 20, 2003

Biochip Advances

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Posted by Zack Lynch

As I mentioned in Biochips, Brain Imaging and Behavior, further advances in biochips will be needed before effective neuroceuticals can be developed. Most importantly, no technology exists today to analyze proteins in an inexpensive and reliable manner.

FuturePundit's Biotech Advance Rates posts highlight the continually decreasing cost of biochips (take a look). I agree with him that the most exciting thing in biotechnology are advances in instrumentation and assay technologies. As he put it, "with a much better set of tools all discoveries could be made much sooner and with less effort and all treatments could be developed much more rapidly."

Comments (2) | Category: Protein/Gene Chips

November 19, 2003

Can Science Explain Consciousness?

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Posted by Zack Lynch

What is consciousness? Is there a neurobiological basis for consciousness? Is conscious will an illusion? In early April, many of the world's leading consciousness researchers will gather in Tucson for four days to explore how science might be able to answer these elusive questions.

Tom Ray, in a plenary session with Alexander Shulgin and Franz Vollenweider, will share his thoughts on how mapping receptor space will lead to a clearer understanding of the chemical architecture of the mind and perhaps consciousness itself.

Other esteemed speakers include:
-David Chalmers, University of Arizona
-Anthony Freeman, Journal of Consciousness Studies
-Christof Koch, California Institute of Technology
-Marilyn Schlitz, Institute of Noetic Sciences
-Daniel Dennett, Tufts University
-Roger Penrose, Oxford University
-Steven Pinker, Harvard University
-Ned Block, NYU
-David Leopold, Max Plank Institute
-Janet Metcalfe, Columbia University
-Alva Noë, UC Santa Cruz
-Ron Rensink, UC Berkeley
-Wendy Shields, University of Minnesota
-Daniel Wegner, Harvard University

Topics to be discussed include:
--Neural Plasticity and Synesthesia
--Pathways of Visual Consciousness
--How do Hallucinogens Affect Consciousness?
--Is There Metacognition in Animals?
--Ethics and the Brain

(I can't wait for the discussion over the sticky neuroethical issue brought up by Richard Glen Boire on the Right to Erase One's Memory.

See you there.

Comments (13) | Category: Perception Shift

November 18, 2003

Reminder: Speaking in the Bay Area Tonight

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Posted by Zack Lynch

Come hear Paul Kaihla, Senior Writer for Business 2.0, and me tonight in Mountain View talk about the future. He is speaking on the “The Coming Job Boom," and I will be giving my last talk this year on "The Neurotechnology Wave (2010-2060)."

RSVP now as only a few spaces are left. More info.

Comments (1) | Category:

November 17, 2003

NBIC: Neurotechnology Research Grants

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Posted by Zack Lynch

The Department of Health and Human Services recently announced additional funding for the neurotechnology research, development and enhancement program.

As I have written previously, neurotechnology is being driven by the convergence of advances in Nanotechnology, Information Technology, Biotechnology and Cognitive Science (NBIC -- pronounced N-bic). Mike Roco, the man who has spear headed the National Nanotechnology Initiative over the past decade, is now targeting the NSF's attention on creating a similiar initiative to understand how NBIC technologies will create new tools to enhance human performance.

I have grouped the examples used in the Neurotechnology Program Announcement into their respective technology sector to show that all four of these areas are required for neurotechnology to fully develop. I have also tried to find links to relatively close examples of each technology for those who wish dive deeper. (Many of these technologies could fall into multiple categories. For example, drug delivery systems are likely to require nanobiotechnology for significant breakthroughs to emerge.)

Neurotechnology Program Research Objectives

This program seeks to enable neuroscience and behavioral research by soliciting research and development of novel tools and approaches for the study of the development, structure, and function of the brain. Technologies that are appropriate include: hardware, software, and wetware (and combinations of thereof) that would be used to study the brain or behavior in basic or clinical research.

