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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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September 30, 2005

DARPA's Radical Neurowar Technologies

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Posted by Zack Lynch

All technologies are double-edged swords. While advances in neuroscience are making possible more effective treatments for mental illness, the same technology is also going to be used for other purposes. For example, the U.S. Defense Science Office recently announced that it is creating a future in which our warfighters instantaneously assimilate all available information through advances in neurotechnology.

One program promises a future in which warfighters can maintain their peak physical and cognitive performance, despite battlefield stressors such as sleep deprivation and exposure to extreme environments. The DSO envisions a future where severe pain is eliminated for weeks with a single dose and no adverse cognitive effects. Remarkable, they state, this pain therapy is already in clinical trials.

Another program that has come out of the DSO's long investment in understanding language of the brain has led to the possibility of the developing an upper limb prosthetic that responds to brain control, a prosthetic that has all the motor and sensory capabilities of a natural limb. While this program might have alternative uses, it is currently targeted to help returning soldiers who have lost a limb to participate more fully in their return to society.

These are just a few of the programs that are beginning to give rise to the scary neurowar scenario I have previously written about.

Comments (6) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Neurosociety

September 29, 2005

Cognitive Analysis of Tagging and Categorization

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Posted by Zack Lynch

For those of you who blog, I think you'll find this cognitive analysis of tagging by Rashmi Sinha very interesting. Here is an excerpt of her post (I highly recommend reading her whole post if this area interests you):

"At the start, let me confess that I struggled with this topic. From my first encounter with tagging (on systems such as del.icio.us & flickr), I could feel how easy it was to tag. But it took me a while to understand the cognitive processes at work. What follows is Rashmi's theory of tagging - my hypothesis about the cognitive process that kicks into place when we tag an item, and how this differs than the process of categorizing. In doing so, my hope is to explain the increasing popularity of tagging, and offer some ideas regarding the design of tagging / categorization systems.

My ideas are mostly based on my observations about how people tag and relating it to on academic research in cognitive psychology and anthropology. This is a first version, which I expect to revise as I learn more. Feedback is very welcome.

The rapid growth of tagging in the last year is testament to how easy and enjoyable people find the tagging process. The question is how to explain it at the cognitive level. In search for a cognitive explanation of tagging, I went back to my dusty cognitive psychology textbooks. This is what I learnt..."

Comments (1) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Writing & Blogging

September 27, 2005

Beautiful Neuron Art

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Posted by Zack Lynch

The 2005 winner of the American Association for the Advancement of Science's illustration challenge is Graham Johnson of Boulder, Colorado.

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"Deep inside the brain, a neuron prepares to transmit a signal to its target. To capture that fleeting moment, Graham Johnson based this elegant drawing on ultra-thin micrographs of sequential brain slices. After scanning a sketch into 3D modeling software, he colored the image and added texture and glowing lighting reminiscent of a scanning electron micrograph."

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

September 26, 2005

Neurology Panel at Dow Jones Health Care Conference on Wednesday

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Posted by Zack Lynch

On Wednesday, I'll be participating in a roundtable neurology panel at the Dow Jones VentureWire Health Care conference at the Sofitel in Redwood City. Roger Quy, partner at Technology Partners will lead the discussion after several company presentations including: David Block, President & CEO, Ruxton Pharmaceuticals; Patricia Kilian, Chief Executive Officer, Kinexis; William Robbins, Chairman, President & CEO, Neurion Pharmaceuticals; Jackson Streeter, Chief Executive Officer, PhotoThera.

