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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July 30, 2004

Knowledge Measurement Is Coming

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Posted by Zack Lynch

Knowledge management is a joke and search technologies are overrated.

It was about ten years ago that I really began to understand the adage, "you can't manage, what you can't measure." It was the early Internet days, when companies like CyberCash were promising micropayment systems for e-commerce, Yahoo was establishing the first search/portal system and supply-chain vendors like i2 Technologies were beginning to leverage TCP/IP to rearchitect information flow among disparate factory planning systems. It was then that I realized emerging knowledge management applications had (and still have) a fundamental flaw: they don't measure the value of information. Without knowledge valuation you can't have knowledge management.

To realize the productivity potential of information technologies will require information valuation. By historical analogy, it is as if we are in the middle of the industrial revolution and we don't know the cost and price of steel. Today we sit in the midst of the information revolution and still don't know the value of the most fundamental resource that drives our global economy: information. The benefits of the information revolution won't be realized until bottom-up, market-based valuation of daily information exchanges emerges.

Seven years ago, I shared this concept with Shanda Bahles of Eldorado Ventures. Three years later she gave me a call and asked me to come back in to explain what an information valuation system would look like to the partners. For the next six months Ross Mayfield and I worked day and night developing a business strategy for infecting the world with this technology. It was early 2001, and the venture investment community was, to say the least, not investing in "radical, unproven technologies." So we shelved our business plan. The world was not yet ready to value their time.

Several recent events make me think that the world might just be ready for information valuation. For example, the interest in using prediction markets and idea futures within companies to optimize resource allocation and sales forecasts are gaining momentum. While I still think it will be a few more years until robust systems are developed, I am more optimistic than ever that knowledge measurement systems will emerge. The reason is simple: search can only go so far.

Search technologies, no matter how sophisticated, can't capture the implicit value that humans inherently place on information and relationships. Today "search technologies" continue to command great attention and funding (Google) as "the solution" to the "info glut" problems that arise from working in an information economy.

While I won't go as far as to say that "search is dead," I certainly believe that in the next decade it will be relegated to a background function, as information valuation technologies allow simple, seamless ways for individuals to place a monetary value on every form of information they encounter each day. Bottom-up information valuation of highly nuanced information will enable markets in everything. In the process, information valuation will transform the future of work, organizational cultures, eliminate information overload, and finally make knowledge measurement (and thus management) a reality.

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

July 28, 2004

Is Perfection Impossible? A Case for Neuroliberty

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Posted by Zack Lynch

"Must we know drunkenness to know sobriety? Must you go through hate in order to know what it is to be compassionate? Must you go through wars, destroying yourself and others, to know what peace is? Surely, this is an utterly false way of thinking, is it not?

First you assume that there is evolution, growth, a moving from bad to good, and then you fit your thinking into that pattern. Obviously, there is physical growth, the little plant becoming the big tree; there is technological progress, the wheel evolving through centuries into the jet plane. But is there psychological progress, evolution? That is what we are discussing -whether there is a growth, an evolution of the "me," beginning with evil and ending up in good.

Through a process of evolution, through time, can the "me," which is the center of evil, ever become noble, good? Obviously not. That which is evil, the psychological "me," will always remain evil. But we do not want to face that. We think that through the process of time, through growth and change, the "I" will ultimately become reality. This is our hope, that is our longing -that the "I" will be made perfect through time.

What is this "I," this "me"? It is a name, a form, a bundle of memories, hopes, frustrations, longings, pains, sorrows, passing joys. We want this "me" to continue and become perfect, and so we say that beyond the "me" there is a "super-me," a higher self, a spiritual entity which is timeless, but since we have thought of it, that "spiritual" entity is still within the field of time, is it not? If we can think about it, it is obviously within the field of our reasoning."

-- Jiddu Krishnamurti.

This type of thinking has profound implications for neuroliberty...more on this in time.

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

July 26, 2004

Sarin Gas Neuroprotectant in Development

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Posted by Zack Lynch

Neurowarfare is a very real and growing threat. In an effort to accelerate new drugs and vaccines against potential bioterror weapons including anthrax, smallpox, plague and the Ebola virus, the House of Representatives approved last week a $5.6 billion anti- terrorism initiative called Project Bioshield.