1. Nanocrystals or quantum dots covalently bonded to neural receptor ligands
2. Microfluidic systems for in-vivo spatial and temporal delivery of biomolecules
3. Microelectromechanical systems (MEMS) used for monitoring neurons
4. Nanoelectromechanical systems (NEMS) used for monitoring neurons
5. Amplifiers for mice to record neural activity from many neurons
6. Non-invasive optical imaging instruments
7. Tools for detection of acute neurological events
8. Improved electrodes, microcomputer interfaces, and microcircuitry

Information Technology
1. Software to translate neuroimaging data from one data format into another
2. Algorithms for understanding human neuroimaging data
3. Tools for real-time analysis of neurophysiological events
4. Dynamic monitors of intracranial pressure and spinal fluid composition
5. Devices for non-invasive diagnosis and precise identification of pathogens
6. Tools, technologies and algorithms for neuroprosthesis development
7. Non-invasive tools to assess damage, monitor function in brain tissue
8. Tools for data mining into genomics and proteomics of the nervous system

1. Proteome analysis arrays, proteome data storage, analysis of proteome data
2. Genetic approaches to study structure or function of neural circuits in animals
3. Biosensors that would be selectively activated by neurochemicals
4. Delivery systems for drugs, gene transfer vectors, and cells
5. Probes of brain gene expression that can be imaged non-invasively
6. Genetic approaches to manipulate or monitor synaptic activity
7. Tools for intervention and prevention of acute neurological events

Cognitive Science
1. Non-invasive methods for in-vivo tracking of implanted cells
2. Tools to enhance visualization of specific brain markers
3. New methods to study neural connectivity in living or post mortem brain,
4. Tools for early-warning detection of imminent seizure activity
5. Methods to facilitate high-throughput analysis of behavior
6. Tools for therapeutic electrical stimulation for rehabilitation

Just as previous techno-economic waves have been driven by the convergence of multiple technologies from different sectors, so too will the neurotechnology wave. To understand how our emerging neurosociety may take shape, it is critical to understand how the NBIC convergence will drive the neurotechnology wave.

All thoughts and comments welcome. If there is a request I will start a NBIC wiki for those who are interested.

Comments (3) | Category: NBIC 03-04-05

November 16, 2003

How Hard is Drug Development? HARD

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Posted by Zack Lynch

Derek Lowe explains from personal experience that innovation in drug development isn't easy:

"And it's not like there aren't plenty of highs and lows in what we're pleased to call "normal" drug discovery. It should be enough.

But it isn't, not always. These roll-the-dice ideas keep occuring to me, and some of them just seem to have to be tried out. It's hard dealing with the results, which (so far) have been relentlessly negative. That goes for this current idea, which is a little over a year old, and for the ones I've had in past years. None of the really good ones have worked, not one. And that bothers me, as it would bother anyone. But I think, eventually, it would bother me more if I never tried. Here goes, again.

From all of us who will eventually benefit from your years of hard work, I'd like to say thank you and make a toast to you as a future famous man.

Comments (0) | Category: Neuropharma

November 14, 2003

Selling Your Mind?

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Posted by Zack Lynch

Jonathon Keats, a San Francisco Artist, recently sold a futures contract on his mind. Here is how it worked, he filed with the United States Copyright Office for intellectual property protection on his mind.

Because Title 17 of the United States Code stipulates that copyright "endures for a term consisting of the life of the author and 70 years after the author's death", experts have calculated that Jonathon Keats's mind will survive, legally speaking, for precisely seven decades after his body stops working. In order to exploit this opportunity, he will transfer all intellectual property rights to the Jonathon Keats Holding Company immediately upon his death. Operating expenses for the Holding Company will be covered by the sale of Keats's brain.

On October 23rd, aninitial public offering of futures contracts on his brain sold options on an unexpected 71,000,000 neurons. At a strike price of one cent per unit, those contracts alone could net $710,000, upon the artist's death, enough money, some believe, to fund his recently-declared bid for immortality, an enterprise described in this prospectus.

As part of the due diligence process Keats visited the Memory and Aging Center at the University of California at San Francisco, where he had functional MRIs done on his brain while he sat thinking about art, truth and beauty. The 45 resulting pictures of Keats' brain were on the walls of the gallery, in part to assure potential investors that they are making a solid financial decision.

