About Us | Corante Research NEW! | Reprints | Advertise | Contact Us | Services

CORANTE



INDUSTRY NEWS today's headlines

Biotechnology
Communications
E-Business
Internet
Law & Policy
Personal Technology
Venture Capital

INSIDERS

Instant Messaging

WEBLOG COLUMNS today's highlights

Amateur Hour
the "me" in media

The Bottom Line
the economics of IT

Brain Waves
neurons, bits & genes

Connected
nodes & networks

Copyfight
the politics of IP

Corante on Blogging
in media res

Got Game?
the future of play

IdeaFlow
creativity & innovation

In the Pipeline
drug discovery

Living Code
biology & information

Many-to-Many
social software

Moore's Lore
new technology

Open Mind
open source


About this section

Emotions, cognition and our senses make each of us human.

This section provides you with concise updates on how advances in brain science (neurons) biotechnology (genes) and IT (bits) are creating new tools to enhance human mental and physical performance.

Among the disciplines coalescing in the field of neurotechnology: genetic engineering, pharmaceuticals, psychology, cellular implantation, physical augmentation, electronic stimulation, and nanotechnology.

Up for discussion and analysis in Brain Waves: the political, economic, ethical, and social forces that will shape the future of one of the most important and fascinating stories of the coming decades.


About this editor

Zack Lynch mugshot
Zack Lynch is an evolutionary biologist, enterprise software marketer, and economic geographer, who has worked over the past decade to understand how technology and society coevolve. In this endeavor he has investigated self-organizing behavior of leaf cutter ants at Finca la Selva, taught classes at UCLA's Anderson School of Business on scenario planning, and analyzed sustainable agriculture at the Land Institute in Salina, Kansas.

Inspired by these ventures he wrote a master's thesis on how communication technologies will impact human settlement patterns over the next 100 years. This led him to spend several years as VP of Marketing at enterprise software companies - Maxager and Steelwedge.

He is currently writing a book on Neurotechnology and Society. Please send newsworthy items or feedback - to Zack Lynch.



Corante.com Navigation

COMPANY
About Us
Contact Us
Press Coverage

SERVICES
Advertising Info
Corante Research
Buy Reprints
Classifieds
Custom Services
Licensing

LEGAL
Privacy Policy
Terms of Use

















powered by WebCrimson






BRAIN WAVES: neurons, bits & genes

By Zack Lynch


Posted Friday, May 30, 2003

House Bans Forcing Meds on Kids

From the Center for Cognitive Liberty and Ethics:

Last Wednesday the U.S. House of Representatives approved the Child Medication Safety Act (HR 1170), which would prohibit schools receiving federal education money from coercing children into taking drugs like Ritalin as a precondition to attending class.

I wonder how long before private schools begin promoting their use of meds.




Posted Thursday, May 29, 2003

A Severe SARS Scenario

Since its emergence in November SARS has appeared in over 28 countries and has killed over 750 people. Although the vast majority of infections have been in China and Hong Kong, Canada's continuing outbreaks point out that we may be in for a very difficult fight.  SARS has a death rate of 5-15% depending on age, with people older than 60 taking the brunt of the toll so far. 

What would happen if quarantines don't work and it takes several years to develop an effective vaccine? What if SARS leveraged our six degrees? How might this impact our daily lives?

One report suggests that if SARS spreads unchecked it will rapidly impact many of the poorest nations because of inadequate facilities for monitoring and control. Hundreds of thousands would become infected, resulting in a global pandemic similar to spread of flu each year, infecting perhaps 2-10% of the global population and resulting in up to 30 million deaths.

In another report, Dr. Patrick Dixon, a fellow at the Centre for Management Development at London Business School and a recognized expert on AIDS, takes a rather pessimistic view toward SARS. "While not inevitable, there is a 25% chance of a worldwide SARS pandemic. To give a number to this, he estimates that if current trends continue, it would mean 1 billion SARS cases around the globe within the next 14 months."

UC Berkeley's SARS expert Alison Galvani shares the following: "Though SARS has a low mortality rate, it seems to have a high rate of secondary infections, which is what really determines how damaging a pathogen will be," she says. "People should remember that the Spanish influenza in 1918 had a similar mortality rate but a high rate of secondary infections, and it killed 20 million people."  She notes, too, that the Spanish influenza pandemic occurred when mobility was much more restricted and the world's population was about half that of today. On the other hand, she says, current public health measures are much better than they were 85 years ago.  "The size of the epidemic will depend on how effective control efforts are," she adds.

