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.
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Brain Waves

Monthly Archives

January 29, 2004

Forbes List of Neurological Drugs to Watch

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Posted by Zack Lynch

Forbes has a nice overview of seven neurological drugs that are in mid to late stage clinical trials:

Multiple sclerosis Late-stage - Antegren - Biogen Idec, Elan
Alzheimer's disease Mid-stage - Clioquinol - Prana Biotech
Alzheimer's disease Mid-stage - CX516 - Cortex Pharma
Depression, urinary incontinence Late-stage - Duloxetine - Lilly
Epilepsy, neuropathic pain, anxiety Late-stage - Pregabalin - Pfizer
Smoking addiction Late-stage - Varenicline - Pfizer

Comments (0) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Mental Health Issues

January 28, 2004

Stanford Alumni Ponder Our Emerging Neurosociety

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Posted by Zack Lynch

When I first started to write about our emerging neurosociety, I thought about starting the book off with a couple of fictional accounts of how individuals across different walks of life would live in a world permeated by neurotechnology. I still have those stories, and they are becoming more real to me each day.

In this month's Stanford Alumni magazine, Joan Hamilton ponders a very similiar future in if they could read your mind. Here is part of her fictional account:

September 12, 2028. Your Local University.

Jean Perry brushes lint off Nick’s blue blazer as they sit down before a gray-haired gentleman in tweeds. This is Nick’s freshman pharmaceutical review board hearing, and Dr. Better is checking Nick’s file. “I have your application here for an Enhancement prescription,” says Dr. Better, “but with .”

“Yes. I’m willing to do that.”

“Doctor,” says Jean, “Nick has never shown any violent tendencies. We just want him to have access to all the same study-aid drugs the other students do.”

“Of course, Mrs. Perry. I believe that will be fine. Now, on another subject, I do have good news. We have reviewed Nick’s learning-sensitivity scans, and we have approved that he be tracked in our more symbolic curriculum.”
your violent tendencies profile, we’ll have to ask you to agree to regular brain scans if we give you something like Ritalin-3 or Focusalin

While I think that Joan's projections are a bit off (by that I mean cogniceuticals to improve learning will be around long before 2028), I still found her wanderings into our future worthy. Read the rest of the article to see what happens on November 30, 2056 at your local hospice.

Comments (0) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Neurosociety

January 27, 2004

Wake Up Drivers!

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Posted by Zack Lynch

As I predicted early last year, Provigil (short for promotes vigilance) was just approved for use by U.S. regulators to market its narcolepsy drug to truck drivers and others whose work shifts make it difficult to stay awake on the job.

Note: the "others" category is quite large.

Good bye coffee, hello Provigil.

Comments (0) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Neuropharma

Transition Game - Sports for the Enabled

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Posted by Zack Lynch

Nick Schultz, editor of Tech Central Station, has launched a new Corante blog called Transition Game that will look at the broad impact that new science and technology is having on the evolution of sport.

Says Nick: "Think about it: aluminum bats in baseball, performance enhancing drugs in all sports, the shift from wood to graphite rackets in tennis, the use of instant replay in football, juiced clubs and balls in golf and the need to Tiger-proof courses, the list goes on..."

Nick will be tackling some important issues that have been covered from time to time on Brain Waves. In particular, he'll cover issues like, how far athletes will go to succeed, is it enablement or enhancement, and the right to pursue biohappiness.

Pat Kane's Brain Waves column -- to the victor, the paradoxes -- is right up Nick's alley. While Wrye and Richard's concerns about cognitive liberty and neuroethics provide deep fodder for his analysis.

I look forward to Nick tackling issues like human performance enhancement, our growing enhancement culture, and ultimately, taking on the most important battle of all -- the battle for your mind.

While a recent NYTimes Magazine cover article In Pursuit of Doped Excellence was a nice primer on athletic enhancement, Nick's analysis has already proven to be deeper and more insightful. (and doesn't cost $1.60) Just read his reaction to the politics of steriod use, athletes and uncertainty, and today's post on the NBA.

Let the games begin!

Comments (2) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Neuroethics

January 23, 2004

Anthroscopes Improve Team Productivity

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Posted by Zack Lynch

No theory yet exists to explain why or how groups perform optimally, but this hasn't stopped researchers at a Sandia National Laboratories' Advanced Concept Group from trying to map the characteristics that correlate to “personal-best” performances.

