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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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August 30, 2005

Summer Funny - BrainFreeze Video

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Posted by Zack Lynch

For those of you on vacation (or even for those at work), I can't recommend enough taking a few minutes to enjoy BrainFreeze, a short amateur movie available on the web that captures a several well-intentioned idiots sucking down large slurpees until they obtain the universal shock of freezing their brains (no permanent damage done, of course). Enjoy.

The BrainFreeze phenomenon is further explained in an article by Joseph Hulihan:
-Head pain from ice cream is the most common form of head pain, occurring in 1/3 of a randomly selected population
-The pain is usually located in the midfrontal area, but can be unilateral in the temporal, frontal, or retro-orbital region
-It is a stabbing or aching type of pain that recedes 10-20 seconds after its onset. Rarely, it can persist for two to five minutes

Thanks BoingBoing

If you laughed and enjoyed the video as much as I did, you might consider helping out the victims of Hurricane Katrina. Click here to support the American Red Cross relief effort to help those impacted by Hurricane Katrina.

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

August 26, 2005

Emotional Robots

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Posted by Zack Lynch

I am just finishing a book review for the Lancet Neurology (a British medical journal) on the book, Who Needs Emotions? The Brain Meets the Robot (Oxford University Press, 2005). Since they own the copyright I can't published the review until it appears in print, but here is a glimpse of what I thought the book. Let me know if you have read it and if you agree.

Emotional Robot.jpg
The editors (Jean-Marc Fellous of Duke University and Michael A. Arbib of USC) assembled leading researchers in both fields to bridge the gap between the latest findings in the neurobiology of emotions and state of the art in computer science. Rather than building on the hype surrounding “thinking machines” the book provides a superb scientific analysis of the current state of emotions research in animals, humans and man-made systems. AI researchers are interested leveraging emotions to build systems that can perform unanticipated tasks in unpredictable environments.

The book is divided into four parts, opening with an entertaining conversation between two fictional characters Edison, a theoretical neurobiologist, and Russell, an established roboticist, discussing the important role definitions play in understanding and analyzing emotions. The second part contains several chapters that analyzes the neural mechanisms of emotions in both animals and humans. This is followed by a general discussion of computational architectures of emotions is explored in detail. You'll have to read the book or the review to read the last part, "Beware of the Passionate Robot".

While technical in parts, this book is an important contribution to the emerging field of emotional neurotechnology. It is a stimulating book that is well edited and researched. I highly recommend Who Needs Emotions? for researchers and graduate students across neuroscience and computer science.

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

August 23, 2005

The Neuroethics Revolution (this Thursday)

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Posted by Zack Lynch

As part of the "Conversations with the Future" Speaker Series, Stanford Law Professor Hank Greely will discuss “The Neuroscience Revolution – Ethics and the Law” at The Tech Museum of Innovation in San Jose this Thursday.

Topics to be discussed should be familiar to Brain Waves readers, such as where do we set the ethical and legal boundaries as we get an even greater understanding of the brain, and how to manipulate it. Join Stanford Professor Hank Greely to discuss the societal implications for emerging technologies related to brain function. For more information on neuroethics I highly recommend the neuroethics and law blog.


WHEN & WHERE

Thursday, August 25
6:30 p.m. cocktail reception
7 - 8:30 p.m. presentation
General Admission: $35.00
The Tech Museum of Innovation
201 S. Market St.
San Jose, CA 95113

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

August 22, 2005

Eyetech Bought by OSI (Neuropharma M&A)

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Posted by Zack Lynch

From the associated press:

"Shares of Eyetech soared this morning after OSI Pharmaceuticals announced it would buy the drug developer for $935 million. Eyetech developed and co-markets Macugen for macular degeneration. OSI will pay $20 per share, a 43 percent premium. Seventy-five percent of the purchase price will be paid in cash, the rest in stock. Analysts say that the move will expand OSI beyond its trademark cancer treatments, but OSI's shares tumbled about 10 percent on the news.

"The acquisition of Eyetech represents the rare opportunity to combine two inherently strong growth stories and create a dynamic new entity with real strength. The combination of OSI and Eyetech will create a substantial biopharmaceutical company with over $600 million of projected revenues in 2006 and strong growth prospects for the future," commented Colin Goddard, PhD, CEO of OSI Pharmaceuticals."

Looks like OSI understands just how big a market opportunity the neuropharmaceutical sector represents.

