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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.
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December 28, 2006

Video of My Talk "Perception Shifting in a Neurosociety - Ethical and Societal Implications"

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Posted by Zack Lynch

Here is a video link to a 30 minute presentation I gave earlier this year at a conference on the Geoethical Implications of Neuronanotechnology hosted by the Terasem Movement at Martine Rothblatt's Vermont retreat. The title of my talk is Perception Shifting in a Neurosociety: Ethical and Societal Implications. The slides for the talk can be downloaded on the conference program webpage (scroll down to Topic D, Neuro-Nanotechnology Geoethics). There you will find links to video and powerpoint. Or just click here for video. The content of this talk is similar to presentations that I have given to corporations and governments around the world including the Arab Strategy Forum in Dubai and GE executives at their annual 10 year strategic forecasting meeting. Enjoy.

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

December 20, 2006

The Birth of NeuroLeadership

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Posted by Zack Lynch

brain%20writing-thumb.jpgIf you are not busy attending the 2nd annual Neurotech Industry Conference on May 17-18, 2007 in San Francisco, you might consider heading over to Italy in May for the first NeuroLeadership Summit which will bring together top neuroscientists with leadership development experts and senior business executives, to collaborate on addressing some of today’s most important organizational challenges. Issues like how to drive positive change, speed up learning, manage through uncertainty, deal with information overload, and make better decisions. This conference and the birth of this new field is further evidence that we are witnessing the emergence of a neurosociety, where social, economic and political change are increasingly being driven by advances in neurotechnology.

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

December 18, 2006

Abolishing Chronic Pain

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Posted by Zack Lynch

For those who suffer from chronic pain there is hope. A story from last week's NYTimes:

"Geneticists following up the case of a 10-year old Pakistani boy who could walk on coals without discomfort have discovered a gene that is central to the perception of pain. A mutation in the gene knocks out all perception of injury, raising hopes of developing novel drugs that would abolish pain by blocking the gene’s function. The boy lived in Lahore, Pakistan, and was well known to the city’s medical authorities because he would come to the clinic asking to be patched up after his street theater. In these exhibitions, he would pass knives through his arms and walk on burning coals without feeling pain...

Chronic_Pain.jpgAfter six years of work, Dr. Woods found that the affected members of all three families had a defect in a gene known as sodium channel N9A, or SCN9A...The SCN9A gene is active both in nerves that mediate pain and in those of the sympathetic nervous system, which controls vital bodily functions like heart rate. But for reasons that are not yet understood, the affected members of the Pakistani families had no symptoms of a disordered sympathetic nervous system, such as irregular heart rate, and seemed entirely normal apart from the occasional self-inflicted damage caused by their inability to feel pain. Several had inadvertently bitten off the tips of their tongue in infancy."

Nearly 300 million people worldwide suffer from chronic pain and this research should go a long way in helping uncover new ways to alleviate their daily torment. (Note: image of brain pain center is not related to this article but is related to permanently relieving pain.)

Comments (3) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Sensoceutical Market

MIT's New Neurotech MINT

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Posted by Zack Lynch

Some mints make pennies, some make quarters, MIT's new McGovern Institute Neurotechnology (MINT) program is making the future of the brain.

Lead by Charles Jennings the new McGovern Institute Neurotechnology (MINT) Program aims to develop new technologies that will advance the study of neuroscience and its translation into clinical applications. Jennings has a diverse background in biomedical research, science communication and academic administration. Following postdoctoral studies in developmental biology at Harvard and MIT, he became an editor with the scientific journal Nature. He was the founding editor of Nature Neuroscience, widely considered a leading journal in its field. More recently, he was the first executive director of the Harvard Stem Cell Institute, and he continues to serve as an advisor to the Connecticut Stem Cell Research Program.

“We are delighted to have recruited Charles Jennings to MIT,” said Robert Desimone, director of the McGovern Institute. “Brain research has always been driven by technological innovation, and the MINT Program will be central to our strategic development as we focus increasingly on translating basic research discoveries into new clinical applications. We have already begun several collaborative projects under this program, and we look forward to its expansion under Charles’ direction.”

Update 2/22/07: MIT Tech Review interview with Charles Singer

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

December 5, 2006

Neurotechnosocioeconomics and the Global Burden of Brain Disease

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Posted by Zack Lynch

Neurotechnosocioeconomics is the study of the ways that neurotechnology has an impact on social and economic systems.

I'm currently talking with Chris Murray at the Harvard School of Public Health about researching and writing a report on the Global Economic Burden of Neurological Diseases and Psychiatric Illnesses. The report, which would be sponsored by the Neurotechnology Industry Organization, would seek to calculate the economic burden for specific illnesses including Alzheimer's disease, addiction, anxiety, attention disorders, depression, epilepsy, hearing loss, insomnia, chronic pain, Parkinson's, schizophrenia, stroke and a few other brain-related illnesses. The report would determine the total economic burden for both the US and world and would include future projections given a few different technological scenarios.

The goal of the report is to get credible data about the economic consequences of brain diseases so that NIO can use them in Congressional testimony to argue for increased funding of translational neurotechnology research, tax incentives for neurotech investment, and a host of other purposes in support of NIO's mission to accelerate the development of treatments and cures for brain diseases.