Using all commerically available components, the team has created an anthroscope, called PAL. This anthroscope monitors your perspiration and heartbeat, reads your facial expressions and head motions, analyzes your voice tones, and correlate these to keep you informed with a running account of how you are feeling. It also will transmit this information to others in your group so that everyone can work together more effectively.

Technologies used in the project included — accelerometers to measure motion, face-recognition software, EMGs to measure muscle activity, EKGs to measure heart beat, blood volume pulse oximetry to measure oxygen saturation, a Pneumotrace™ respiration monitor to measure breathing depth and rapidity.

Preliminary results on five people interacting in 12 sessions beginning Aug. 18 indicate that personal sensor readings caused lower arousal states, improved teamwork and better leadership in longer collaborations. A lowered arousal state — the amount of energy put into being aware — is preferable in dealing competently with continuing threat.

“In 2004 we intend to integrate simultaneous four-person 128-channel EEG recording,” says team leader Peter Merkle, “correlating brain events, physiologic dynamics, and social phenomena to develop assistive methods to improve group and individual performance.”

Check out the video of the anthroscope in action.

As discussed in Forecasting Happiness and Understand Emotions, Become Profitable, it sure looks like it won't be long before Wall Street traders start using anthroscopes to understand how their feelings impact their trading effectiveness.

Update: It is important to note that this technology is being developed for national security purposes. (see the Augmenting Cognition Program for more on this). Teams like intel opcenters, security monitoring centers at sites, and combat opcenters special teams. These are people who are willing to give up some personal privacy in exchange for privilege of serving others.

Note: For those of you that are interested, Sandia is supporting a $50,000 graduate fellowship to study the neurology of learning processes under the Caltech Campus Executive program.

Comments (5) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Neurofinance

January 22, 2004

Acknowledge "Mind Wide Open"

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Posted by Zack Lynch

Steven Johnson's latest book, Mind Wide Open: Your Brain and the Neuroscience of Everyday Life, has hit the book stores in force. As I mentioned several months ago when I had the opportunity to proof it for him, BUY MIND WIDE OPEN!

To get a sense of what you will get, check out Steven's Brain Waves guest blogs What Were You Thinking? and Attention Please, May We Please Have Your Attention!. Better yet check out his website where he introduces Mind Wide Open.

Speaking of great books, Marginal Revolution has a nice post on the best non-fiction books of the 20th Century. Two books not on any of these lists but should have been are:

1. The Coming of the Post-Industrial Society: A Venture into Social Forecasting (1973) by Daniel Bell. Decades later his prescient analysis of our "post-industrial" society has been used by prominent individuals like Margaret Thatcher, President Clinton and the Unabomber to explain our current world.

2. Guns, Germs and Steel: The Fate of Human Societies (1997) by Jared Diamond. Reaching back to the dawn of human civilization, Diamond uses his deep knowledge of historical biogeography to provide a fresh perspective on some very old questions.

Congrats Steven! And for all of you who buy MWO check out the acknowledgements for some familiar names.

Comments (16) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Mental Health Issues

January 20, 2004

NBIC 2004 Conference - My Talk will Cover Neuroethics

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Posted by Zack Lynch

I'll be speaking at the NBIC Convergence For Improving Human Performance conference to be held in NYC from February 25-27.

NBIC, pronounced N-bic, stands for the convergence of nanotechnology, information technology, biotechnology and cognitive science. My talk will focus on the legal and ethical implications of NBIC, and how NBIC relates to neurotechnology.

The 2004 conference is a continuation of many of the discussion that took place at UCLA. (NBIC 2003 coverage).

Other talks will cover:
-Converging physical and human dimensions: Brain and Mind
-Converging technologies for the developing world
-Cognitive technology and NBIC
-Collaboration on converging technologies: Education and Practice
-Transforming tools of NBIC
-Integration of drug delivery and artificial tissue
-Biosystems and NBIC
-Neuroscience and NBIC
-NBIC impacts on organizations and business
-Multidisciplinary cooperation opportunities and challenges
-How to move convergence forward

This year's conference is co-chaired by Drs. Mihail C. Roco and William Sims Bainbridge. Join Wrye Sententia (CCLE), Nobel Prize winning memory researcher Eric Kandel (Columbia), Arthur Caplan (Penn. State), and James Canton (Inst. for Global Futures), among others for what should be some very interesting discussions.

Comments (0) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: NBIC 03-04-05

January 16, 2004

Neuroecology is Psycho-biogeography

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Posted by Zack Lynch

Update 8/8/04: I'm adding this link to the real definition of neuroecology for all of those who come to this site via search engines looking for information on neuroecology.

