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

June 29, 2005

Insomnia Science Discussed at NIH

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Posted by Zack Lynch

From Psychscape:

A recent consensus panel was convened at NIH to discusses the specific challenges facing insomnia research and recommended a variety of studies to help clarify the disorder's underlying mechanisms, natural history, the interaction between insomnia and other conditions, and the comparative risks and benefits of various therapies. The panel released its findings last week, following two days of expert presentations and panel deliberations.

Insomnia is the most common sleep complaint reported by women and men across all stages of adulthood, and for many, the problem is not episodic but chronic. Insomnia is both a symptom of certain conditions as well as a disorder with complex and, likely, multiple causes. Chronic insomnia is associated with a wide range of adverse effects, including depression; alcohol and drug abuse; difficulties with concentration and memory; and various cardiovascular, pulmonary, and gastrointestinal disorders.

The panel expressed concern that many of the drugs now used to treat insomnia, such as antidepressants and antihistamines, have not been approved for this indication and their efficacy in treating chronic insomnia has not been proven. Even those medications that have been approved for insomnia are approved only for short-term use, leaving chronic sufferers with few proven options. The panel noted that newer benzodiazepine receptor agonist medications have been developed that have fewer and less severe adverse effects than other medications, and show promise for long-term use, but this requires further evaluation. The panel also expressed concern that many insomnia sufferers self-medicate with alcohol, despite the numerous risks involved and the clear evidence that alcohol actually has a negative overall effect on the quality of sleep.

Interestingly, there is a body of research that indicates that behavioral methods such as relaxation training can be effective to treat insomnia when combined with cognitive therapies specifically targeted at anxiety-producing beliefs and erroneous beliefs about sleep and sleep loss. Moreover, this approach is unlikely to carry adverse side effects, and its benefits may be longer lasting than pharmacological interventions. The down-side to this intervention is that there are few practitioners trained in these therapies.

The live webcast was sponsored by the Office of Medical Applications of Research (OMAR) and the National Institute of Mental Health. Cosponsors included the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, the National Institute of Nursing Research, the National Institute on Aging, the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, the National Institute on Drug Abuse, the Office of Research on Women's Health, and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

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

June 28, 2005

Mental Illness in Bangkok Soars 900% in 3 Years

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Posted by Zack Lynch

According to a recent report, the number of mental illness cases in Bangkok soared 900 percent, from 587 per 100,000 to 5,485 in three years, said the National Economic and Social Development Board (NESDB). Among all patients in the Thailand's capital, 40 percent have mental disorders, 15 percent experience anxiety and 14 percent suffer severe depression, said the report. The national rate of people living with mental disease stands at 3,392 per 100,000 people. The report declared that changing life styles and increasing pollution were the primary causes of mental illness.

As I describe in my forthcoming book, Neurosociety, "Our aging and large population coupled with extensive global connectedness has created new problems for modern humans. In the last two hundred years, global population has soared from 300 million to over 6.5 billion. At the same time, life spans have more than doubled from 30 to over 70 years.

While many people question the uneven distribution of power that exists in today’s world, others are disillusioned by the happiness that wealth was supposed to provide. Constantly blasted with images of unattainable lifestyles, people face daily identity crises as they search for meaning in a world of continuously shifting truths. In every culture, feelings of uncertainty, depression, anger, and resentment have surfaced on a vast scale." In short, humanity faces a growing global mental illness crisis of epidemic proportions.

Comments (5) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Mental Health Issues

June 22, 2005

Daily Neurotech Public Market News

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Posted by Zack Lynch

If you want to stay abreast of the last public market news for neurotechnology companies then check out the Neurotech Market NewsFeed by NeuroInsights. I use it everyday.

Neurotechnology is the fastest growing unmet medical market. If you are a long term investor, I recommend taking a closer look at the brain industry. In 2004, the NeuroInsights' Neurotech Index was up 27.1% compared to respective gains of 10.9% and 8.6% for the S&P 500 and the NASDAQ Composite Index. The Neurotech Index also outpaced the NASDAQ Biotechnology Index, another life sciences oriented measure of the public markets, which grew by 5.1% in 2004.