Only by "dollarizing" the impact of these illnesses will it become undeniably clear how profound a problem brain diseases represent to the world's economies, especially with our growing and aging populations. Clear, credible, and "dollarized" data will allow our legislators to make intelligent trade-offs when determining budget priorities.

A key question the report will need to answer is what do we mean by economic burden, and how do we calculate it? There are three components to this type of analysis:

1. Prevalence, disability, mortality and DALYs lost. This is the standard components of the global burden of disease. There are well established methodologies to undertake this.

2. Expenditure in health systems on interventions for neurological and psychiatric conditions. This information is much harder to find given present data and will likely require considerable data collation or collection efforts.

3. Lost economic output due to these conditions. The problem with these
calculations is that they are the results of either (1) times some constant (a little more complicated but you get the idea) or (2) require panel data. There is much more methodological debate about how to do this well relative to the other two.

It is here where neurotechnosocioeconomic analysis will come into play. Unlike other medical technologies that generally result in someone surviving or passing away (e.g. cancer, heart attack), many neurotechnologies (e.g. drugs for schizophrenia) improve the quality of life across a continuum of disability (e.g. some people will return to be high functioning members of society - no economic burden, while others improve sufficiently only to be less than totally disabled - high economic burden).

Thus, the economic impact of a neurotechnology is dependent upon the how advanced a particular treatment is for each disease. A cure could equate to a low long term economic burden (but perhaps a high short term cost depending on the price of the treatment), while a drug that improves the quality of life for six months (e.g. current treatments for Alzheimer's) would shave only a tiny amount of the economic burden - high economic cost. I think you get the point.

While I believe that we will obtain some very useable metrics about the near term economic burden (0-10 years) given some assumptions of neurotechnologies in the clinical pipeline, medium and long term estimates will need to be analyzed in a scenario framework with different technological assumptions.

So, what's this study going to cost?

Before I answer that, why don't we ask, "What is it worth?"

What if we could increase funding for brain related diseases by $1 billion over the next five years? What if we developed tax incentives that accelerated investment in small innovation neurotechnology companies resulting in an additional $1 billion dollars of venture investment flowing into private commercial neuroscience startups in the next five years?

For context on these numbers, according to NeuroInsights, annual government support for the neurosciences across all institutes at the NIH is around $5 billion while total venture investment in neurotech in 2005 rose to a little more $1.5 billion. In this light, it become clear that the billion dollar increases I am suggesting above are not of the realm of consideration, especially when annualized over five years.

With the economic burden of Alzheimer's disease alone in the United States surpassing $100 billion a year, the potential payoff of making the decision to increase funding and incentivize investment seems quite rational. Moreover, since my research estimates that the global economic burden far exceeds $1 trillion, I believe a convincing case can be made.

But none of this will happen unless we have "clear, credible, and dollarized" information available to legislators to help them make intelligent decisions. In short, we must dollarize in order to help us prioritize.

So, okay, what is this going to cost?

From Chris, "Finally, in terms of cost, if this were a new research study, the price tag would be in the 2 million range. If you want an analysis built on existing studies which will be much less satisfactory, the cost is clearly going to be much lower. It really will depend on what you want to use the study for."

All of this said, I am now in the process of raising $2 million for this study. It seems like a minor investment relative to the billions of dollars of additional investment in support of the development of treatments for brain-related illnesses. Please join me in this campaign.

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

December 4, 2006

Holiday Brain Fitness Gifts

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Posted by Zack Lynch

SharpBrain is recommending and selling some brain-based games as holiday gifts. So if you know someone who is too stressed, wants to improve cognitive sharpness, desires a better basketball game or is bothered by light ADHD then you might think about getting them one of these programs:

The Freeze-Framer® Interactive Learning System for Stress Management:The Freeze-Framer is an easy-to-use software program, learning system, and patented Heart Rate Variability monitor. The Freeze-Framer helps you get into The Zone of optimal learning and performance by managing the negative effects of stress and anxiety. Now at a special price of $249 with free shipping in the USA.

MindFit Brain Workout: MindFit is a personal trainer for your brain. It takes you through a wide variety of customized, scientifically based exercises to challenge 14 different cognitive functions and skill areas. It assesses your mental skills, trains you, and promotes overall cognitive vitality. Twenty minutes a day, three times a week is all it takes to keep your brain in top shape. Now at a special price of $139 with free shipping in the USA.

intelligym.jpg:The Basketball IntelliGym™ Cognitive Trainer: The IntelliGym takes basketball training to a whole new level by giving your mind a sophisticated workout to improve core basketball abilities, such as coordination, attention control, peripheral vision, and perception – skills which most people mistakenly consider as instincts rather than trainable cognitive skills. And as the IntelliGym improves your basketball skills, it can also improve your academic skills.

RoboMemo: Cogmed Working Memory Training for ADD/ADHD: Research shows that everyone can improve his or her working memory – but training is especially effective for those with attention deficits. RoboMemo, the Cogmed Working Memory Training program, is specifically designed to help children with attention deficits to overcome the working memory gap.

Happy Holidays!

Comments (2) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: X-tra