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
Receive by email

TNRCoverWeb120.jpg Buy on Amazon

Brain Waves

Monthly Archives

March 21, 2007

The National NeuroTechnology Initiative (NNTI)

Email This Entry

Posted by Zack Lynch

NIOsmall.pngOn March 29th the Neurotechnology Industry Organization (NIO) is hosting our first neurotechnology public policy tour in Washington DC. Over twenty neurotech executives are flying in from across the country for morning meetings with more than a dozen Senators, Representatives of the House and their staffers, as well as, afternoon meetings with key teams at the FDA and NIH. At these meetings members will be discussing several ways that the Federal government could better support neurotech companies in their quest to develop next generation treatments for brain and nervous system illnesses. One of the programs we will be proposing is the development of a National NeuroTechnology Initiative (NNTI).

The National Neurotechnology Initiative (NNTI) seeks to establish a federal research and development program, based in a National Coordination Office (NCO), to direct interagency efforts in neurotechnology. The NNTI provides an opportunity for organized, strategic investment across federal agencies to accelerate development of vitally important areas of neurotechnology research and development. Four key program areas will be discussed including: the establishment of national research centers in neurotechnology; major research initiatives in neurotechnology; translational development of neurotechnology; and research in consideration of ethical, legal and social issues related to neurotechnology.

The national economic burden from brain and nervous system illnesses has reached over $500 billion a year and is growing alarmingly due to an aging population. Investigation into the mechanisms and functions of the brain will lead to vastly improved understanding of brain disease and injuries, human cognition and behavior, and will give us an unprecedented ability to treat and heal those in need.

A coordinated national effort is needed across Federal agencies to accelerate development of vitally important areas of neurotechnology. Like previous successful models of coordinated Federal investment initiatives including the Human Genome Project and the National Nanotechnology Initiative (NNI), we know that the NNTI would lead to a cascade of investment, discovery, applications, and benefits that can only be imagined today.

More to be revealed next Thursday.

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

March 14, 2007

The Addiction Project, Thursday Night on HBO

Email This Entry

Posted by Zack Lynch

Addiction is the number one brain-related illness on the planet. Worldwide nearly 800 million people are addicted to a substance. (Note that most 'addiction surveys' fail to recognize nicotine addiction. A fact I find truly confounding.)

In an effort to shed a spotlight on this vast and growing neurosocial epidemic, HBO has produced the Addiction Project, a 90-Minute film that will air this Thursday at 9:00 pm. Immediately following the premiere, the website will offer this and 14 other films in their entirety for free on the site. So if you don't have HBO go to the website.

The website is meant to be a resource for people who are interested in the science of addiction, and for individuals and families who need help. If you believe you may have a problem go you might take a minute and read this webpage.

Here are some mind numbing statistics on addiction:

- Nearly 1 in 10 Americans over the age of 12 are classified with substance abuse or dependence.
- Over 18 million adults suffer from alcohol use disorders.
- Alcohol and drug abuse costs the American economy an estimated $366 billion per year in lost productivity, health care expenditures and crime.
- Of the 22.2 million Americans who needed treatment for illicit drugs or alcohol, only 3.9 million received it.
- Among those who felt they needed treatment but did not receive it, 44% attributed it to cost or insurance barriers.
- More than half of all adults have a family history of alcoholism or problem drinking.
- One-fourth of all persons admitted to general hospitals are admitted for problems related to alcohol.
- More than 100,000 deaths in the United States each year are attributable to excessive alcohol consumption

The Addiction Project is produced by HBO in partnership with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) and the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA). Bravo to these organizations.

Comments (8) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Mental Health Issues

March 13, 2007

March 12, 2007

NeuroLaw Rising

Email This Entry

Posted by Zack Lynch

It looks like 2007 is the year when the world is beginning to wake up to the broad scale societal implications of neurotechnology. This week's NYTimes magazine's cover article is an excellent piece by Jeffrey Rosen titled "The Trials of Neurolaw: How Advances in Brain Science is Could Transform Our Legal System. The article covers many of the neuroethicists that are working in this area of neuropolicy research. I heartily recommend reading this article, it is very well written and if you have time, check out the blog I posted in 2004 with the same title Neurolaw where I point to most of the same researchers.

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

March 6, 2007

Hearing Beautiful Paintings - A Relectionist Informs Neuroesthetics

Email This Entry

Posted by Zack Lynch

articles-synesthesia-brain.jpgIn "The Most Beautiful Painting You Ever Heard," Virginia Hughes of Seed magazine exploses the work of synesthete artist Marcia Smilack. (Brain Waves readers were first introduced Marcia's work a year ago in 3D Rooms - Visual Perception Art Tricks)

Smilack belongs to the group of one to four percent of people worldwide with synesthesia, the neurological mixing of the senses. No two synesthetes have exactly the same perceptual experiences. Many perceive each number, letter of the alphabet, or day of the week as a different color. For others, sounds from the environment are always accompanied by moving geometric patterns in their "mind's eye. Smilack has a rare form of synesthesia that involves all of her senses—the sound of one female voice looks like a thin, bending sheet of metal, and the sight of a certain fishing shack gives her a brief taste of Neapolitan ice cream—but her artistic leanings are shared by many other synesthetes... (I highly recommend a look at Marcia's galleries)

"Until seven or eight years ago, it was still a long-standing question whether the things these people were saying, this synesthesia, was real or bogus," said Vilayanur Ramachandran, a neuroscientist at the University of California, San Diego. Subsequent experiments by Ramachandran and others using brain scanners also confirmed that synesthesia is a genuine sensory experience. Ramachandran says that since the areas of the brain that are activated by color are adjacent to those activated by number, synesthesia might be a result of some kind of "cross wiring" in the brain. "When we're born, the brain has all kinds of connections, and these gradually get pruned," Ramachandran said. "So synesthesia might be a mutation of this pruning gene, or set of genes, so that adjacent areas don't get separated."

As neuroesthetics, the study of the neurobiology of artistic creativity and achievement, continues to expand, new forms of art like Marcia's will emerge at the nexus of our new knowledge of brain and what it can create. Just as information technology has made new forms of art possible like brain wave synthesizers, digital banners and electronica, neurotechnology will surely play an important role in the ever evolving world of art, architecture and entertainment in the years to come.

What does a Kandisky sound like anyway?

Comments (3) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Neuroesthetics