Comments (0) + TrackBacks (1) | Category: Public Neurotech News

June 21, 2005

Tsunami of Mental Illness Hurts Millions

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Posted by Zack Lynch

This week is the SIXTH month anniversary of the devastating tsunami that struck on December 26th, 2004. The trauma continues in over 22 countries with a stark reality for millions...."No boat from which to fish, lost wife and two children, don't understand...why...?

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

June 17, 2005

Rebuilt: How Becoming Part Computer Made Me More Human by Mike Chorost

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Posted by Zack Lynch

0618378294.01._SCLZZZZZZZ_.jpg Rebuilt: How Becoming Part Computer Made Me More Human is a personal memoir of one man's journey of going deaf and how getting a cochlear implant changed (and continues to change) his life.

Last August Mike Chorost and Eric Lynch (CSO at Sound Pharmaceuticals), gave impressive presentation on current neurodevices for the hearing impaired and future sensoceutical strategies to regenerate hearing at the Bay Area Future salon. Needless to say, it was an awe inspiring example of human performance enablement.

Released this month, Mike's book has received many positive reviews and articles discussing it are coming soon in the New York Times and USA Weekend. For more information about Rebuilt and to download a copy of the first chapter visit Mike Chorost's website.

Mike will be traveling across the US on a book tour for the next two months, including NYC, Boston, Cambridge, New Providence, Menlo Park, Seattle, San Francisco, and many more. I highly recommend reading his book and better yet meeting this Rebuilt Man in person.

Comments (1) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Neurodevices

June 16, 2005

June 15, 2005

When is it Legal to Use Neuroimaging in Interrogation?

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Posted by Zack Lynch

In a forthcoming paper, The Legality of the Use of Psychiatric Neuroimaging in Intelligence Interrogation, to be published this fall in the Cornell Law Review, Sean Thompson asks if using advanced brainscanning techniques, like fMRI, in the interrogation of foreigners the US has detained in the war on terrorism would be legal.

In an email, he wrote that he is specifically looking to "attract some criticism in hopes of strengthening the argument, particularly viz. the scientific aspects of the article, as my (his) expertise is in international law, rather than neuroscience." I've downloaded the 30 page well-written paper and plan to respond, but in the mean time, I challenge the radiologists, neuroethicists and neuropolicy experts among you give him what he asked.

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

June 13, 2005

Micro Therapeutics Gaining Traction in Neurodevice Market

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Posted by Zack Lynch

by Casey Lynch, NeuroInsights

When Tom Wilder left Medtronic to join the neurovascular company Micro Therapeutics he saw a major untapped market opportunity and a floundering company with the potential to execute where bigger companies, like Medtronic, were hesitating. Since then, he has quietly transformed Micro from an over hyped single product company into one with a broad technology suite. For the 2005 first quarter, net sales increased to $11.4 million, a 50% increase over net sales of $7.6 million in the comparable period a year ago.

The neurovascular intervention market, which includes specialized catheters and guidewires for reaching complex cerebral arteries along with stents and embolic coils for treating brain aneurysms, was almost $500 million in 2004 with 20% annual growth. While Boston Scientific (BSX) is far and away the market leader in the space with 60% market share, smaller companies like Micro Therapeutics, Micrus, and Microvention are showing that they can compete by focusing on specific needs of neurovascular physicians and continuing to introduce innovative products.

When Micro went public in 1997 (MTIX), the focus was entirely on their liquid embolic product, Onyx, which can be used to prevent hemorrhagic stroke by stabilizing aneurysms (weak and bulging areas of a blood vessel). When Onyx suffered a major setback in 2002 many investors ran for the hills. The risk of using a liquid embolic to fill most aneurysms, considering that some of the liquid polymer might be placed into the blood supply and even clog normal vessels, was simply too high to justify its use under normal circumstances.