Comments (2) + TrackBacks (10) | Category: Interviews/Press

The Ethical Mind Debate Continues

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Posted by Zack Lynch

Stanford's neuroethics newsgroup has posted another excellent monthly round up of brain related ethics news:

Is ‘the new neuromorality’ a threat to traditional views of right and wrong? August/Sept. Reason magazine
Stunning news of a tumor serendipitously discovered NYTimes, September 6
Doctor controls Harvard's brain trust. CNN.com, August 30th
Does neuroscience refute ethics? Mises Institute
The Island puts clones fear in the picture Scotsman, August 22
The male condition New York Times, August 8
Beyond Palmeiro: Where's the line? Newsday, August 8
UCLA/Weizmann neuroscientists first to correlate actual brain activity with fMRI signals Medical News Today, Aug. 5
Rampaging mice made more human Medical Reporter, July 6
A battle over brain donations Washington Post, June 30

Upcoming Events of Interest:

October 6: Bio-X Symposium: " Ethical Dimensions in Neuroscience."Assorted speakers present cross-disciplinary research involving neuroscience and ethics. 4:00–6:00 PM. P-080, Lucas Center.

October 20-23: American Society for Bioethics and Humanities(ASBH) Annual Meeting. "Suffering and Justice." Omni Shoreham Hotel. Washington, DC. For more information, please visit

October 21: 12 PM, Neuroethics Affinity Group Luncheon.

November 12-16: Society for Neuroscience (SFN) Annual Meeting

NOTE: For those of you interested I will be speaking on a neurology panel on Wednesday at the Dow Jones VentureWire Health Care conference in Redwood City. Click here for more info.


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

September 22, 2005

Pills Alone Don't Solve Problems

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Posted by Zack Lynch

Taking a pill does not mean that a health problem is treated, let alone cured. This is especially true for any mental illness, no matter how moderate or severe the case may be. Drugs for the mind are tools. Tools that should be used in conjunction with the help and guidance of a skilled mental health professional. I am greatly concerned about the increasing trend of general medical doctors prescribing neuropharmaceuticals to patients without any sustained therapy to support the healing process. Taking Paxil for depression is not the same as Lipitor to lower cholesterol. It's well known that pills + people = better results.

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

Neurotech Leaders to Gather in SF Oct. 21-22

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Posted by Zack Lynch

Business leaders from across the neurotechnology industry will gather in San Francisco for a two-day investment and management conference for neurotech entrepreneurs, executives and investors.

Sessions at the Neurotech Leaders Forum to be held on October 20-21 at the Crowne Plaza Hotel will cover a range of technologies and market segments in the neurodevice sector, including neuromodulation, neural prostheses, neurodiagnostics, and neurostimulation. Attendees will hear from some of the leading researchers and entrepreneurs developing clinically and commercially promising products such as cochlear implants, stroke rehabilitation devices, implanted pain stimulators, neural-computer interfaces, and advanced brain sensing technologies.

The afternoon of the first day of the conference features two intensive courses for neurotechnology professionals, one devoted to funding opportunities and the other to fundamentals of the technology. The second day of the conference features a keynote address from Alan Levy, President and CEO of Northstar Neuroscience Inc. There will also be panel discussions on key issues affecting the industry, such as regulatory and reimbursement issues, licensing, and partnering.

Topics to be covered include: Basics of Neurotechnology with Warren Grill, Ph.D, Senior Technical Editor, Neurotech Reports; Neuropharmacology Industry Fundamentals with Zack Lynch, Managing Director, NeuroInsights; Launching a Neurotech Startup with Alan Levy, Ph.D., President and CEO, Northstar Neuroscience; Neurotechnology Industry Update with James Cavuoto, Editor and Publisher, Neurotech Reports; The Role of Government in Neurotechnology with Glenn Cornett, M.D., Ph.D., Senior Financial Editor, Neurotech Reports, Joe Pancrazio, Ph.D, National Institutes of Health, Jeff Newman, California Technology and Commerce Agency, Gail Schechter, BioIntelligence; Entrepreneur Panel with James Cavuoto, Mark Carney, CEO, Andara Life Science, Elisabeth Hager, CEO, GentCorp., and Andrew Barriskill, CEO, Restorative Therapies, Inc.; New Technologies Panel with Warren Grill and John McDonald, M.D., Ph.D., Director, International Center for Spinal Cord Injury; and Venture Capital Firms Perspective with Leslie Bottorff, Onset Ventures, Roger Quy, Technology Partners, Daniel O'Connell, NeuroVentures Capital, Alex Arrow, Lazard Capital Markets.