Note: I am not an alarmist.  However in researching this blog I found very little information regarding the societal implications that a SARS pandemic would unleash or how we'd respond to it. This in itself should cause concern.




Posted Wednesday, May 28, 2003

Freedom of Style

This week's Economist cover story highlights how much humans love to look and feel good.  Just a small cottage industry in the early 1900s, today's global beauty industry has blossomed into a $160 billion flower. 

Driving the beauty market is the largest concentration of wealth on the planet.  Aging American baby boomers, 78 million strong and getting older, are not only purchasing more cosmetic products, but are also seeking out whole new types of physical enhancement, including cosmetic surgery on a vast scale. 

Although individual opinions differ about the substance of style, there is no denying that our senses and sense of style influence everything from individual self-perception to the laws we are governed by. 

To explore how human sensory systems influence society, the Gruter Institute is hosting a small conference in two weeks where I look forward to discussing how enhancing human mental health with neuroceuticals will impact how society operates. 

I'm honored to spend several days exploring this and other related issues with:

Neuroceuticals that enable humans to enhance their mental well-being will influence not only the expression of individual style, but also the greater political economic environment we will inhabit. 




Posted Tuesday, May 27, 2003

Dear Mr. President

Earlier this year John Brockman amassed 100 of America's leading scientific thinkers to answer this question hypothetically asked by President Bush:

"What are the pressing scientific issues for the nation and the world, and what is your advice on how I can begin to deal with them?"

Insightful responses covered topics from global bioterrorism to increased funding for science education, but none addressed the issue that I believe will impact humanity most in the coming decades.  While a few people like Nobel Laureate Eric Kandel, Mary Catherine Bateson, Steven Pinker and Steven Quartz pointed in the right direction, the remaining gap motivated me to send the following letter to the President.

----------------

Dear Mr. President:

Emotions drive human society. Fear and anger easily bumping conscious thoughts out of our awareness, while wishing that anxiety or depression would go away just doesn’t work.  

Advances in brain science and biotechnology will soon change this reality by making it possible for individuals to significantly control their mental health.  With an initial focus on reducing the severity of mental illnesses, the same technology will also make it possible for each individual to enhance cognitive clarity, emotional control and extend their senses. 

When people begin to influence their emotions, how will this impact corporate innovation, political opinion and personal relationships?  When individuals can enhance memory recall and accelerate adult learning, how will this change the basis of competitive advantage?  As it becomes possible to safely extend our senses of sight, hearing and taste, what will this mean for artistic exploration and entertainment?

Just as the wheel, steam engine and electricity shaped the course of civilization -- the emerging tools of neurotechnology will create new industries, new forms of political organization and new modes of artistic expression. 

Neurotechnology's ability to temporarily influence an individual's mental health will have more profound implications for humanity, in a much nearer time frame, than genetic engineering for several reasons:

  • Neurotechnology is temporary: Human genetic engineering won't become widely adopted until people can experiment with less permanent tools 
  • Social acceptance is proven: Humans are already using first generation neurotechnologies on a vast scale.  For example, 17% of the US white-collar work force is currently using anti-depressants
  • Regulation and distribution systems are in place:  The FDA and pharmaceutical development and distribution systems are already globally trusted processes

In fact, as neurotechnology develops it may turn out that in a majority of situations humans will choose neurotechnology instead of genetic engineering to combat disease and enhance themselves because of the versatility it offers.

The policy implications of neurotechnology's emergence include:

  • Ethics: A national neuroethics discussion should be promoted to compliment your focus on bioethics.
  • National defense: Neurowarfare capabilities need to be researched while programs that are already exploring neurotechnology's potential like DARPA's Human Performance Augmentation program should be expanded.
  • Economic competitiveness: Mental health is the ultimate competitive weapon.  Neurotechnology represents new tools to enhance mental health and will create new forms competitive advantage.  To ensure American companies prosper in the coming years a focus should be placed on accelerating brain imaging and biochips technologies.

Neurotechnology's capacity to allow individuals to influence their emotional, cognitive and sensory states represents the most transformative force that human society will experience in the next 25 years.  This reality should be reflected throughout your administration's agenda.

