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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August 31, 2004

Future Shock Marketing - CMO Magazine

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Posted by Zack Lynch

The premier issue of CMO Magazine (Chief Marketing Officer) launched yesterday with an article titled Future Shock that describes five emerging technologies could jolt the marketing profession in the future.

Neuromarketing is highlighted and contains a nice (and accurate) quote from me, "Zack Lynch, managing director of NeuroInsights, a San Francisco-based research and advisory firm that specializes in neuromarketing, believes that as many as one of every 10 marketing dollars eventually will be spent on neuroscience-based research." (click here to read the article).

Having spent 6 years at two enterprise software start-ups as the VP of Marketing (Maxager & Steelwedge) and 4 years deciphering the perils and promises of neurotechnology, I was glad to see that my past and present work projects have begun to merge.

CMO is the third executive title published by CXO Media, known for its award-winning CIO and CSO magazines. CXO Media has a 17 year history of developing resources for C-level executives while creating opportunities for marketers to reach them. CMO will have a controlled monthly circulation of 25,000 qualified readers. I highly recommend checking out this first issue, it is full of concise, well written articles.

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

August 29, 2004

Neurobiologist Susan Hockfield MIT's New President

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Posted by Zack Lynch

MIT has chosen Susan Hockfield, a neurobiologist who is currently provost at Yale University, to serve as its sixteenth president. Hockfield will succeed Charles M. Vest, who has led MIT for the past 14 years. She is expected to take office in early December, and will be the first woman and first life scientist to hold the post.

Congratulations to Susan and to MIT. I've been following her career for several years and she fits perfectly with the McKnight Foundation's strong commitment to accelerate the development of neuro-oriented research.

Nobel laureate Susumu Tonegawa, an MIT biology professor who served on the faculty advisor committee for the presidential search, says that Hockfield has achieved international fame as a neuroscientist. “On a personal level, she has an uncanny knack of making people feel at ease and is a great and thoughtful listener. She is a charismatic figure who we will be proud to have represent MIT on the national and international stages,” says Tonegawa. He adds that Hockfield's appointment will "accelerate the demise of the gender barrier in science and engineering.”

While MIT continues to push further into developing the technical aspects of our emerging neurosociety, Stanford's Judy Illes continues to break new ground in neuroethics. Perhaps it's time to endow the new program for neuroethics at Stanford. Please contact Judy or me if are interested.

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

August 27, 2004

Blade Runner Voted Best Movie Ever

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Posted by Zack Lynch

The BBC reports that a recent poll of 60 eminent world scientists have voted Ridley Scott's Blade Runner the best science fiction film to date.

The 1982 movie which takes place in 2019 is loosely based on the Philip K. Dick short story Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? and is set in a dystopian futuristic vision of Los Angeles.

Chris Frith of the Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience at University College, London, explains that film won for two reasons: it's discussion of how to tell a human from a machine and the empathy test used by the movie's policemen "is not far away from the sort of thing that cognitive neuroscientists are actually doing today," he said.

I have to agree on this one. In our emerging neurosociety, our survival depends on understanding empathy.

Comments (0) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Culture & the Brain

August 26, 2004

Neuroeconomics 2004 conference

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Posted by Zack Lynch

The intersection of economics and neuroscience offers tantalizing potential for the advancement of both disciplines as well as being a new field of study in its own right: Neuroeconomics (click for previous neuroeconomics posts on Brain Waves)

The Human Neuroimaging Laboratory at The Baylor College of Medicine is sponsoring the 2004 Neuroeconomics conference in Charleston, SC. on September 16-19, 2004.

Update: Turns out that the Montague group is organizing, but not sponsoring the conference ($500 registration fees). Thanks to Stanford's Antonio Rangel for the clarification.

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

August 25, 2004

Interpreting the Political Brain

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Posted by Zack Lynch

Steven Johnson wrote a nice piece in the NYTimes Magazine this past weekend on the Political Brain. While I've covered this research a few month's back in neuromarketing our next President, Steven adds one very important point to the value of this type of research:

"Whatever conclusions we end up extracting for this line of research won't come exclusively from the neuroscientists. You'd need sociologists and political scientists and philosophers -- not to mention those political strategists -- to make sense of the results, to put them in context, and to propose new avenues of research. The neuroscientists would be mostly there to explain the results in terms of brain anatomy and function, leaving it to the social scientists to interpret the results on the level of human experience. In other words, the scans don't give you answers. They give you new kinds of questions."

