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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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THE NEURO REVOLUTION
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Brain Waves

Monthly Archives

June 29, 2009

The Debate: Better Living through Chemistry?

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Posted by Zack Lynch

Here is the 45 minute follow up debate. Poor title, we should have discussed neurodevices in depth but there only so much time and bandwidth.

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The Neuro Revolution Interview on The Agenda

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Posted by Zack Lynch

Enjoy this 15 minute interview!

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June 18, 2009

Future of Neurotech Innovation: Novel Neuromodulation Platforms

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Posted by Zack Lynch

Nanowire.jpgAdaptation of pacemaker technology has led to major advances in neurodevice development, allowing for stimulation of discrete brain areas and nerves for the treatment of Parkinson’s, essential tremor, epilepsy, and even obsessive–compulsive disorder. Novel device platforms for neuromodulation will allow for less invasive and more responsive therapies in the future.

Optogenetics, for example, is an emerging field combining optics and genetics to probe neural circuits on the millisecond time scale. In early development, delivery of genes tied to cell-specific promoters has been used to make certain neurons light sensitive. Then highly targeted light-emitting hardware such as fiberoptics is used to activate or deactivate that specific cell type. One startup in this area is developing an optogenetic neuromodulation system that may one day enable the blind to see. Leveraging this technology will yield entirely new levels of control over specific cell types in the brain, making it possible to treat illnesses that emerge as a result of malfunctioning neuronal circuits. Another exciting example of the future of neurodevice development relates to the development of conducting polymer nanowires, which will make it possible to monitor and modulate individual brain cells. The wires can be threaded through the circulatory system into the brain, without the need for invasive brain surgery. They do not block normal blood flow or interfere with the exchange of gases and nutrients through the blood vessel walls.

Looking forward, it will be possible to connect an entire array of nanowires to a catheter tube that could then be guided through the circulatory system into the brain. Once there, the wires would branch out into tinier blood vessels until they reached specific locations. Each nanowire would then be used to record the electrical activity of a single nerve cell or small groups of them. Nanowire sensors could greatly improve doctors’ ability to pinpoint damage from injury and stroke, localize the epileptogenic zone(s) of seizures, and detect the presence of tumors and other brain abnormalities. Beyond that, nanowires that could deliver electrical impulses have the potential to transform the entire field of neuromodulation, dramatically expanding the potential scope of treatable conditions. (more in the Neurotech Industry 2009 Report)

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June 14, 2009

The Neuro Revolution on The Agenda

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Posted by Zack Lynch

If you are in Canada tomorrow evening, watch me on The Agenda at 8pm with Steve Paikin where I'll be talking about my forthcoming book, The Neuro Revolution and neuroenhancement.

Update: Taping still happening today, but Iran is taking center stage tonight, so will be aired at later date. Will update then.

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June 12, 2009

National Neurotech Initiative up on Capitol Hill

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Posted by Zack Lynch

Capitol%2B11-07.jpgWhile I spent Monday on a special working group at the National Institute of Neurological Disease and Stroke reimagining the Small Business Innovation Research Program in Rockville, Maryland, Tuesday was full of 10 separate meetings up on Capitol Hill lobbying for the National Neurotechnology Initiative. In the morning I met with the staff of Senators Burr, Greg, Bingaman, and Merkley in their offices while the afternoon was spent talking with Representatives Dingell, Markey, DeGette, Burgess, Sarbanes, and Space. Progress.

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June 4, 2009

Future Neurotech Innovation: Crossing the blood brain barrier

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Posted by Zack Lynch

Vasculature.gifDozens of private companies are currently developing or commercializing neurodrug delivery methods and devices that will bring life to old and new compounds alike. These technologies include:
Implantable devices: Implantable pumps bypass the blood– brain barrier (BBB) and deliver highly accurate amounts of drugs to specific sites in the brain or spinal cord.
Expression systems: A French company is circumventing the BBB using encapsulated cell technology (ECT), a polymer implant containing cells that provide continuous, long-term release of the therapeutic protein to the brain or eye.
Receptor-mediated transport: Receptors that transport nutrients
to the brain from the blood can be tricked into transporting therapeutic chemicals, peptides, and proteins across the BBB. Insulin, transferrin, and lipoproteins, for example, cross the BBB by facilitated transport, and can be combined with therapeutic proteins or other molecules to promote access to the brain [10].
Cell-penetrating peptides: During the past decade, several arginine-rich peptides have been described, such as SynB vectors, which allow for intracellular delivery and BBB transport. The mechanism for this transport is unknown. A Swiss company is using cell-penetrating peptides to develop treatments for stroke and myocardial infarction.
Focused ultrasound: Some research shows that focused ultrasound can temporarily open the BBB in a targeted area for a window of time. A seed stage company is working to commercialize this technology and improve it for use in humans.
Nanoparticle formulations: Nanoparticle formulations refer to
therapeutics encapsulated in nanoscale particles that can pass the BBB. Although there is great interest in using nanotechnology to improve neuropharmaceutical delivery to the brain, it will take some time to overcome challenges of this platform, including the need for intravenous delivery, manufacturing, and clearance by the liver.

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June 1, 2009

Future of Neurotech Innovation: Neuroimaging and disease treatment

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Posted by Zack Lynch

img_0968.jpgBrain and nervous system illnesses are exceptionally difficult to research and diagnose, partly because changes in the local environment of the brain are difficult to assess within the confines of the skull. Although diagnostic tests for diseases like cancer and diabetes are common and can use samples from blood, urine, or tissue, diagnostic tests for many brain-related illnesses are only beginning to emerge.

Neuroimaging is revolutionizing the diagnosis and treatment of brain-related illness. It is difficult to imagine treating patients with brain tumors, cerebrovascular disorders, or epilepsy without current imaging tools. Several decades of neuroimaging research have contributed enormously to our understanding of structural and functional differences in people with neurological and psychiatric disorders. For example, PET scans have been shown to be 93% accurate in detecting Alzheimer’s disease about 3 years before the conventional diagnosis of ‘‘probable Alzheimer’s”. Imaging now offers
insights into the mechanisms of action of drugs used to treat schizophrenia and the causal mechanisms that may be at the root of many disorders. Diagnosis of mental illness and differential treatment selection is one of the most difficult aspects of psychiatric treatment, yet this is where neuroimaging will add tremendous value in the years ahead.

On the neurofeedback front, Omneuron, a private company, in conjunction with Stanford University, is using real-time functional MRI (rtfMRI) to train patients in pain management techniques by monitoring the ongoing activity of their brains. Within a 13-minute session, patients can learn to control activity in different parts of their brain and alter their sensitivity to painful stimuli, allowing them to better control pain. Patients watched their brain’s level of activity as seen by rtfMRI and were trained to decrease pain intensity through mental exercises, such as focusing on a part of the body where they did not have pain. In years to come, rtfMRI has the potential to add an entirely new treatment option for a whole host of brain-related illnesses including depression, addiction, and dementia.

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