Sincerely,

Zack Lynch




Posted Thursday, May 22, 2003

The Publishing Game Lives

The publishing industry is like a poker game -- never bet your house until you know you have learned from the best.  Today I placed a $200 bet and won big.

In a little less than seven hours, Fern Reiss shared her insights on self-publishing to agent selection and everything in between.  Even better, she transferred her knowledge in an inspirational and witty manner that would have left Ellen Degeneres smiling.   I just wish I had a cogniceutical handy so I could remember it all.

If you are playing the publishing game, I highly recommend her live performance.




Posted Wednesday, May 21, 2003

Why Neuroeconomics Rocks

Standard economic theories rely on an implicit assumption that controlled, cognitive processes are the key to economic decision making. Yet..

We fear terrorism, when red meat poses a much greater risk of mortality. And, when it comes to asking someone out on a date, getting up to speak at the podium, or taking an important exam, our deliberative self uses diverse tactics to get us to take risks, or to perform in the face of risks, that our visceral self would much prefer to avoid. Perhaps the most dramatic illustrations of the separation of visceral reactions and cognitive evaluations, however, comes from the phobias that so many people suffer from; the very hallmark of a phobia is to be unable to face a risk that one recognizes, objectively, to be harmless.

Moreover, fear unleashes preprogrammed sequences of behavior that aren't always beneficial. Thus, when fear becomes too intense it can produce counter-productive responses such as freezing, panicking, or 'dry-mouth' when speaking in public. The fact that people pay for therapy to deal with their fears, and take drugs (including alcohol) to overcome them, can be viewed as further "evidence" that people, or more accurately, people's deliberative selves, are not at peace with their visceral reactions to risks. (from Colin Camerer's How Neuroscience Can Inform Economics, Caltech)

Held back by the limitations of current brain imaging technologies and biochips, neuroeconomics is slowly laying the foundational knowledge that will help us understand how neuroceuticals will influence every aspect of our future lives.  

I think it's time for a $100M grant to get the Global Neuroeconomics Institute off and running.  Can you spare some change?




Posted Tuesday, May 20, 2003

Human Performance Enhancement

James Canton gets it. His most recent article for the New York Academy of Sciences, Designing the Future: NBIC Technologies and Human Performance Enhancement is proof.

"Never before has any civilization had the unique opportunity to enhance human performance on the scale that we will face in the near future.  The convergence of of nanotechnology, biotechnology, information technology and cognitive science (NBIC) is crreating a set of powerful tools that have the potential to significantly enhance human performance as well as transform society, science, economics, and human evolution."

He goes on..."Human Performance Enhancement (HPE) refers to the augmentation of human attributes or competencies through the use of technology, medicine or therapy designed to replace or increase human performance capability..."

Sounds familiar, eh?  Stay tuned for my article in the same issue of the NYAS Annals.




Posted Monday, May 19, 2003

IT Competitive Advantage, Hardly Over

May's Harvard Business Review article, "IT Doesn't Matter," argues that information technology is inevitably headed in the same direction as the railroads, the telegraph, electricity and the internal combustion engine.  From a long-term standpoint (10-25 years) I tend to agree, but at its core this article's argument is too simplistic to be useful in the near-term.

Most importantly there is no mention of what form competitive advantage might take next, a discussion that is a primary focus of my forthcoming book, Brain Wave.

"All of these industrial technologies aged from their boom-time youth to become, in economic terms, ordinary factors of production, or "commodity inputs," the article noted. "From a strategic standpoint, they became invisible; they no longer mattered," wrote Nicholas G. Carr, editor at large of The Harvard Business Review. "That is exactly what is happening to information technology today."

IT will always matter, just as the wheel, railroads and electricity remain critical infrastructures underpinning the functioning of today's global economy.  When a train brakes down it shuts down just-in-time supply chains.  When a black out occurs entire cities stop dead in their tracks. 

In fact, slight gradations in infrastructure stability will continue to drive the regional comparative advantage that companies rely on to stay on the cutting edge of competitive advantage.  Just look at Singapore's meteoric rise over the past two decades and the competitive advantage companies accrued as a result of its heavy IT investment. 