While American's focus on bioweapons, other governments are making headway on new ways to stem deadly the impact of neuroweapons. This week at Singapore International Neuroscience Conference, researchers from DSO National Laboratories presented new findings that showed how epidural clonidine is used with two other drugs it can protect brain cells from being destroyed by nerve agents, like sarin gas. Preliminary tests showed that the combination reduces brain damage significantly and does not cause breathing complications, thus increasing survival rates, compared to the cocktail now used in situations like the 1995 sarin gas attack in Tokyo subways by members of Japanese cult Aum Shinrikyo.

As the Strait Times reports, "While the new combination has been shown to protect most of an affected person's brain cells even when administered as much as 40 minutes after he is poisoned by biochemicals...the potential downside is that it could lead to psychosis, a mental disorder where the person loses touch with reality, and lead to his being on medication for life." Given these complications, the researchers stated that it will take at least another six to eight years of testing to determine if the new combination should replace the existing one.

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

July 23, 2004

She19 - Inspiring Women to Vote

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Posted by Zack Lynch

Last night I attended a fundraiser for She19, a recently formed movement focused on getting more women to vote. Why? Check out these astounding stats:

22 Million unmarried women who were eligible to vote did not cast ballots in the election in 2000.
• If unmarried women voted at the same rate as married women, over six million more voters would have gone to the polls in 2000.
• 16 million unmarried women were not registered to vote in 2000.
• 56% of all women not registered to vote are unmarried.
• 46% of all voting-age women are unmarried.

The 19th amendment, ratified in 1920, guarantees all American women the right to vote. The fight for the amendment’s ratification took many years and composed of a variety of methods of protest. Woman suffrage supporters lectured, wrote, marched, lobbied, went to court, and practiced civil disobedience. Fierce opposition including verbal and physical abuse and imprisonment often confronted supporters.

Click here for a summary of that struggle or click here to buy a very cool t-shirt to help support the movement and to look very cool.

Comments (0) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: SF Focus

Neuroimaging Breakthrough - Magnetic Resonance Force Microscopy

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Posted by Zack Lynch

IBM Researchers have made a radical breakthrough in imaging sensitivity. The method is called magnetic resonance force microscopy (MRFM) and improves MRI sensitivity by some 10 million times compared to the medical MRI devices used to visualize organs in the human body. It is so sensitive that it can detect the faint magnetic signal from a single electron buried inside a solid sample. While applications on live human tissues, like the brain, are still speculative, this imaging breakthrough is an important step in non-invasive single neuron brain imaging. (read about other brain imaging breakthroughs, like those at MIT.

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

July 22, 2004

You Bet Emotions Matter - Just Remember LTCM

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Posted by Zack Lynch

Founded in 1993, Long Term Capital Management's team of financial superstars included Myron Scholes and Robert Merton who were awarded the Nobel Prize in economics in 1997 for their work on derivatives and financial risk analysis. Back by a world-class team of financial wizards and supported by the latest mathematical modeling supercomputers, LTCM quickly became a major global playeri n relative value trading.

In the summer of 1998, however, LTCM’s reliance on mathematical models almost brought the entire global financial system to its knees. Among the many mistakes LTCM made, they did not take into consideration the emotional responses that financial trader’s would make in stressful situations. According to their models, and standard economic theory, a bond that is too cheap should attract buyers. Following this logic, they would buy contracts at very low prices in order to increase the spread that they would receive when selling the contract in the future.

As LTCM later admitted, their models were not fully aware of market price dynamics. In fact, in a “skittish” market, lower prices can actually act to repel buyers as they avoid becoming involved with more potentially painful situations. This failure represented such a profound threat that the Federal Reserve found it necessary to help organize the effort to forestall LTCM’s bankruptcy.

The lesson from LTCM is clear
; people are not the rational actors standard economic theory would make them out to be. Instead, our emotional reactions to future events play an important role in our decisions. While there has been a longstanding controversy in economics as to whether financial markets are governed by rational forces or by emotional responses, neuroeconomists have recently shown that emotions profoundly influence the decision-making process. This is the essence of neurofinance.