For more of Steven's thoughts check out his excellent book Mind Wide Open or his previous guest entries here on Brain Waves.

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

August 19, 2004

Jet Lag? To Sleep or Not to Sleep

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Posted by Zack Lynch

We live in a 24 hour society. Perhaps we should have some better tools.

New insights on causes of jet lag and shift work disorientation (from innovation-report)

Timing is everything and our circadian clock, allows us (and almost every other organism on the planet), to predict the daily changes in our environment, such as light and temperature. One of the most important functions of the circadian clock is its ability to react to and predict environmental cues, light being the most important, keeping the endogenous clock in phase with the external light-dark cycle (entrainment). Cryptochrome is a light-sensitive protein that is the key to entrainment.

Dr Rosato explained the importance of this research: “There are obvious advantages in having a clock. For instance we can start mobilising resources before they are actually needed, or we can temporally separate processes, which would be otherwise incompatible. As the clock evolved long before transcontinental travel and shift work were invented, jet lag and physiological dysfunctions are the price we pay for the unnatural 24-hour society.

The implications of our frenetic life-style are much more profound than we generally think, as recent studies have indicated that the circadian clock (and clock genes) may be involved in diverse conditions such as tumour suppression, survival of animals with cardiomyopathy heart disease, left ventricular hypertrophy, diabetes, and cocaine sensitisation. It is therefore a very important factor in human and animal health and well-being.”

In fruitflies and mammals the same genes appear to play similar roles in determining how the 24-hour clock works. However, the ease of genetic analysis and the molecular tools available in the fruitfly Drosophila melanogaster, means that progress is particularly rapid with this organism.

The feature in Nature Neuroscience opens new insights on circadian light signalling and the biology of cryptochromes. The University of Leicester research team showed that by removing the terminal end of CRY (thus creating CRYD), they could generate flies that never ’experience’ night-time, as if they were living in a perpetual Arctic summer. They demonstrated this with a range of behavioural, molecular and cytological experiments.

“During our experiments we also noticed that a particular group of neurons were especially affected by the continuous subjective light stimulation. This unprecedented observation allowed us to integrate several threads of circumstantial evidence from previous studies, and implicate this group of neurons as main players in the entrainment of the Drosophila clock.”

How might help the paradox of globally distributed teams?

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

August 15, 2004

Your genome on an iPod, but not your brain

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Posted by Zack Lynch

Up to now the biggest numbers game in biology had been run by the publicly financed Human Genome Project, which sequenced each of the three billion letters in the DNA code for a human being. "I know a neuroscientist who downloaded the Human Genome Project onto an Apple iPod," says Mark Boguski, an M.D. and Ph.D. who is a veteran of that project and who now directs the Brain Atlas Project at Allen Institute for Brain Science. "But that was 3 gigabytes, and we will be producing petabytes." Yes, your brain is very complex and this is why neuroinformatics will keep information technology vendors busy for many years to come.

Comments (0) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Protein/Gene Chips

August 11, 2004

Neurofinance in Practice (II)

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Posted by DavidE

by David Edwards

While mainstream financial theory remains dominated by the efficient markets proponents, some famous—such as Warren Buffet--and some not so famous--such as John Hussman--money managers have been making money based on market inefficiencies. Hussman, who manages the Hussman Family of Funds, uses an investment style that is based on capturing these inefficiencies, and he has a remarkable track record from 2000-2004 of consistently beating the market with low volatility of returns. There are also mutual funds based on behavioral finance principals. How then does neurofinancial theory relate to these market inefficiencies and what possible money making applications arise from it?

While we know markets are comprised of individual traders and that their actions as a group help create price discovery, it is a bit of a leap to assert that an individual trader's physiological make up affects the overall behavior and pricing of financial markets.

Neurofinance research will help make this case by examining how individual make up impacts the decisions that traders make. It is interesting to note that many traders are not trained per se, at least in the formal sense that business executives, musicians, athletes, and other professionals are, but rather are thrown into a Darwinian competition where survival entails not being wiped out. Apart from the problems with this method indicated by survivorship bias, which asserts that a certain percentage of traders survive and thrive by sheer luck or chance, and about which Nasim Taleb has written extensively in "Fooled By Randomness", we should consider why we do not take a more scientific approach to the training and assessment of traders.