Using the history of techno-economic waves as his guide, Economist Brain Arthur suggests that the next 10-15 years will in fact witness a massive built out of the global IT infrastructure, albeit as Brad Delong notes, at lower profit margins.  During this time new forms of IT competitive advantage will continue to emerge as IT adapts to humans rather than us having to adapt to it.

For instance, although not a punctuated leap in competitive advantage, social software has the potential to accrue significant value for companies that leverage its potential to accelerate innovation. In some industries, two product cycles can be the difference between corporate life and death.

For example, decreasing innovation cycle times in the pharmaceutical industry by 10% could slash years off product research, development and approval processes.  When translated into revenue and market capitalization impacts, intelligent adoption of social software could significantly disrupt the balance of power in this multi-billion dollar industry.  Who says IT competitive advantage is dead?

More importantly, increasing IT efficiency remains critically important if the supporting infrastructure for the next form of competitive advantage is to arise. As Charles Delisi mentioned at a Santa Fe Institute meeting, "there is no way the past ten years of advances in genomics would have been possible without the computational capabilities brought forth by the microchip."

Imagine if electricity efficiency remained at 1920's levels, would microchips; cell phones or the Internet even be possible?  Just as electricity efficiency still matters, so too will IT for some time to come. 

So the real question still remains...what will be the next form of competitive advantage?  Stay tuned.




Posted Friday, May 16, 2003

Zoloft for Everything

The Onion pokes fun at psychopharmaceuticals.  Made me laugh.

Update: Baseball Osama? A definite giggle.




Posted Thursday, May 15, 2003

The Boundaries of Experience

Synesthesia, which means "joined sensation,” is a condition wherein information obtained through one sense creates sensations in another sense. For example, when a synesthete hears a bell they would also see colors.  Many brilliant people have had synesthesia, including:

  • Physicist Richard Feynman who saw colors in his physics equations
  • Abstract painter David Hockney who visualized the colors for his paintings when hearing music
  • Composer Franz Liszt who pictured colors upon hearing musical notes.

The phenomenon is involuntary, consistent over a lifetime, hereditary, and fairly common. In fact, some form of synesthesia affects 1 in 200 people.  In its own particular way, synesthesia points to yet another way that the wiring of the brain can create different ways to experience life

Yesterday I uncovered a recent 17 minute film made last year by Carrie Shultz that tracks the experiences of three women living with synesthesia.  She is sending me a copy.  I'll let you know how it is. 




Posted Wednesday, May 14, 2003

DARPA's Emotional Future

From the people who brought us the Internet, here is one of DARPA's latest proposals.

DARPA SB032-038 TITLE: Integrated System for Emotional State Recognition for the Enhancement of Human Performance and Detection of Criminal Intent. 

OBJECTIVE:  Develop a non invasive emotion recognition system for the detection and categorization of the emotional/stress state of the subject.  The system should be suitable for deployment in military/operational environments or in environments in which discrete observation of potential enemy threats is desired.

Can you recognize deceit? (take the test)

DESCRIPTION:  Humans communicate both intentionally and unintentionally through a variety of emotional expressions.  These expressions are most easily observed in the speech patterns, facial expressions, and body language of the individual.   From these expressions we naturally draw inferences about an individual's hostile or friendly intent, or their level of stress, fatigue, or confusion.  In many circumstances, however, it is difficult or impossible for human observers to make the necessary observations of another's emotional expressions and make reliable assessments of the individual's future actions or capabilities.  The observer's own emotional or psychological states can affect such judgments, or the individual of interest may be in an operational environment that is not conducive to direct observation by others.  In addition, there is information available on the emotional or stress state of the individual that has not yet been explored or exploited; examples of this include thermal imaging of the human face and body and detection of chemosignals (e.g. pheromones, volatile steroids).

Automated emotion detection systems could perform such assessments around the clock and free from personal bias.  Such systems could be used to assess fitness for duty, integrated into closed loop systems regulating user vigilance and workload, or used to detect the sinister intent of individuals and prompt pre-emptive interdictions.  These systems could unobtrusively monitor individuals within military operational environments or crowded civilian settings by relying on passive detection of the emotional aspects of speech, face, and gesture patterns and other novel measurements. 