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

July 20, 2004

Forecasting the Neurosociety

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Posted by Zack Lynch

I have spent the past few weeks writing a chapter on neuropolicy for a book on converging technologies. Here is a small excerpt about the model I use to understand our emerging neurosociety:

"If forecasting a specific event or potential success of a new technology is difficult, then how can we confidently conceptualize the ways that converging technologies will impact society? Most attempts at long-term social forecasting fall short because they extrapolate isolated technical advances occurring in one or two industries with little regard to other equally powerful agents of change.

While technology is a primary initiator of societal change, it also coevolves within a socio-cultural landscape not completely of its own making. Effective social forecasting on the scale of decades involves developing qualitative scenarios that are informed by the historical interplay of technology, economics, politics and culture while remaining open to novel future conditions and combinations.

The model I use to understand the societal implications of converging technologies is not reductionist. Instead it is a way of ordering and examining historical processes in order to illuminate some recurrent tendencies that can be used to understand our past, present and future. The roots of this model grow out of the observations made by the Russian economist Nikolai Kondratieff and the Austrian economist Joseph Schumpeter who in 1920s and 1930s described half-century long waves of economic growth and decline reaching back to the 1700s. In more recent decades, economic historians Chris Freeman and Carlota Perez have expanded the model to encompass political and social trends through to the current information revolution. I extend this model further in order to understand the neurotechnology wave (2010-2060).

Here is what W. Brian Arthur, Citibank Professor at Santa Fe Institute thinks of the model that Perez has developed:

‘Before I read this book I thought that the history of technology was – to borrow Churchill’s phrase – merely “one damned thing after another”. Not so. Carlota Perez shows us that historically technological revolutions arrive with remarkable regularity, and that economies react to them in predictable phases. Her argument provides much needed perspective not just on history, but on our own times. And especially on our own information revolution.’

Comments (0) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: NeuroWave 2050

Stuck in the Information Age

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Posted by Zack Lynch

For the third time in 18 months I've had a serious computer problem. If you've sent me an email in the past 5 days, please resend. I'm getting pretty close to heading over to the tastier side of IT. I think it's time to stretch and uplift myself.

Comments (0) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: X-tra

July 16, 2004

Uplifting Illusions

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Posted by Zack Lynch

Heads up on a great idea and some fun for the weekend.

Comments (0) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: X-tra

20% of School Children Have Mental Health Problems

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Posted by Zack Lynch

According to a recently released report in Pediatrics, more than 20% of children and adolescents have mental health problems. The report goes on to suggest, "Health care professionals for children and adolescents must educate key stakeholders about the extent of these problems and work together with them to increase access to mental health resources. School-based programs offer the promise of improving access to diagnosis of and treatment for the mental health problems of children and adolescents. Pediatric health care professionals, educators, and mental health specialists should work in collaboration to develop and implement effective school-based mental health services.

It will be interesting to see how this stastic is used in support of President Bush's soon to be announced National Mental Health Agenda.

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

July 15, 2004

The Play Ethic and Our Emerging Neurosociety

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Posted by Zack Lynch

Brain Wave's guest blogger Pat Kane, author of "The Play Ethic: Living Creatively in the New Century," has been neofiled. I highly recommend reading his interview and buying his book about the future of work which he suggests will be...well, fun. Here is one of the pieces he wrote a while back:

By Pat Kane

[As promised, Pat Kane, author of the forthcoming book "The Play Ethic: Living Creatively in the New Century (MacMillan 2004), is guest-blogging on Brain Waves this week as Zack Lynch begins the heavy lifting of writing a book of his own.]

It’s a delight to be in this space, as I’ve been an admirer of Zack’s diligent and intelligent blogging for a while now. But it’s perhaps best to start by explaining why a social commentator and musician/consultant/activist like myself, with at best a fan-boy enthusiasm for the Third Culture crossover between humanities and science - is interested in the issue of "neurosociety" (never mind neuro-sociology).