New Year's Eve day I was walking through UCLA's sculpture garden when I ran into my first college professor, Hartmut Walter, Professor of Biogeography. Harmut has spent over 30 years trying to answer questions like:

-- How do species persist?
-- How do they avoid extinction?
-- At what point will a species distribution area hasten extinction processes?
-- How can biogeography aid endangered species conservation?

Conserving biological diversity has always been at the heart of his research, as well as a deep interest of mine. During our discussion, Harmut shared his latest realization with me, namely that unless we include human perceptions of the natural ecology into the conservation equations, we will inevitably fail to halt species extinction. Like a true geographer, Harmut is now focused on bringing place back into biogeography.

At its core, geography is the study of place. So while economists study economic theories, economic geographers, like my graduate advisor Allen Scott, analyze economic history to understand the complexity of factors that allow certain economic regions to thrive and others to wilt.

A newly emerging discipline within geography is psychogeography. Psychogeography is concerned with the human perception of place and how it changes over time. In a way, what Hartmut is trying to do is meld psychogeography with biogeography, creating in effect, psycho-biogeography.

As I sat through the neuroesthetics conference last weekend, I was thinking of my conversation with Harmut and realized that there was a further step that needs to be taken in order to bring humans into the conservation solution.

Whereas neuroesthetics uses the latest brain imaging and genetic analysis techniques to understand the neural basis of artistic creativity and achievement, the same techniques could be used to get a more scientific understanding of our perception of nature. And that's when I thought of the term, neuroecology.

Neuroecology uses neurotechnology to understand the neural basis of our perception and appreciation of the natural world.

As I thanked him that day for the rigorous introductory course in biogeography that he put me through, I was grateful for having crossed paths with him when I did. Biogeography solidified my basic understanding of ecological principles.

Update: Photo of Harmut and I this day (taken by my friend Ross)

Comments (2) | Category: Economic Geography

January 14, 2004

Future Pundit on Recent Brain Research

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Posted by Zack Lynch

Randall Parker has three recent posts that are worth reviewing:

1. Researchers find key gene for evolution of intelligence

2. Stanford researchers find evidence of memory suppression mechanism

3. Therapy vs. drugs for depression compared with brain scans


Comments (2) | Category: Cogniceuticals

January 12, 2004

Memory Erasure Inc. Goes Public

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Posted by Zack Lynch

Regret a past decision? Have a broken heart? Addicted to food?

A recently launched company claims to have "a simple, non-surgical technique to remove problem memories." Apparently, "the technique deconstructs memory from its core making a relapse virtually impossible."

While Hollywood stretches its imagination to shock society with the concept of memory erasure in futuristic films, like Paycheck with Ben Affleck and Jim Carrey's Eternal Sunshine and the Spotless Mind, reality seems to be in hot pursuit.

Regardless of this company's claims, do you have the "right to erase your memories"?

While freedom of speech (and the right not to speak) is protected by the U.S. Constitution, freedom of thought is not explicity protected. So, do U.S. citizens have the right to erase their memories? Is freedom of thought a fundamental human right?

What if Andrew Fastow, Enron's CFO, erased his memory? Would this be good for business, let alone society? How would you be able to trust anyone? Would people (or companies and governments) expect you to take a blood test or a brain scan to help determine your trustworthiness?

Who owns your memories? Do you have cognitive liberty or not? Clearly, the battle for your mind is heating up fast. (More neuroethics on Brain Waves)

Comments (10) | Category: Neuroethics

January 8, 2004

Brains for Lunch and Dinner

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Posted by Zack Lynch

Lunch: Casey and I had a wonderful lunch with Howard Fields at Zazie in Cole Valley. Howard leads the Wheeler Center for the Neurobiology of Addiction at UCSF. (a subject that fascinates many)

Casey got to know Howard during graduate school at UCSF, while I was fortunate enough to meet him at the Gruter conference on evolutionary biology and the law last year. (photo of Howard and I chatting with the late Margaret Gruter)

Meeting Howard at Gruter was a very special moment because I got to witness the amazing "light bulb" of innovation happen in real-time. It was during a neuroeconomics talk being given by Paul Glimcher and Paul Zak, when Howard stood up and shared with 60 of us how Paul's (both in this case) latest research findings on the neurobiology of economic decision-making had just sparked a whole new perspective on the addiction data he had been amassing for the past 20 years. Howard is now setting up a series of experiments that will help prove his hypothesis. More from Howard on his bar experiments in future Brain Waves.