The current effort would build upon existing technologies and incorporate novel remote sensing technologies to develop systems capable of detecting, categorizing, and responding to the emotional information encoded in humanspeech, facial expressions, gestures and other emitted signals.  Key emotional/cognitive states detected should include, but need not be limited to, anger, drowsiness, anxiety, fear, confusion, disorientation, and frustration.  The necessary systems must be capable of functioning in crowded civilian and/or military/operational environments characterized by high background noise and multiple speech sources and should be sufficiently rugged, light weight, and unobtrusive to function in military/operational environments.  (More)




Posted Tuesday, May 13, 2003

Say Yes to "Saying Yes"

I was honored last night to sit next to Jacob Sullum at a release dinner for his new book: Saying Yes: In Defense of Drug Use. For almost a decade he has analyzed the social implications of America's drug laws and in this most recent salvo he uses real people to argue that drug use should be viewed the same way as drinking, with an emphasis on temperance rather than abstinence.

Dave Barry hilariously agrees, commenting, "Jacob Sullum has produced a thoughtful, sane, and logical analysis of our (American) drug laws.  Is that even legal?"

The most insightful comment of the evening was when Sullum equated the need for drug education in schools with current sex education classes. 

Paraphrasing---No one is promoting sex in these classes, but kids are free to discuss the consequences of sex allowing them to make more informed decisions for themselves.  Currently, there is no place for kids to have a thoughtful discussion of drugs (real or imagined impacts), making informed decisions difficult.

As I have blogged several times here, I believe that legalizing currently illicit drugs isn't the best solution for humanity's future. Instead we must repeal the three U.N. conventions that make it illegal to research and develop non-addictive, recreational substances.  Governments must make pleasure a viable market. Why should we promote 4000 year-old tools, when we can do so much better?




Posted Monday, May 12, 2003

Neuroceuticals Categorized

As the brain imaging bottleneck is overcome allowing live neuron-specific resolution of our brains, this information will be combined with data from the ‘whole biochip', making possible a new sets of tools that I am calling, neuroceuticals.  

Neuroceuticals act to reduce the severity of a mental disorder or enhance an aspect of mental health.  They can be broadly categorized into three classes:

Obviously this categorization is simplified, as our senses, cognition and emotions are inextricably interconnected.  However, by introducing these terms, it should make discussions of their interdependency clearer over time.

How will complex mixtures of neuroceuticals that simultaneously influence multiple aspects of human behavior impact social relations? How will a person who is slightly less depressed, slightly less anxious, slightly more aware, and with slightly better recall behave? 

By influencing multiple characteristics along varying gradients, behaviors will emerge that will culminate into a substantially different behavior repertoire than people currently encounter.  In effect, a different “playing field” will arise wherein people will act perceptually different than if one were to just enable people to be happier.

It is important to view neuroceuticals not as drugs that unnaturally change the human condition.  Rather neuroceuticals are tools that humanity is developing to help each of us better control our mental health, allowing us to organize more effectively in an ever-complex world. 

The breakthrough required to develop true neuroceuticals are still 10-15 years off.  However, as they emerge individuals and organizations will adopt these new tools just as information technology, motorized transportations systems, electricity, steam engines, and canals have been leverage to increase humanity's overall control and effectiveness of physical and information assets.




Posted Friday, May 9, 2003

Emotional Blog Reading

Blogging is a real-time social sport.  Real-time writing, real-time reading.  On the writing side, I, like Doc Searls, have tested positive for AKMA.  On reading side, there is a whole other set of categorizations to describe the different way people read blogs: 

  • T-people: Title readers, rarely follow links, make quick opinions, probably RSS too many feeds
  • D-people: Deep readers, follow all links, think carefully about the blog, rarely comment
  • Q-people: Questioners, read quickly, follow most links, assimilate information, and comment frequently

I am sure there are many more, but you get my point.  I fall mostly into D, but enjoy commenting. 

Because blogging is a social sport, it always takes two to tango (i.e. my AKMA writing style interacts with various reading styles to create different results).  Here is why I am writing this:

Corante brother Kling seems to be a T. Why?  Well, when he countered my blog yesterday, The Future is Emotional Economics with Emotional Noneconomics it wasn't entirely his fault that he missed my point.  As a real-time sport, quick decisions are made and published.  Sometimes word choice might not be perfect, especially when putting a title on a blog.  Right before I published, I changed my original title, The Future of Emotional Economics, for reasons of impact/emphasis.  And the rest in real-time history.