Zack's entry on the neurophysiology of laughter and humour was the main point of contact with my own interest, expressed in my website and forthcoming book The Play Ethic. The title started out as a kind of pun on Max Weber's notion of the Protestant Work Ethic, but has expanded into a multidisciplinary passion for understanding human play in all its forms, traditions and conditions.

One of the reasons I turn to cutting edge mind-science - and admittedly to its more dynamical and emergent than determinist models - is that I'm always trying to unsettle the reductive model of human nature and its capacities implied by the "work ethic", particularly as deployed by opportunist politicians and other neo-Puritan miserables. To be "at play and in play" is not only to have a mentality that is far more suited to a knowledge-intensive information economy: but it's also to deliberately embrace the essential abundance of human consciousness.

The "ethics" of play then become an answer to the old question stated in the 1968 edition of the Whole Earth Review: "We are gods, and we might as well get good at it." This is a world which is ever more constitutively "open" and up for grabs - whether in terms of what Zack calls the "nano-bio-info-cogno" realm of transformative technosciences, or the extreme fluidity of our globalised markets and cultures. Can we become "ethical players" of all these possibilities - rather than cynical manipulators of them, or defeated and angry victims?

So one reason for me to be interested in Zack's agenda is precisely in the area of the cognitive capacity and emotional evolution of the ethical player. (The wisdom contained in the "technologies of self" we often call spiritual traditions - see Francisco Varela and Erik Davis - is another agenda worth exploring). To cope with this carnival universe that we've made, is it enough - as the some evolutionary psychologists would tell you - to rely on the old hominid responses: that repetoire of savannah inheritances, tragic and comic, that have become a consoling pop-science myth for so many people?

Or can we begin to explore, as so much of Zack's linking does, the scary but exciting area of neurosocial innovation? Might carefully-calibrated drugs open new doors of perception, enabling players to participate in all the ramifying games and strategies of information societies, rather than recoil from its chaos and complexity? Certainly, in a society where play became a mainstream rather than a marginal practice, the inhibitions on pursuing cognitive and somatic enhancement would be much reduced, particularly in terms of research investment. (In one of my own specialist areas - music - the relationship between craft, technology, innovation, consciousness and, er, "neuroceuticals" (well, that's one word for them) has long been explored in practice: I hope to pick that up, among other themes, over the next few days).

Any comments and questions, I'd be very happy to receive them.

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

July 13, 2004

Yahoo! $25M for UCLA's Neuropsychiatric Institute

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Posted by Zack Lynch

Terry Semel, CEO of Yahoo! and his wife recently donated $25 million to UCLA's Neuropsychiatric Institute, making it one the nation's largest gifts solely directed toward the study of the brain.

The Institute has a twofold purpose: to cure brain disease and to help prevent it, shared the institute's director Peter Whybrow. "We want to help not only brain diseases – such as Alzheimer's disease and schizophrenia – but we also want to learn how to minimize it and to teach people how to be good custodians of their health." Whybrow said. Many of the problems society faces today, such as anxiety disorders and obesity, arise from a "demand-driven environment," he added.

The institute is among the largest in the world, with 700 clinical faculty, 1,300 staff members and operating revenues of more than $200 million.

Comments (0) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Brain Foundations

Think and It Shall Be Done

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Posted by Zack Lynch

The Boston Globe's Carey Goldberg reports today on a novel non-invasive technique that allows individuals to "Literally" turn thoughts into actions. The pioneering technique developed by Seung-Schik Yoo and detailed in this week's NeuroReport used an fMRI scanner to analyze the activity of volunteers' brains and translate it into moves they could make in a maze.

Yoo and his colleagues began the experiment by doing a bit of brain-mapping on the subjects, determining which areas most ''lit up" during the different kinds of thought. They then linked the pattern for each type of thought to computer control of the cursor. ''What we do is translate thought into distinct categories and, amazingly, we can do that," he said. ''We can detect classes of thought." And that is only the beginning, he said. He said he believes it is possible to detect 20 or more classes of thought, enough to allow a patient to move a cursor on a virtual typewriter.