Investors included neurologists, economists and roboticists. One speculator, Jeremiah Benjamin Stewart of Oakland, CA, even made a $10 profit when he resold a contract for 1,000,000 neurons to George Coates of Berkeley, CA for $20 (plus the Board of Trade's 10 percent transfer fee). As the neurons optioned thus far represent a mere 1.18 percent of the 6 billion available, active trading at Modernism is expected to continue for at least the next several decades.

I wonder what the Center for Cognitive Liberty & Ethics and fellow Corante Copyfight blogger Donna Wentworth thinks of this?

Thanks to Craig for pointing this out.

Comments (1) | Category: Neuromarketing

November 13, 2003

My 1st Bloggiversary

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Posted by Zack Lynch

Without realizing it, I blew past my 1st blogging birthday last month.

Here was my first post which is the question I continue to spend all my time contemplating.

A link to my first Corante posts covering the NBIC conference.

A link to my favorite post, Stretch Now! (thanks to Nick Shulz for reminding me.)

A happy bloggiversary to Steven Johnson who guest blogged on Brain Waves (here and here) on his soon to be released book, Mind Wide Open.

Lastly, thanks to Ross for getting me to blog in the first place.

So here is my bloggiversary gift to all of you: An AntCam from England and more amazing illusions courtesy of Akiyoshi Kitaoka in Japan.

Comments (2) | Category: X-tra

Mind Movement

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Posted by Zack Lynch

Click on the following to witness an amazing illusion, that's real.

NOTE: Click here for an explanation of this illusion - Thanks David

Comments (80) | Category: Mental Health Issues

November 12, 2003

Yes, Your Brain is Very Complex

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Posted by Zack Lynch

Today's pharmacological solutions for mental illnesses fall short because we still don't grasp the true complexity of the human brain. Synesthesia research highlights this point perfectly.

Until fairly recently, many scientists (not Richard Cytowic) believed that the information gathered by each of the senses — touch, sight, hearing, smell and taste — was processed in separate areas of the brain. However, new research from Yale on synesthesia is now revealing that there is a complex interaction between the senses in the brain—an interaction that enables us to understand the world in a unified way.

From Yale: "A common type of synesthesia is “colored-hearing.” People with this condition see specific colors in their “mind’s eye” when they hear words, letters or numbers spoken out loud. For the blind people with colored hearing, the meaning of a word, rather than its sound alone, seems to be important. For example, when the word “March” was used in a sentence to mean a particular month of the year, one volunteer saw a “dark greeny blue” color. But when he heard the same word used as a verb (“The soldiers march across the bridge.”) he did not see a color."

Highlighting the brain's complexity more, Sandra Blakesly in "How Does the Brain Work?" describes the complexity of just the neocortex...."Stretched flat, the human neocortex — the center of our higher mental functions — is about the size and thickness of a formal dinner napkin. With 100 billion cells, each with 1,000 to 10,000 synapses, the neocortex makes roughly 100 trillion connections and contains 300 million feet of wiring packed with other tissue into a one-and-a-half-quart volume in the brain.

She goes on, "But how to put it back together? How to understand something so complex by examining it piecemeal? Even harder, how to integrate the different levels of analysis? Some brain events occur in fractions of milliseconds while others, like long-term memory formation, can take days or weeks. One can study molecules, ion channels, single neurons, functional areas, circuits, oscillations and chemistry."

It is for this reason that the Human Brain Project remains a critical component in helping us understand how all of these different pieces fit together, giving rise to consciousness itself.

Comments (9) | Category: Mental Health Issues

November 11, 2003

Culture Will Drive Neurotechnology

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Posted by Zack Lynch

As I mentioned in my letter to President Bush, neurotechnology will more profoundly impact humanity in a much nearer time frame than genetic engineering for several reasons. One important reason is culture.

To get a sense of the resistance genetic engineering faces, just look at Germany and France’s 1997 decision to categorically ban human genetic engineering, labeling it “an attack on human dignity and a violation of our right to an unaltered gene pool.” And these countries are not alone. The European Union’s current ban on genetically modified food highlights the deep opposition to the permanent nature of genetic engineering. Neurotechnology does not face similar roadblocks.