Because he is a T, with respect to my AKMA, he followed the link to the economist article, and thought he understood my point, and then decided to comment, when in fact he missed it completely, commenting:

The last attempt to overthrow mainstream economics--Marxism--led to a totalitarian disaster.  To repeat that mistake would be the most irrational move of all.

That was not my point....

If he read down to the bottom, followed through all/most of the links and thought about the questions I was attempting to raise (not qualities of a T), he would have realized that my point was that behavioral economics has an interesting/bright future, not that I was suggesting it was going to replace conventional economics. 

This is not the first time my AKMA has got me in trouble.  Just last week Virginia Postrel nailed me in her "Not Brave" post for calling Bill McKibbens new book brave.  My intent was to make a slight reference to Huxley's Brave New World (a book I highly admire but think has some bass-ackwards assumptions), thus putting McKibben in the same category of, great topic, nice writing, wrong assumptions. 

But because Virginia is a D, she, in her third paragraph, stated that my blog on "Neurotechnology before Genetic Engineering" was in fact a good read.  She followed the story to the conclusion. 

So the moral of the story for me is, choose my words more carefully.  But I won't, because that would ruin the real-time fun we are all having.  However, maybe Ross should consider choosing his words more carefully, see Shirky in a World of Hurt. But he won't.




Posted Thursday, May 8, 2003

The Future is Emotional Economics

As the Economist reports, behavioral economics in on the rise.  After almost a century of mathematical obsession, economists have finally started to accept their emotional roots.  Last year, Daniel Kahneman and Vernon Smith received the Nobel Prize in economics for revealing that emotions drive most decisions made under conditions of risk or uncertainty.

So, what decisions are made with total certainty?  None, really.  Clearly emotions influence economic decisions, a fact we've known for hundreds of years, but seem to have forgotten for a while.

The Philosopher Thomas Hobbes (1588-1679) was one of the first to describe how pain and pleasure were primary drivers of economic life back in the mid-1600s.  Throughout his writings Hobbes tended to stress the role of pleasure as the prime mover in human action, describing the “future hunger” for pleasure as the primary determinant in human behavior.

Taking the view that pain, not pleasure, is the prime motivator of human action, the influential political economist John Locke (1632-1704) spent many years detailing how pain drove individuals and states to action.  Starting with his second edition of the Essay on Human Understanding (1694), Locke described an “uneasiness” that spurs humans and governments to action.

But, thanks to Kahneman's and Smith's work the field of behavioral economics was re-born. 

Looking forward, the next set of interesting questions will focus around how the use of emoticeuticals, which enable people to influence/control their emotional state, will impact individual and collective decisions? How different will our decisions be when 5-10% of humanity intentionally chooses to increase their ability to love?  How could increasing our capacity to laugh influence decisions?  How will these tools change the way we look and feel?

Clearly, behavioral economics and its newest child, neuroeconomics, have very bright futures.




Posted Wednesday, May 7, 2003

Depression Linked to....Danger

Google depression linked and these are the results you get. Depression seems to be linked to everything:

  • Depression is linked to cancer, no?
  • Depression is linked to concussions, ouch, really?
  • Depression is linked to early menopause, Parkinson's, facial pain....
  • The list is endless... 

Depression has become a very dangerous term.  It's a catchall phrase like cancer.

Cancer is a word that is used to describe about 110 different diseases caused by the uncontrollable multiplication of cells.  And just like cancer, where multiple genes and pathways are involved in even the most basic forms, a wide range of factors cause depression. 

Don't get me wrong, depression is a very serious mental health issue.  But the lack of further differentiation creates significant misdiagnoses and the prescribing of drugs that don't work.  Anti-depressant effectiveness is 50%, at best.

Accelerating our understanding of mental illnesses requires further developments in neurotechnology. In time, neurotechnology will help define mental illnesses from the bottom up as brain imaging technologies illuminate the neural substrate of disorders.



Yesterday's Brain Waves' Bloglet

For those of you who receive daily email updates of Brain Waves via bloglet, you may have noticed that the second article on Neurocompetitive Advantage wasn't complete.  Well, that's because it wasn't.  The bloglet program mysteriously grabbed this work in progress from my unpublished folder and sent it out.  Oh, the perils of using component technologies.




Posted Tuesday, May 6, 2003

It's Childhood Depression Awareness Day

Spend a moment to think about the children in your life.  More info.