But don't expect great things like mind reading anytime soon suggested Stanford's Christopher deCharm, "That is still decades away." Now that's a prediction that's directly within the timeline of our emerging neurosociety. Think cognitive liberty is important yet?

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

July 11, 2004

Time for a Metabolic Tune Up

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Posted by Zack Lynch

With more than 450 scientific publications under his belt (making him one of the most-cited scientists across all fields), Bruce Ames is working hard to elucidate the consequences of DNA damage for cancer, aging and mental health.

Casey and I recently attended a lovely dinner with Bruce and his wife Giovanna at Fior d'Italia in North Beach. Over the evening we discussed our emerging neurosociety and how his involvement in Juvenon, an "anti-aging" company, leverages his latest research.

Over the past decade, Ames has discovered that deficiencies of certain micronutrients appear to mimic radiation in damaging DNA. He and his group have found that folate deficiency breaks chromosomes due to massive incorporation of uracil into human DNA. Bruce asserts that micronutrient deficiency may explain why the quarter of the population that eats the fewest fruits and vegetables has double the cancer rate for most types of cancer when compared with the quarter that consumes the most fruits and vegetables. Sadly, only 9% of Americans eat enough fruit and vegetables each day.

The group has also found that aging may be caused, in good part, by oxidants produced as by-products of normal metabolism, which alter mitochondrial function. The mitochondria of old rats, when compared to young rats, were found to be impaired in many ways. Feeding old rats the normal mitochondrial metabolites, acetyl carnitine and lipoic acid, reversed much of the impairment. The group is investigating the effect of these metabolites on lifespan and brain function, and is exploring the extension of their studies to humans.

If you'd like to live long and prosper Bruce recommends getting some healthy exercise and to take your micronutrients – vitamins B12, B6, C, E, folate, and niacin, and the minerals iron and zinc - each day. According to Bruce, an optimum intake of micronutrients and metabolites, which varies with age and genetics, should tune up metabolism and markedly increase health at little cost, particularly for the poor and elderly.

Thanks David.

UPDATE: Only problem with this advice is the iron. Taking iron can be actively harmful to the half a percent of Caucasians with the genetics for hemochromatosis. (from Chris at CRNano)

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

July 9, 2004

Cognitive-based Neural Prosthetics

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Posted by Zack Lynch

An article in this week's Science, cognitive control signals for neural prosthetics, reports on how neurophysiologists have developed a method for eavesdropping on neurons in a cognitive brain area involved in planning future arm movements.

While today's first-generation neural prosthetics focus on decoding the intended hand trajectories from motor cortical neurons of paralyzed patients and then using these signals to control external devices, the second-generation devices described in this research appear to have the capability of monitoring a paralyzed patient's preferences and motivation. From the article:

"For example, a goal signal indicates the intention to reach for an apple, whereas a trajectory signal would indicate the intended direction of the hand movement during the reach. Another high-level signal of interest is expected value, which is used for making decisions. For instance, if an individual has two potential reach goals, an apple and an orange, and the subject prefers apples over oranges, there are signals in his or her brain that indicate this preference and will influence the decision to reach for the apple instead of the orange.

Future applications of cognitive-based prosthetics will likely record from multiple cortical areas to derive a number of variables. Moreover, online trajectory information can also be considered as a cognitive variable that can be decoded along with other cognitive variables."

While neuroelectronics are primarily in the research phase, their potential uses will be numerous as non-invasive brain monitoring techniques become less expensive and more accurate. Just think of the neurofinance applications.

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

July 7, 2004

Addicted to Motivation

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Posted by Zack Lynch

Addiction expert Howard Fields published a very important paper this month in Nature Reviews Neuroscience. Given the paper's relative technical depth I asked Howard to summarize this research for the rest of us mortals. So he put together the following: (thanks Howard)

"Contrary to the intuitive sense that we passively receive signals from the outside world and that our experience reflects this input, evidence is growing that sensations are usually preceded by a decision process. To carry out this decision process the brain weighs different behaviors on a utility/cost scale and selects the optimal goal. Then it then screens all inputs for those that are task relevant and inhibits those that are not. This process is striking for the pain sensory pathway, which may be completely absent in the face of serious injuries, including bone fractures. The implementation of this phenomenon depends on the release of endogenous opioid peptides that activate a pain suppressing control system, under conditions in which it is not in the individual's interest to respond to such severe stimuli (A life threatening situation or one offering very large rewards)."

