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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August 25, 2009

Where Are the Neurofinancial Software Applications?

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Posted by Zack Lynch

BrainStockPage.pngIn chapter 4, Finance with Feelings, I talk about the emergence of neurosoftware applications that leverage neuroeconomic research into decision making to improve our understanding of individual economic behavior and the vicissitudes of financial markets. As with each previous revolution, the financial sector adopts the latest innovations to improve capital efficiency. The Neuro Revolution is no different. In response to requests to emails from people looking for more info on software that could help them "understand how their emotions influence their decisions" or "tame their emotions" I'm writing this brief neurofinance post.

Realize that these applications are just beginning to be developed. The more sophisticated work is still being carried out in the research labs of people like Andrew Lo, Dmitry Repin, Xiao-Jing Wang, Paul Zak and others. If you are serious, then I'd highly recommend attending the upcoming Society for Neuroeconomics meeting Sept. 27-29 in Evanston, Illinois to get insights into cutting edge research. Richard Peterson, whose story I describe in detail in the book founded a $50M hedge fund, MarketPsy Capital, that uses special emotion detecting algorithms to help time trades.

Evidence of the evolution of these neurofinancial software applications is everywhere. Sunday's NYTimes carried a story, Mining the Web for Feelings no Facts, that discussed several companies developing "sentiment analysis" systems. Perhaps more interesting was Monday's WSJ article "The Mistakes We Make - and Why We Make Them" which is loaded with basic ideas for neurofinancial applications. In the article, Mr. Statman, a professor at Santa Clara University points out eights ways to avoid the cognitive and emotion errors that lead to poor investing. One clear theme throughout his musings is that "regret" plays a pivotal role many of our worst mistakes. Also, here is a post I wrote in 2003 with some oldies but still undeveloped goodies.

So the bottom line is this: the future isn't here yet, go invent it.

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August 19, 2009

h+ Magazine Gladly Greets The Neuro Revolution

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Posted by Zack Lynch

hplus.pngh+ Magazine reviewed The Neuro Revolution and published an interview with me. My favorite line from the review, "This is a thought-provoking and important read that deserves a wide audience." And from the interview, "Through neurotechnology we can possibly accelerate peoples' senses of themselves and their relationship to their higher being."

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Cerebrum on Huerta's Book Review

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Posted by Zack Lynch

In his review of The Neuro Revolution by Zack Lynch, Michael F. Huerta compliments the animated style Lynch uses to describe how our understanding of the brain and newfound ability to affect it via drugs and technology are changing our lives and our societies. Lynch’s predictions for the future are both exciting and within the realm of scientific possibility.

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August 18, 2009

Wonderful Review of "The Neuro Revolution" in Cerebrum

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Posted by Zack Lynch

cerebrum.pngMichael Huerta just wrote a wonderful review of The Neuro Revolution for Cerebrum published by the Dana Foundation. I've excerpted a few of his insights here, but I recommend reading the whole review, Our Neurotech Future.

Michael F. Huerta, Ph.D., is the associate director for scientific technology research at the NIMH and leads neuroscience and neurotechnology programs and initiatives at the National Institutes of Health (NIH). He directs the NIH’s Human Connectome Project, the National Database for Autism Research and the Office of Cross-Cutting Science and co-chairs the coordinating committee of the NIH Blueprint for Neuroscience Research.

"Technology’s potential to improve—or to imperil—our lives and our societies lies at the center of this entertaining and thought-provoking book by Zack Lynch, founder and executive director of the Neurotechnology Industry Organization.

Written for a lay audience, The Neuro Revolution begins with Lynch’s description of his first bungee jump, from the canopy of a lush rain forest, followed by a shock of pain from an injured spine when his second jump went awry. The experience inspired him to explore neuroscience and neurotechnology (Lynch defines the latter as “the tools we use to understand and influence our brain and nervous system”). With prose that is at times clever and quirky but never dull, Lynch discusses how our understanding of the human brain—as well as our ability to influence it—may shape the future of law, commerce, art, warfare and religion.

Along the way, we read stories of discovery and invention set in a variety of contexts and disciplines. Lynch’s anecdotes illustrate how the findings and technologies of brain science might alter society. He supports his stories and personal musings with references to reader-friendly articles and books; comments and insights from scientists, artists, ethicists and other experts; and historical facts that help the reader appreciate the full trajectory of a discovery.