First generation neurotechnologies in the form of pharmaceuticals for depression, anxiety, and schizophrenia are already widely accepted. In fact, France, a beacon of western cultural concern and major opponent to any form of genetic engineering, has one of the highest number of pharmaceutical prescriptions per person in the world.

Clearly, in the minds of the masses, there is an important difference between technologies that permanently alter humans and tools whose influence is only temporary.

Comments (1) | Category: Neuroesthetics

November 10, 2003

Meeting of the Real Minds

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Posted by Zack Lynch

The 33rd annual meeting of the Society for Neuroscience is halfway through its six day program. With over 34,000 members, the Society for Neuroscience represents all the hard working individual scientists and companies that spend each day driving the neurotechnology wave into existence.

Here is a brief overview of some of the sessions so far:

1. Congratulations to Bernice Grafstein, recipient of the Women in Neuroscience lifetime achievement award. Also, congratulations to Carol Barnes, the new President of SfN.

2. Odor Maps and Odor Codes: Odor detection in the nose is mediated by 1,000 diverse odorant receptors in humans. Odor is quite important. Sounds like progress on the sensoceutical front.

3. Neuroethics: An Uncertain Future by Donald Kennedy, Editor-in-Chief, Science. This is important as thought reading devices continue to advance.

4. Other Amazing Advances: love and neuroeconomics, addiction, false memories, chronic pain, simulating neurons, international neuroscience, and one extra for you music lovers.

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November 7, 2003

Neurotechnology is Macro-Disruption

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Posted by Zack Lynch

Yesterday I met with fellow Corante blogger Renee Hopkins in SF. She reminded me what a macro-scale disruption neurotechnology represents. I recommend reading her most recent thoughts on innovation and disruption at Idea Flow.

It's All Relative -- IS Chapter Two

Here's another one of those counterintuitive statements that, once you think about it, seems perfectly obvious -- "Few technologies or business ideas are intrinsically sustaining or disruptive in character. Rather, their disruptive impact must be molded into strategy as managers shape the idea into a plan and then implement it." Those who would argue for a process view of innovation already undestand this. Innovation is relative to the context in which it occurs.

And even the type of innovation is contextually relative -- "an idea that is disruptive for one business may be sustaining to another."

This chapter also introduces a third contextual dimension to the disruptive innovation model introduced in Dilemma. In this dimension lie the contexts of consumption and competition that give rise to two different kinds of disruptions -- new-market disruptions in which the new technology, service, or product is aimed at introducing new people into the market, and low-end disruptions that attack the least-profitable and most overserved customers.

I still love the endnotes in this book. Check this out from page 70, in a long note pointing out how wrong people were who complained that Dilemma was flawed because sometimes an industry leader manages to avoid being killed by a disruptive competitor. The authors' response: "When we see an airplane fly, it does not disprove the law of gravity."

Links to Innovator's Solution resources

Her chapter 1 thoughts. And for those who are interested in placing a bet on innovation, MIT Technology Review just launched an Innovation Prediction game. Good luck!

Comments (0) | Category: Neurosociety

November 5, 2003

SF/Bay Area Talk: The Job Boom & The Neurotechnology Wave

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Posted by Zack Lynch

The Digital Moose Lounge is hosting an evening of two talks about the future of technology and society on Tuesday, November 18, at Fenwick & West in Mountain View.

Event Details (from the DML website):

"DML is lucky to have 2 extraordinary minds available to us to present their research findings, conclusions and futuristic ideas at this Business Moose presentation… So, whether you’re in HiTech, BioTech, AnyTech or NoTech, this is a not-to-be-missed event – unless you plan on retiring tomorrow…

Paul Kaihla, senior writer at Business 2.0 magazine, will explore his September cover story, “The Coming Job Boom.” He has fascinating insights into what the future could hold for the technology sectors in Silicon Valley and beyond.

Zack Lynch is an internationally known author with an amazing ability to express futuristic ideas in the language of today. He will talk about The Next Big Wave – Neurotechnology. It is described as any technology that makes it possible to manipulate the brain.