It will take me while to absorb the other topics we discussed, like -- the connection between biochips, brain imaging and behavior; free will (or not); emotions (a poor categorization of behavior), and the problems with animal models in human CNS research.

Dinner: My brother Chris cooked and hosted, with his wonderful wife Christine, a fabulous Indonesian feast at their home in honor of Arlene Taylor . Arlene travels the world giving seminars on different aspects of the brain. She covers the gamut, from how to live authentically to music and the brain. Sharing in the celebration was Wrye Sententia from CCLE, Christina who came over from Budapest, and Deb. We laughed a lot about NBIC 2004, our emerging neurosociety and how to live without jet lag or hangovers.

Comments (1) | Category: Neurotech Industry

January 6, 2004

Emotions in Art and the Brain

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Posted by Zack Lynch

As I mentioned in cubism, camouflage and cultural change, art and "high culture" are important drivers of societal change. In the case of the neurotechnology wave, I believe this trend will hold true once again.

Today, the primary focus of those interested in understanding our emerging neurosociety is on how tools that enhance human cognitive and sensory performance will impact society. While I obviously agree that these are critical components to understand, I sense that the area of emotional enhancement or (enablement of more refined conditions of emotional stability, control and exploration) will prove to be the most powerful and historically unique driver of change in the decades to come.

Virginia Postrel, always trying to understand the pulse of planetary change, has already insightfully chronicled the power of aesthetics as a major economic driver in her most recent book, The Substance of Style: How the Rise of Aesthetic Value Is Remaking Commerce, Culture, and Consciousness. (Obviously, highly recommended)

The current obsession with cognition can be partially explained by the fact we still exist within the paradigm of the information technology wave, where information is the most valuable resource. Only by realizing how our own perception of future possibilities is clouded by the focus of today's tools, can one begin to get a sense of the emotional revolution that awaits humanity.

To explore this concept further I'll be attending (and blogging) The Institute for Neuroesthetics third annual conference at U.C. Berkeley on Emotions in Art and the Brain this coming weekend

Here is a list of some of the talks that I'll be blogging on next week:

The Brain, Emotion and Aesthetic Judgments -- Ray Dolan
Steps Toward an Evolutionary Psychology of Emotion -- Dan Fessler
Embodied Aesthetics: A Neuropsychological Perspective -- Arthur P. Shimamura
Emotion, Transformation Through Art and Neurological Coincidents -- Dennis M. Dake, A. M. Barry
Art, Emotion and the Brain: The Historical Dimension -- David Freedberg
On the Neurobiology of Creativity and Emotion -- Rosa-Aurora Chávez
The Techniques of Emotion -- Anna Winestein
The Self-Organizing Landscape and the Brain -- Robert Steinberg
The Neurophysiology of aesthetic experience -- William Seeley
The Neural Correlates of Love and Beauty -- Semir Zeki

Comments (2) | Category: Neuroesthetics

January 5, 2004

Cubism, Camouflage, and Cultural Change

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Posted by Zack Lynch

What do Picasso, a French telephone operator, and the British navy have in common?

Each used cubist-painting techniques to make objects in a field of vision appear to be equal in distance with their background. In doing so, they forever changed how people perceive space and also invented camouflage in the process.

While the Picasso made his breakthrough to Cubism in 1907, it wasn't until 1914 that Guirand de Scevola conceived of camouflage. Working as a telephone operator for a French artillery unit, de Scevola (a painter himself) realized that there was a way to conceal artillery guns using a net splashed with earth colors in a cubist manner. Quickly adopted by the French army, it took three more years for the British navy to devise a way of painting the sides of ships with geometric patterns to make them more difficult for German u-boat captains to judge a ship's distance and speed when looking at it through a periscope.

As Stephen Kern points out in The Culture of Time and Space 1880-1918, this example is not only intellectually interesting, but yields a deep insight into the nature of societal change. "In cultural histories the causal arrow usually runs from technology to culture. In the case of cubism and camouflage, however, it went the other way, from cubist art to war technology."

I am now entering the third year of researching and writing my book on Neurotechnology and Society. Having spent the first year exploring the underlying technologies and last year envisioning the political and economic impacts of neurotechnology, the end is in view.

My primary focus is now on art and culture. As the above example highlights -- even though technology is a primary initiator of change, it also operates within the walls of political and cultural contexts not completely of its making. Given this fact, I am sure that the thoughts uncovered over the next few months will provide further evidence of our emerging neurosociety.

I look forward to sharing my journey and complete vision with you in 2004.

Comments (4) | Category: Neuroesthetics