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

August 17, 2005

God Neurons? Neurotheology

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Posted by Zack Lynch

Neurotheology seeks to understand the biological basis of spirituality. In an effort to improve the conversation between science and spirituality, the Tibetan Buddhist leader, the Dalai Lama, is to give a lecture to at the Society for Neuroscience conference to be held in Washington DC in November, despite the protest from some delegates . In addition to his lecture on the neuroscience of meditation, he will also participate on a panel on the 'Science and Clinical Applications of Meditation'. If you are interested in learning more about neurotheology I recommend checking out the blog, numenware, which has recent posts including: computational models of neurotheology, a specialized neuron for God's face, and a book review of The Sacred Neuron.

Comments (1) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Culture & the Brain

August 15, 2005

The Neurotech Nexus - Report on Global Neurotech Economy - Free

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Posted by Zack Lynch

What regions are leading the global brain industry?

According to a 35-page report I wrote over the past six months and published today titled, The Neurotech Nexus - Regional Economic Clusters in the Global Neurotechnology Industry (Download here for free, compliments of the Institute for Global Futures), San Francisco, Boston, San Diego, and London are leading the race to create established neurotech clusters.

Here is the press release we put over the wire this morning announcing the availability of the report and the key findings:

SAN FRANCISCO--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Aug. 15, 2005--A new report from NeuroInsights, the neurotechnology market authority, and sponsored by the Institute for Global Futures, revealed today that seven of the ten leading neurotech regions are in the United States, with another two in Europe and one in Asia.

Some of the findings in NeuroInsights' Neurotech Nexus Report include:

-- San Francisco Bay Area leads neurotechnology investment, research and product development -- with Boston in close second. San Diego and London-Cambridge ranked third and fourth respectively;

-- Three sectors of the neurotechnology industry are playing a critical role in regional economic development with $87 billion in revenues currently derived from neuropharmaceuticals, $2.8 billion from neurodevices, and $12 billion from neurodiagnostics;

-- While major pharmaceutical companies currently generate the majority of the neurotechnology industry's revenue, they increasingly rely on licensing relationships with smaller regional companies for breakthrough treatments;

-- Munich (Germany), Montreal (Canada), Singapore, Tokyo (Japan), and Melbourne (Australia) are highlighted as Nascent Nexus' where active government support is fostering the development of neurotech clusters.

According to the report, neurotechnology represents the largest untapped medical market and there are numerous opportunities available to communities that can leverage the dramatic growth of neurotechnology. Given the promise of new treatments, coupled with a patient population of over 1.5 billion people who suffer from a brain-related illness, neurotechnology has become the leading recipient of life science venture funding worldwide.

"Big economic payoffs will accrue to communities that successfully nurture the emerging 'brain industry,'" said Zack Lynch, managing director of NeuroInsights. "The close collaboration of knowledge-intensive institutions, investors, businesses and workers fosters high-quality job creation, influx of investment capital and economic growth."

Dr. James Canton, CEO of The Institute for Global Futures, the report's sponsor, explained, "Neurotech is now truly a global industry with companies and cutting-edge research in the U.S., Europe, and Asia. These regions stand out because the concentration of talent and capital has a positive feedback effect creating a nexus for neurotechnology innovation."

The Neurotech Nexus Report evaluated 20 regions worldwide according to factors such as the concentration of neurotech companies, access to risk capital and social institutions to support future innovation. According to the report's analysis, the top ten regions worldwide are:

1. San Francisco Bay Area
2. Greater Boston
3. San Diego
4. London -- Cambridge
5. Greater New York
6. Greater Raleigh -- Durham
7. Los Angeles -- Irvine
8. Greater Philadelphia
9. Shanghai, China
10. Stockholm, Sweden

About NeuroInsights

As the neurotechnology market authority, NeuroInsights(TM) helps investors, industry executives and the public understand and profit from the rapid growth of companies treating brain and nervous system-related illnesses, providing:

-- Neurotech Insights Investment Newsletter
-- The Neurotechnology Industry 2005 Report
-- Custom economic development analysis;
-- Strategic advisory services;
-- Events and conferences;
-- Market news and stock tracking

About The Institute for Global Futures

The Institute for Global Futures is a San Francisco based think tank that forecasts innovations and trends. IGF provides keynote presentations; futures research services, and strategy consulting to the Fortune 1000, associations and governments.

Availability

The 35-page Neurotech Nexus Report sponsored by the Institute for Global Futures is available for free downloads from NeuroInsights at www.neuroinsights.com.