Come with an open mind and be amazed, maybe get scared a bit, but just be happy being part of an exclusive group that has the opportunity to be prepared for whatever the future may hold…"

6.00 – 7.00pm: Registration, food, drinks and new friends.
7.00 – 9.00pm: Presentations and Q&A
9.00 – 9.30pm: Nightcaps and interactions with presenters

Cost: $20.00 (includes all food and beverages). RSVP early as space is limited.

Sponsors include: Fenwick & West with great Canadian beer from Labatt and soft drinks from Clearly Canadian.

See you there.

Comments (0) | Category: X-tra

November 4, 2003

Neurotechnology Enables More Effective Communication

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Posted by Zack Lynch

As the information technology wave continues its impressive course of capturing and displaying complex information, we are quickly reaching a time where socially filtered, instant information will arrive to each of us in real-time. Recent advances in wearable computers, like glasses that can boost memory by up to 50%, are just one of many innovations to come.

Obtaining information will no longer be our primary constraint as a global civilization. Instead, knowing how, when, why, and for what purpose to use information will be. To be able to absorb, reflect and effectively use instant information, individuals will need to develop new social capabilities.

Social processes like consensus building, value orientation and developmental conversations will require professionals to help individuals live and work in an always-on, always-available world. This will create a tremendous need for social facilitators (today's teachers, managers, psychologists, and psychiatrists are some examples) to help people learn the social interaction skills needed to live and work productively.

Emotional efficiency will become a primary focus in this new era. With 5 of the 10 leading causes of disability being mental problems, there is plenty of space for improvement. Neurotechnology will play an important role in defining mental illnesses while neuroceuticals will be part of the toolset that people use compete in an ever more emotional acute world.

After all, the end game is not just better information, but communication that is relevantly directed, truthfully understood and consciously co-created.

Comments (3) | Category: Neurofinance

November 3, 2003

The Brainy Scientist

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Posted by Zack Lynch

This week's "The Scientist" contains several relevant articles for neurotechnology.

Here are the highlights:

1. Numbers on the Brain breaks down the public and private funding initiatives supporting the $60B neuroscience/pharmacology market.

2. Cutting Neurons Down to Size details the latest research into how and why connections among neurons go through a process of self-pruning in early child development. Neuroscientists have known about neural pruning for decades, where synaptic density peaks from ages 1 to 2, declines until age 16, and then levels off. Experts predict that sorting out how pruning works might eventually help in understanding epilepsy, neurodegenerative diseases, mental retardation, autism, and schizophrenia.

3. fMRI The Perfect Imperfect Instrument covers how most investigators rely on the fMRI method that uses a blood oxygenation level-dependent (BOLD) contrast. The signal arises from changes in magnetic characteristics of blood related to differences in the relative amounts of oxygenated and deoxygenated hemoglobin. Though many researchers correlate blood flow to neural activity, the connection hasn't been solidly determined.

4. Caution: Brain Working further deconstructs fMRI. This has important implications for cognitive related experiments that depend on fMRI. fMRI suffers from poor temporal resolution which means it is impossible to segregate the different stages of how during conversions words and their meaning are differentiated. For this reason, language experts like Peter Hagoort use fMRI in combination with electroencephalography (EEG) and magnetoencephalography (MEG) in his efforts to identify those stages.

5. It's Neuron's Time describes how scientists are taking the first stabs at answering at least one part of the question, how the brain perceives time. A recent University of Washington study was the first to document how neurons in primates track time from one instant to the next. Timing is a subject of increasing interest, because it's important in learning. Learning skilled movements, for instance, involves internalizing their sequences and timing.

The Take Away: All these articles show that we are suffering from a brain imaging bottleneck.

Peter Hagoort's quote sums it up nicely, "Many neuroscientists dream of a "more perfect" instrument, one that will combine the spatial sensitivity of fMRI with the millisecond temporal acuity of EEG or MEG, but it is difficult to predict what such an already rapidly changing technology will look like in 10 or 20 years."

That timing seems just about right to me.

Comments (2) | Category: Neurodiagnostics