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

September 20, 2005

Brainy Scientists at UPenn

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Posted by Zack Lynch

I traveled to the University of Pennsylvania yesterday to speak to graduate students and professors associated with the Center for Cognitive Neuroscience. Besides my talk that covered some of the social implications of the rapidly developing neurotechnology industry I had an opportunity to meet with several researchers doing some very interesting research. Here is a quick slice of what these researchers are up to:

Robert Forman: Impact of the Internet on distribution and delivery of legal and illegal drugs via the web. Persuasive research that will surely influence the drug importation debate,

Anjan Chatterjee: The historical analogies between the birth and growth of cosmetic surgery and cosmetic neurology. Very impressive parallels that include the dynamics of market forces.

Amishi Jha: Functional neuroimaging experiments on how neuropharmaceuticals and meditation influence similar aspects of attention in adult ADHD. Persistent meditation can improve focus.

Martha Farah: Director of the Center for Cognitive Neuroscience since 1999. Empirical examination of how a variety of neuropharmaceuticals impact "normal" individuals.

Paul Wolpe: Where to start? Busy bio-neuroethicist who is about to get a lot busier. Writing a book on biotechnical augmentation and ethics. Paul is a very bright individual and this book should be an important contribution. Told me to read the book Better Than Well.

While is was a quick 23 hour trip, it was well worth the time. It was especially nice to meet several students who drove down from Princeton for the talk. For more on the great research occurring at Penn I recommend visiting www.neuroethics.upenn.edu.

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

September 15, 2005

When Are You Most Alert?

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Posted by Zack Lynch

People reach their peak of alertness between 6pm and 7pm according to Circadian Technologies. From an evolutionary perspective, this time of day, early evening, was most likely spent securing the hearth for a safe night's sleep. Human alertness also rises at dawn or early morning. While a CMO magazine piece warns employers that trying to mess with this natural cycle won't get them very far, emerging neurotechnologies from companies like Cortex Pharmaceuticals are making are making headway on improving alertness and attention.

Located in Irvine, California, Cortex is a neuroscience company focused on novel drug therapies for neurological and psychiatric disorders. The company is pioneering a new class of proprietary pharmaceuticals called AMPAKINE compounds, which act to increase the strength of signals at connections between brain cells. The loss of these connections is thought to be responsible for memory and behavior problems in Alzheimer's disease. Many psychiatric diseases, including schizophrenia, occur as a result of imbalances in the brain's neurotransmitter system. These imbalances may be improved by using the AMPAKINE technology.

A recently completed clinical study with AMPAKINE compounds in patients with schizophrenia indicated improvement in a number of symptoms also common to patients with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder ("ADHD"'). The US Department of Defense is also studying the use of these compounds to improve alertness in air force pilots and infantry.

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

September 14, 2005

Chinese Forest or American Tree

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Posted by Zack Lynch

Cultural differences appear to exist between how Chinese and Americans perceive and remember visual stimuli. New research conducted by Richard Nisbett, a social psychologist and author of the Geography of Thought, has shown that Chinese and American students differ in the way they look at and remember a complex visual scene. Science summarized the experiment in the following way:

"Wearing headsets with a built-in eye movement tracker, 25 American and 27 Chinese graduate students were asked to observe 36 pictures -- each with an object against a realistic background. The Americans zoomed in on the foreground object earlier and for a longer time than did the Chinese who spent more time taking in the background and less time studying the object. The result, the Chinese tended to recall background more accurately, whereas Americans remember more about the central object."

This research could have interesting implications for how different neurotechnologies could impact cultures in unintended ways. But before we jump to any conclusions I'd like to see a larger study done that included young children to see how and when this behavior is emerges.

For those in the Philadelphia area, I'll be giving a talk on Monday at the University of Pennsylvania's Center for Cognitive Neuroscience at noon. Come discuss our emerging neurosociety with me and many others.