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

August 10, 2005

Neurotech Insights - The Neurotechnology Investment Newsletter Launches

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Posted by Zack Lynch

If you like Brain Waves and are interested in staying up-to-date on the latest investment, market and clinical trials news across the neurotechnology industry then you should subscribe to Neurotech Insights, a new semi-monthly (every two weeks) newsletter covering the global neurotechnology industry.
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This week's issue of Neurotech Insights includes the following in-depth articles:

- Market Summary: Investors wake up to untapped insomnia market
- Playing politics with science: Frist changes his mind...again
- Stem cell brain transplants - Is it possible? Are we close?
- We've been using stem cells for decades - So what's the big deal?
- Deal & Financings (Shire Pharma, New River Pharma, BrainCells...)
- Product & Clinical Trials Updates (Takeda, Cyberonics, Cortex....)
- Featured company (sign up to find out who)
- NeuroInsights' Neurotech Index up 7.2% in July (find out winners and losers)

Articles in this issues were written by neurotech market mavens Casey Lynch MS and Frank Eeckman, MD PhD. Neurotech Insights is targeted at investors (individual, public and private), corporate executives, and industry analysts.

I have been blogging Brain Waves for almost three years for free, and now there is a team of experienced market watchers who have joined the team to provide the most insightful commentary and analysis on rapidly evolving $100 billion neurotechnology industry. You won't find this analysis on this blog or anywhere else.

Neurotech Insights is published every two weeks and delivered by email. Pricing as follows: single issue $50, 3 months (6 issues) $275, one year (24 issues) $995. If this sounds expensive, it's not. As the publisher of this newsletter, I can only say that it is worth every dollar. But, I'll let you be the judge. If you currently receive Brain Waves via email or RSS then you can get your first issue for 50% off. Offer expires August 15th. Please reply to this post, email newsletter@neuroinsights.com or visit www.neuroinsights.com to subscribe.

What are you waiting for?

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

August 9, 2005

How Does Your Brain Decide?

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Posted by Zack Lynch

Funded by the NIH, researchers at Johns Hopkins published an interesting paper in Neuron this week that adds to our growing understanding of visual organization at the level of neurons and how this impacts individual perception.

"The figure is famous (below): a deceptively simple line drawing that at first glance resembles a vase and, at the next, a pair of human faces in profile. When you look at this figure, your brain must rapidly decide what the various lines denote. Are they the outlines of the vase or the borders of two faces? How does your brain decide?

Rubins Vase.gif

It does so in a fraction of a second via special nerve circuits in the brain's visual center that automatically organize information into a "whole" even as an individual's gaze and attention are focused on only one part, according to Johns Hopkins researchers.

"Our paper answers the century-old question of the basis of subconscious processes in visual perception, specifically, the phenomenon of figure-ground organization," said Rudiger von der Heydt, a professor in the Zanvyl Krieger Mind-Brain Institute. "Early in the 20th century, the Gestalt psychologists postulated the existence of mechanisms that process visual information automatically and independently of what we know, think or expect. Since then, there has always been the question as to whether these mechanisms actually exist. They do. Our work suggests that the system continuously organizes the whole scene, even though we usually are attending only to a small part of it."

The report, based on recordings of nerve cells in the visual cortex of macaque monkeys, suggests that this automatic processing of images is repeated each time an individual looks at something new, usually three to four times per second. What's more, the brain provides what von der Heydt calls "a sophisticated program" to select and process the information that is relevant at any given moment."

Maybe this explains why ads on MTV are getting faster and faster.

Comments (0) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Perception Shift

August 8, 2005

VCs Psyched About Brain Investments - Venture Capital Journal

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Posted by Zack Lynch

Michael Fitzgerald writes about the increasing interest in neurotech companies by the U.S. venture capital community in this month's Venture Capital Journal. Here are a few excerpts from the article which I recommend reading in full here (follow the link).

"The venture business is famous for finding and funding the brainy and their ideas. Now the brain itself is becoming a hot area. One recent example: MPM Capital Partners was so crazy about psychiatric drug maker Somaxon Pharmaceuticals that it led a $65 million round in the company.

Of course, MPM isn't the only VC firm that's gaga over the so-called "neurotechnology" market. Investments in neurotech companies totaled $1.5 billion last year, up from just over $500 million in 1999, according to NeuroInsights, a San Francisco consulting and research firm. Neurotech companies make drugs and devices to treat disorders and diseases of the central nervous system (CNS), most notably the brain, as well as software and other tools to measure and understand the CNS.

Neurotech "is going to be one of several big areas [because] we have an aging population," says Jean George, a general partner at Advanced Technology Ventures of Waltham, Mass.