Here is the summary for the neuroscientists among you:

Opioid receptors are a family of related G-protein-coupled receptors. Both endogenous and exogenous ligands for these receptors have powerful motivational actions. Opioid actions on nociceptive transmission are exerted through a circuit that connects limbic forebrain and brainstem structures to spinal and trigeminal dorsal horn.

Opioid receptor agonists act at sites that are distributed throughout this circuit to produce analgesia. This effect involves the release of endogenous opioids at serially connected brainstem and spinal sites. This circuit can exert bidirectional control through on cells that facilitate and off cells that inhibit nociceptive transmission.

The action of selective -(KOR) and ORL1 receptor agonists depends on the state of the circuit. When the circuit is in the pain-facilitating on-cell state, both KOR and ORL1 agonists have a pain-reducing effect. When the circuit is in the off-cell (pain suppressing) state, these same agonists reduce analgesia.

The opioid-mediated off-cell state is robustly activated by both aversive and appetitive motivational states. The reversal of placebo analgesia by naloxone indicates that it might be an example of an appetitive state.

The bottom line: Addiction science is advancing rapidly and brings with it profound changes for all aspects of society, including: neurocops, neurocompetitive advantage, and hopefully some less destructive leisure tools.

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

Nature Methods...About Time.

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Posted by Zack Lynch

Coming this fall, the Nature Publishing Group will introduce: Nature Methods. This is long overdue and will likely become a publishing empire in its own right over the next decade. Replication of methods sits at the center of the scientific method. I bet Derek Lowe and Randall Parker will applaud NM's introduction too.

According to Nature Methods' Editor, Veronique Kiermer, "they are committed to emphasizing quality, novelty and readability and to serving a large and varied audience with cutting-edge content that meets the highest standards of quality."

"The journal will present a carefully balanced selection of long papers and brief communications, describing the development of new methodologies and significant improvements to tried-and-tested techniques. These articles will be selected on the basis of their likely impact on the scientific community, with a strong preference for those works that have the potential for broad practical application across several sectors of the life sciences. The articles will be technical in essence and tailored to provide readers with an accurate expectation of technical performance, describing validation or proof of concept and illustrating the performance of the new method in comparison to currently available approaches. As with all Nature journals, articles will undergo rigorous peer review process, ensuring the Nature tradition of excellence is maintained.

Along with these articles, each issue will contain a detailed protocol for a relatively recent and technically challenging method, presented in a practical format that allows immediate reproducibility. The journal will also publish reviews written by authorities in their field, discussing the applicability and limitations of specific technologies in comparison to other approaches.

What's Next? Nature Neurotechnology.

Comments (0) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Neurotech Industry

July 5, 2004

NeuroCops to Patrol Your Brain?

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Posted by Zack Lynch

The Center for Cognitive Liberty and Ethics has released a new 50-page policy report, Pharmacotherapy and the Future of the Drug War that warns that the war on drugs may be about to enter a new era “that expands the drug war battlefield from the Colombian coca farms and the Middle Eastern poppy fields, to a new terrain directly inside the bodies and brains of drug users.” From CCLE:

The report is the first comprehensive and critical analysis of ‘pharmacotherapy,’ the use of new medications designed to block the effects of illegal drugs. While acknowledging that such pharmacological aids may well benefit people who voluntarily chose to use them, the CCLE report raises concerns about potential coercive use.

Compassionate Coercion--'Good Drugs' Fighting 'Bad Drugs'

In addition to waging a “war on drugs,” the federal government is now working to eradicate the “disease” of drug use. These metaphors, notes the CCLE report, play an important role in driving federal drug control policy because they frame the remedies available to the government.