Comments (1) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Perception Shift

Come Discuss the Neurosociety at the University of Pennsylvania's Cognitive Neuroscience Meeting Next Monday

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Posted by Zack Lynch

If you are in the Philadelphia area next Monday, come down to the University of Pennsylvania where I will be kicking off their 2005-06 cognitive neuroscience lecture series with a talk on Our Emerging Neurosociety: How Neurotechnology is Shaping Business, Politics and Culture.

Time: Mon, Sep 19 2005, 12:00-1:15PM in Room 400A, 3401 Walnut
Center for Cognitive Neuroscience Talks. A big thanks to Martha Farrah for setting this up.

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

September 8, 2005

Using Brain Scans to Figure Out What Women Want

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Posted by Zack Lynch

What will they think of next? MIT's Technology Review reports on the following:

"Drug companies make $2.5 billion a year selling Viagra, Cialis and Levitra to help men enjoy sex. Since more women suffer from sexual dysfunction than men, developing a drug that could double those sales would seem to be a no-brainer. Yet the pharmaceutical industry has failed women miserably -- there isn't a single sexual dysfunction drug on the market that can help them. Pfizer Inc. last year abandoned an eight-year Viagra study involving 3,000 women, conceding that its famous blue pill only works for men.

While Pfizer and other pharmaceutical titans have abandoned the pursuit of a Viagra for females as too complicated, a growing number of university researchers are reporting progress with the help of brain scanners and other technology.

Yes, they're watching women's brains while they have orgasms. And they're coming to some interesting conclusions."

While Big Phama may have given up on FSD, several smaller companies are making progress, including: Nastech Pharmaceutical (apomorphine HCI) in Phase II; Solvay Pharmaceuticals (Estratest) in Phase II; BioSante Pharmaceuticals (LibiGel) completed Phase II; and Palatin Technologies (PT-141) in Phase II.

Comments (126) + TrackBacks (2) | Category: Neuropharma

September 6, 2005

UC Merced Opens Today

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Posted by Zack Lynch

UC Merced, the 10th campus in the University of California system, welcomed it's first 1000 students today. The selection process for a new UC Campus began back in 1988 and the Merced site was selected in 1995. It's the first UC undergraduate campus to be built since UC Santa Cruz opened in 1965.

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Merced is located in the middle of the San Joaquin Valley, within a two-hour drive from the cities of San Francisco and Sacramento, and from the natural beauty of the Pacific Ocean and Yosemite National Park. There are currently three schools within the university: Engineering, Natural Sciences, and Social Sciences, Humanities and Arts.

Renewable energy systems will be a major focus at the university along with a heavy emphasis on interdisciplinary research. As a graduate of UCLA who developed my own interdisciplinary education across three schools (evolutionary biology, environmental science and then a graduate degree in economic geography), I hope that UC Merced will continue to devote resources to help students cross traditional boundaries.

It looks like they are starting out with a good foundation. As Jessica Green, assistant professor in the UC Merced School of Natural Sciences put it,"...it's cool, I sit next to a philosophy professor, a Chinese historian, a mathematician, a physicist and a poet." If that's not interdisciplinary, then I don't know what is.

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

September 1, 2005

Treating Pain - Special Neurotech Insights Issue

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Posted by Zack Lynch

We all feel pain. Some 87 million Americans and over 290 million individuals worldwide suffer from some form of chronic pain. Sales of therapeutics for pain management reached over $20 billion last year, up 11%.

aug 31b cover.jpgTo learn more about the past, present and future of the pain management market then don't miss the latest issue of Neurotech Insights - the neurotechnology investment newsletter. Included in this issue:

-Next Generation Pain Treatments (in-depth analysis with latest clinical trials)
-Interview with Pain Therapeutics CEO, Remi Barbier
-Discussion of neurostimulation treatments for pain management
-Market analysis of public companies (RNVS, CEPH, MDT, DOVP, NTII, SHPGY)
-Deals, alliances and financings
-Neurotech Index performance (companies treating neurological diseases)

If you are an investor, corporate executive, researcher, or someone who suffers from chronic pain I recommend picking up the latest copy of Neurotech Insights - the biweekly neurotechnology investment newsletter.

Comments (1) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Neurotech Industry