Why it may seem strange or even unethical to envision screening and testing potential traders by scanning their brain and testing their blood chemistry, it was not long ago that testing lactate threshold and VO2 max, which is now routine for swimmers, runners, and other endurance athletes, was considered avant garde. This type of testing, not only offers insight into a person's natural ability based on heart size, aerobic capacity and other biological characteristics, but also provides critical biofeedback before, during and after performance. This is the basis upon which Sandia Labs is developing its anthroscope project, i.e. that biofeedback can offer real time information to teams in learning situations that allows them to alter their behavior in midstream and improve outcomes. A logical next phase is to apply these technologies and knowledge to traders and trading.

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

August 9, 2004

What is Neurofinance?

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Posted by DavidE

This week David Edwards will explain in a three part series the basics of neurofinance, its history and potential practical applications.

What is Neurofinance? by David Edwards

Neurofinance is a new science that analyzes financial markets by applying neurotechnology to trading behavior. The goals of neurofinance are:

1) to improve trading results and our understanding of financial markets by identifying which physiological traits affect trading behavior

2) to correlate these traits with trading success (or failure), and

3) to develop tools, technology, and training methods to improve trading performance.

Neurofinancial theory holds that our inability to behave rationally is rooted in our psychophysiology. Because neurofinance is based on the assumption that individuals have varying psychophysiological make-ups, which in turn play a strong role in both their ability to make rational decisions and in their success as financial market operators, it represents a contrary approach to that of the efficient market hypothesis (“EMH”). EMH, the theory upon which most of modern finance is based, as well as its antecedent, utility theory, contain the implicit precondition that humans generally act out of rational self-interest, and will behave accordingly when faced with economic decisions. In other words, that people will make the most rational and efficient economic choice no matter the situation or conditions. We all know, of course, that in real life, this is not always the case. The question is why?

More Focused than Neuroeconomics

Though neurofinance is still in its infancy, its ancestors and cousins include behavioral finance, behavioral economics, behavioral game theory, and neuroeconomics. While the first three have employed concepts from the behavioral sciences, in particular social psychology, the later has relied on neuroscience techniques that image brain activity, such as PET scans and fMRI.

One way of looking at the difference between the behavioral approach to finance and economics and the neuroscientific approach, is that the former observes how people act and interact when they make economic or financial decisions and interprets these actions according to established psychological concepts, while the later investigates why these behaviors occur based on our brain and hormonal activity.

What distinguishes neurofinance from neuroeconomics, though they use many of the same techniques, is that while neuroeconomics seeks to understand the physiological basis for making economic decisions, neurofinance focuses more narrowly on trading and financial markets.

On Wednesday David will explore some potential research areas in neurofinance.

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

August 4, 2004

NeuroWiki, Really.

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Posted by Zack Lynch

NeuroWiki is yet another example of how wikis are transforming how humans collaborate and share information. Wikis are being used for everything, including: music, gmail, business and education.

While wikipedia is perhaps the best public example of their potential, many don't find them user friendly enough. But as Socialtext's Adina Levin shares, "wikis confuse people because they are designed to be revised."

At the end of the day, the important component to the success of any wiki is "gardening". Just like leaf cutter ants must tend to their coevolving fungi gardens in order to survive, humans need to prune our information gardens. In the case of neurowiki, I would advise an ox-drawn plow or two. Remember, there is a fungus among us.

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

August 3, 2004

The Future of Hearing (Neuroelectronics and Audioceuticals)

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Posted by Zack Lynch

Don't miss the next Bay Area Future Salon on August 12th, where Dr. Mike Chorost, SRI International, and my brother, Dr. Eric Lynch, Sound Pharmaceuticals, will discuss the present state of neural technologies for treating deafness and their likely future. Dr. Chorost will open by explaining how the most advanced neurostimulation technology on the market, the cochlear implant, enables the deaf to hear. Dr. Lynch will follow with a discussion of audioceutical technologies may actually prevent and cure deafness.

Where: Thursday 12th of August. SAP Labs North America, Building D, Room Southern Cross, 3410 Hillview Avenue, Palo Alto, CA 94304. 7pm.

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