For example, the 2003 National Drug Control Strategy casts users of illegal drugs as “vectors of contagion” who are “in denial” about their “disease” and who need treatment before “transmitting the disease to others.” Such language, says the CCLE report, lends itself to coercive treatment wherein the government feels justified in “medicating” drug users through policies of ‘compassionate coercion.’ “Coercion, whether ‘compassionate’ or otherwise, is still coercion,” cautions the CCLE report.

Bodily Integrity & Freedom of Thought

The CCLE report examines the pharmacotherapy drugs currently under development, and also highlights the legal rights that would be violated if a government were to require certain persons (such as prisoners, probationers or public assistance recipients) to take the anti-drug medications. The implicated legal rights include the right to bodily integrity, the right to privacy, the right to make one’s own informed and voluntary medical decisions, and the right to freedom of thought.

The report concludes with policy recommendations, which underscore the importance of restricting pharmacotherapy medications to voluntary use. “In the absence of “extraordinary circumstances,” notes the report, “the government should be barred from coercing a peaceful person to take a pharmacotherapy drug.”

The report ends with the following paragraph:

Sixty years ago the United States Supreme Court opined, "Freedom to think is absolute of it own nature; the most tyrannical government is powerless to control the inward workings of the mind." Jones v. Opelika, 316 U.S. 548, 618 (1942). No Longer. Pharmacotherapy drugs now give the government that power. The question for the future is whether the introduction of these drugs into society will be done in such a way that preserves freedom of thought by upholding informed consent and rejecting compulsory treatment programs, or whether certain people will be coerced into using pharmacotherapy, thereby promoting governmental tyranny of thought processes.

This report is a "must read" for anyone concerned or interested in the future of liberty in an age of ever advancing neurotechnology. While it maintains a reasonably well-balanced discussion of the topic there are two areas I would like to see addressed in a future version. First, an analysis of how introducing these drugs might impact the overall societal costs associated with drug addiction. Secondly, and this would require substantial funding, a survey of people serving time in prison for drug offenses that would cover their attitudes, opinions and concerns regarding these technologies. It would be interesting to know how many would rather have a neurocop floating in their brain and serve less jail time or instead maintain their "freedom of thought" and stay in jail longer? I bet many would take the former.

Disclaimer: I am on CCLE's board of advisors.

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

July 2, 2004

Fireworks for the Color Blind?

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Posted by Zack Lynch

Everyone agrees that aerial fireworks are amazing. Here are a few beautiful photos to get you in the Independence Day spirit (here, here, here). The invention of fireworks dates back several thousand years, but the question I have been pondering is what do these amazing pyrotechnic displays look like to those who are color blind? Since 1 in 20 people are color blind, what might be done to tantalize their minds? Perhaps Matt McMahon and other visual researchers have some thoughts on this subject. Have a happy and safe weekend.

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

July 1, 2004

2004 Staglin Music Festival for Mental Health

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Posted by Zack Lynch

If you love wine, brilliant conversation and want to support mental health research, then mark your calendars for the 2004 Staglin Music Festival for Mental Health. Celebrating its tenth year (2003 highlights), this year's festival falls on September 11th and will feature a new cast of luminaries, including:

12:00 (noon) - Dr. Thomas Insel, Director of the National Institutes for Mental Health, will lecture on brain science in the concert tent.

2:00 - A reception will convene in the winery caves, presenting a selection of rare wines, including Harlan, Colgin, Lynch, Screaming Eagle, and Diamond Creek. Chef Cindy Pawlcyn of Cindy's Backstreet Kitchen in St. Helena will prepare hors d'oeuvres.

3:30 - Grammy-winning jazz guitarist Norman Brown will perform under the tent.

5:45 - Dinner at last, orchestrated by Chef Michael Schlow of Boston's Radius restaurant.

Several scientists will be present throughout the day to talk with guests. There is no charge to attend their initial lecture program. Tickets for the reception and concert are $250; these events will accommodate 400 guests. Tickets for the reception, concert and dinner are $2500; dinner will accommodate 200. All revenues will go to mental health research projects throughout the nation. For more information, call (707) 944-0477 or email

Comments (0) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Brain Foundations