"Brain imaging is quite high resolution compared to a few years ago and seems to be marching in an exponential curve," says Steve Jurvetson of Draper Fisher Jurvetson in Menlo Park, Calif. DFJ has invested in two neurotech companies: Everest Biomedical Instruments and Posit Science. Everest, based in Chesterfield, Mo., is developing a device to monitor consciousness. Posit, based in San Francisco, makes software to keep brain activity high later in life.

Still, VCs are likely encouraged by a number of exits in the space. NeuroInsights notes that a dozen neurotech-related companies have gone public since January 2004, 10 of which are VC-backed. Most of the newly public neurotech companies are trading below their IPO prices, but two have done particularly well: Neurometrix and Senomyx. Both are trading at twice their IPO prices.

The biggest winner was New River Pharmaceuticals, which makes treatments for pain and Attention Deficit Disorder. Its stock price has risen more than 240% since its $34 million IPO in August 2004. (New River's private funding came largely from its CEO.)

Jurvetson says neuroscience is filled with exciting scientific breakthroughs, but the business models are still unclear. Posit Science, for instance, makes software that competes with pills. How should its products be priced? What are its competitive issues? Jurvetson says the model is still being defined.

That's true for neurotech overall, he says. "The pace of learning is very exciting. But the risk is: Are these sciences and technologies that get people excited for their own sake, or is there a real business there?"

Perhaps some wise VC will invest in a company that makes it easier to know such things. Such is the potential for the neurotech market."

Comments (0) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Interviews/Press

August 5, 2005

The Politics of Face

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Posted by Zack Lynch

What constitutes an attractive face? For both men and women symmetry, averageness, large eyes and large cheekbones are deemed attractive. Across cultures males find females with thick lips, small noses, and thin eyebrows more attractive, while women are attracted to men with more "chiseled" features. Given there is a natural propensity to find certain faces attractive, what impact might this be having in politics?

In a Report in the 10 June 2005 Science, researchers demonstrated just how quickly first impressions are formed and what consequences they can have. "Volunteers were asked to judge the relative competence of recent candidates for U.S. Congress races, based solely on 1-second view of the candidates' black-and-white head shots. Amazingly, these inferences, based solely on facial appearance and with no prior knowledge of the person, correctly predicted the election outcomes nearly 70% of the time. Moreover, the competence judgments were linearly related to the margin of victory.

Inferences of other traits such as likeability and trustworthiness did not prove to be accurate predictors. These findings suggest that that rapid unreflective trait judgments contribute to voting choices, which are assumed to be primarily based on rational, deliberative considerations. In an accompanying Perspective, it is suggested that candidates perceived as less competent in the study probably looked more "babyfaced" -- a facial quality often associated with being submissive, naïve and weak."

Some say that first impressions are everything. They influence how we approach and react to others, and often lead us to make snap judgments about a person's character. I'd be interested to see this experiment tested in the next national election.

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

August 4, 2005

August 2, 2005

Institute For The Future to Explore Neurotech Tomorrow

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Posted by Zack Lynch

Tomorrow afternoon I'll be giving a talk at the Institute For the Future (IFTF) titled, The Neurotechnology Industry - The Future is Now. Over the past 10 years I have kept an eye on the IFTF and am always impressed with their exceptional capabilitiy to deliver consistently valuable insight. I look forward to providing them a good dose of NeuroInsights.

The Institute for the Future (IFTF) is an independent nonprofit research group that works with organizations of all kinds to help them make better, more informed decisions about the future. I recommend their blog (FutureNow), if you don't know about it. They are known for taking an explicitly global approach to strategic planning, linking macro trends to local issues in such areas as:

Work and daily life
Technology and society
Health and health care
Global business trends
Changing consumer society

Here are some of the points I will be covering:

• The Global neurotech industry (pharma, devices, diagnostics)
A $1 Trillion problem
The growing mental illness epidemic
• Social, regulatory, investment and technology drivers
Our Emerging Neurosociety (neuromarketing)

A special thanks to Steve King for setting this up and to Paul Saffo for encouraging me to speak at the Arab Strategy Forum last December in Dubai.

The Institute is based in California's Silicon Valley, in a community at the crossroads of technological innovation, social experimentation, and global interchange. Founded in 1968 by a group of former RAND Corporation researchers with a grant from the Ford Foundation to take leading-edge research methodologies into the public and business sectors, the IFTF is committed to building the future by understanding it deeply.

Comments (0) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Interviews/Press