... Lynch describes this and other neurotechnologies with characteristic zeal and animation without wandering too far from rigorous scientific interpretation. This is a difficult balance to achieve.
...Given the broad perspective Lynch takes in this book, readers may argue that he should have addressed additional technologies, neuroscience findings and ethical or legal implications more thoroughly. However, suggesting that additional points could be made or that topics could be explored further is more an acknowledgement of the richness and import of Lynch’s subject matter than a criticism of what this slim book offers.
...The Neuro Revolution is a timely and approachable introduction to the power of neuroscience and neurotechnology to shape our world, inside and out.

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August 11, 2009

Center for Neuroscience and Society at UPenn Launched

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Posted by Zack Lynch

PennCNS.pngThe University of Pennsylvania has a very rich tradition in the brain sciences. In 1953, Penn founded the nation’s first university-wide institute devoted exclusively to neuroscience research, the Mahoney Institute of Neurological Sciences. Since then, Penn has developed multiple communities to support some of the world’s leading neuroscience research, including the Center for Cognitive Neuroscience, the Center for Functional Neuroimaging and the Penn Comprehensive Neuroscience Center. Last year Penn announced plans to build a new Neural and Behavioral Sciences Building and has launched a $50 million initiative to recruit Penn Integrates Knowledge professors who take an interdisciplinary approach to neuroscience.

Yesterday, UPenn took another broad step into the future by announcing the founding of the Penn Center for Neuroscience and Society. The Center is cross-disciplinary endeavor to increase understanding of the impact of neuroscience on society through research and teaching and to encourage the responsible use of neuroscience for the benefit of humanity. The reach of the CNS will extend beyond academia and engage policy makers, advocacy groups, industry and professionals in the full range of fields affected by progress in neuroscience such as business, the military, law and education.

In an email yesterday, Martha Farah, Director of the CNS, described the aims of the center as being "very much aligned with the aims of your organization [NIO], and the social and historical perspective you present in your excellent new book are also very consistent with ours. So, I welcome your participation as we embark on the mission of the Center: to increase understanding of the impact of neuroscience on society."

Not only does the Center's development underscore the continuing evolution of The Neuro Revolution but it also supports our case up on Capitol Hill as we lobby Congress to pass the National Neurotechnology Initiative Act which contains over $10M/year in neuroethics related research funding.

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August 7, 2009

"Neuro Revolution" From Prefix to Adjective

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Posted by Zack Lynch

300_82094.gifIn his commentary Brave Neuro World Paul McFedries at IEEE Spectrum highlights how "the term neuro made the leap from prefix to adjective recently with the publication last month of The Neuro Revolution."

As you can imagine, we thought long and hard about the title for the book. Years back I considered Brain Wave (a play on the physical phenomenon, the patterns of historical techno-economic waves, and the close association with the name of this blog). Obviously, The Neuro Revolution won for multitude of reasons, one of them being the desire to raise "neuro" to a new status.

The prefix to adjective shift is of monumental significance. Neuro refers to more than just the ways that neuroscience and neurotechnologies will drive social, economic and political developments but also to the many new ways of viewing, understanding and existing that will emerge as we assimilate neuro-derived and inspired tools and practices into our lives throughout the 21st century. This is similar to how the adjectives Industrial and Information placed before Revolution connoted much greater meaning than a type of technology or science.

At all of my discussions over the two last week in DC, NYC, Boston, Palo Alto, San Francisco, I continually shared that the primary reason for writing the book was to spark an ongoing broad public dialogue about how brain science, neurotechnology and new ways of viewing situations will transform nearly every aspect of human life - from law enforcement to the financial markets, to marketing, art, entertainment, religion, warfare and even what it means to be human.

I was heartened a few days after my talk at MIT, attended by over 100 neuroscientists, that it generated enough interest in the societal implications of their research that they are already working on a follow on series focused on emerging issues.

While there is already a burgeoning neuroethics community, it is time to expand the community. Given the extraordinary changes coming, it must begin to include people from all walks of life, yet another reason to write a book less laden in terminology and more focused on story and human interest. Let the conversations grow!

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