However, the company continued to develop Onyx for appropriate indications including sealing of arteriovenous malformations (AVMs) prior to surgical removal and filling of irregular aneurysms. After using Onyx to treat over 5000 patients in Europe and completing final labeling discussions with the FDA last month, Micro expects to receive PMA approval for use of Onyx in AVMs any day now.

But the real story is not with Onyx anymore. Under Wilder’s direction, the company acquired more conventional embolic coil technology from Germany’s Dendron and subsequently developed it in house into revenue generating products. Micro’s latest generation coil, dubbed ICE, which will be introduced this year has improved resiliency over standard platinum coils which helps keep the coil from deforming over time and collapsing under pressure from the blood vessel. Additionally, the coil has bioactive properties to promote healing of the aneurysm “neck” where it buds from the blood vessel.

Micro’s coils and other bread and butter products for neurovascular surgeons generated $35 million in 2004 revenue with almost 50% annual growth. With the closing of their German plant, the company is continuing to improve product margins, currently at 64%, and expects to be profitable by Q4.

While MTIX is generally being overlooked, their majority stock holder (70%) and product distributor, ev3, is about to go public. The pricing of the IPO announced 5/31 indicates that the company expects to bring in about $200 million to pay off debt and pursue “corporate objectives.” With Micro's products representing a good part of ev3's revenues, it's not much of a stretch to speculate that Micro shareholders might benefit from a successful ev3 IPO.

Comments (0) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Casey's Insights | Public Neurotech News

June 7, 2005

Back Pain - MRI of Zack's Back

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Posted by Zack Lynch


Six years ago I had back surgery, an L5-S1 microdiscectomy to be precise, performed by neurosurgeon, Dr. Bruce McCormack (who I highly recommend). Until four weeks ago I felt great but then something went wrong. I couldn't get off the ground. Muscle spasms down my left leg, numbness along the outside of the left and severe sciatica.

For those who don't know, sciatica is actually a symptom and not a diagnosis. The term literally means that a patient has pain down the leg from compression on the sciatic nerve. The diagnosis is what is causing the compression (such as a disc herniation). The sciatic nerve is the largest single nerve in the human body; it runs from each side of the lower spine through deep in the rear and back of the thigh, and all the way down to foot, connecting the spinal cord with the leg and foot muscles. Most often, sciatica pain is caused when the L5 or S1 nerve root in the lower spine is irritated by a herniated disc. When this happens, pain radiates into the rear and back of the thigh and calf, and occasionally may extend down to the foot.

S1 nerve impingement from a herniated disc may cause loss of the ankle reflex and/or weakness in ankle push off (e.g. patients cannot do toe rises). Numbness and pain can radiate down to the sole or outside of the foot.

There are several different causes of sciatica. You can tell which neve is being pinched by where the effects (tingling/pain) are felt. Mine are on the outer leg and go down to the foot, and my two left toes on my left foot are numb.

I've been working with an excellent hanna somatics practioner Kristin who has helped relieve most of the pain, but the radiologist I spoke to about my MRI suggests that I may need surgery again. I busy taking care of my back by doing my somatic exercises which are amazingly powerful. I'm optimistic that I can retrain my chronically contracted muscles and be able to work, run and the have freedom of movement that we all expect, but don't appreciate until its taken away. I'll let you know how I am progressing. Until then...get up out of your chair, step away from your screen, walk outside and enjoy your freedom.

Comments (1) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: X-tra

June 3, 2005

Cool stuff...Neuroimaging, Neurodevices and Meditation from MIT Tech Review

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Posted by Zack Lynch

Here are several links to articles that have appeared in the MIT Tech Review over the past few months that are worth taking a look at:

Demo: Magnetic Brain Imaging
Meditation and the Brain
The Economics of Brains
Precision Brain Scans
Zapping the Blues
Demo: Artificial Retina
Body Image

Thanks to my friend Robert for sending these to me.

Comments (0) + TrackBacks (1) | Category: Neurodiagnostics

June 2, 2005

June 1, 2005