Posted Monday, May 5, 2003

No More Animal Models of Human Behavior

Animal models of disease are the cornerstones of medical research, but they are inherently limited in their predictive value of complex human mental behaviors such as mood shifts or cognitive preferences. However, this fact hasn't stopped the scientific community from focusing their finite resources on improving their animal models. 

The current trend, called environmental enrichment (EE), makes the laboratory living environments more complex by outfitting them with objects that stimulate animals' mental and physical growth. The results are relatively obvious:

  • The rats housed in an enriched environment had increased activity of neurotransmitters
  • Brain morphology, an 8% increase in thickness of the cerebral cortex in some studies
  • Increased number of neurons and synapses.
  • Increase in the capillaries that carry nutrients and blood to the brain

Although interesting, this still does little to help us undertand human mental behavior.  It’s still impossible to ask a mouse or even a baboon if it is feeling less depressed or more assertive. 

To understand how new treatments will influence human behavior we will need to study the impacts in humans.  The lack of objective measurement tools to analyze and detect the mental health changes will be bolstered by breakthroughs in brain imaging technology and biochips. It is only with these tools that we will begin to significantly increase our knowledge of human behavior.

Update 5/7: The pharmaceutical industry spends most of it's $30B research budget aimed at central nervous system disorders using our friend, Mus musculus.




Posted Friday, May 2, 2003

The Real Ethical Hot Potato: Brain Scans

Yesterday's Boston Globe article highlights the ethical implications that brain scanning technologies present to society.

"The need for discussing brain privacy is urgent, said Arthur L. Caplan, director of the University of Pennsylvania's Center for Bioethics. ''If you were to ask me what the ethical hot potato of this coming century is, I'd say it's new knowledge of the brain, its structure, and function.'' Most people feel a much greater sense of privacy about their brains than their genes, Caplan and other ethicists say. Genes play critical but complex roles in what people become, while ''your brain is more associated with you,'' Caplan said."

As I recently discussed in When Will the Feds Mandate Brain Scans, the question of whether or not brain scans will become widely used throughout society for a myriad of purposes is moot.  They will be.  The real question still to be sorted out is where the neuroethical boundaries stand in terms of a person's cognitive liberty

On this note, I am very honored to have been invited to the Gruter Institute's annual five day meeting on neuroethics in June.  This year's conference will focus on "Sensory Systems and Judgment in Law" and is sure to provide some very interesting content for this blog and my forthcoming book. Thanks Paul.




Posted Thursday, May 1, 2003

The ONLY SPAM solution: MONEY

Only money can eradicate spam. The Internet is a globally distributed ecosystem complete with evolving organism/organizations that continuously adapt to change.  The current spam epidemic is proof.  Moreover, no legislative or technical solution (i.e. filters) will be able to stop it.  Why?  Because spam is fundamentally an economic problem. 

Ross Mayfield and I attempted to get an anti-spam company off the ground two years ago based on this fact. Yet the noise of emerging technical solutions and lack of insight by "leading" venture capitalists reminded us that it takes more than being right to build a company.  The current spam explosion is proof that technical solutions are only making the problem worse. 

So here I go, I'm giving the world the answer.  It's simple in theory, but incredibly complex to pull off in reality.

Put a price on your inbox.  No email gets into your email inbox unless it has a dime attached.  I pay you a dime the first time I want to communicate with you, and from there until infinity you and I can share that same dime back and forth.  No money, no entry.   This fundamentally shifts the economic cost of sending email back to original senders.  Think a spammer would spend $100,000 to reach 1 million people now? 

So there it is.  Go build it, so we can all get on with our lives...oh and by the way, you need to be able to scale globally and have multi-currency functionality in 90 days or the system won't get adopted.  Want more?  The business plan is done.  Just need $5m.  Any takers?

Back to neurotechnology tomorrow.





Found your way down here on the page and looking for more? Check out our archives.



Copyright 2003 Zack Lynch. All rights reserved. Terms of use


Archives, RSS & Email


To access the archives for this section please click here.

Also, enter your email address below to subscribe to Brain Waves by email!


powered by Bloglet

Subscribe to Brain Waves - RSS feed

Blogs

Brad Delong - Econ
Brain World
Steven Johnson
Living Code
Marginal Revolution
Neuroeconomics
Ross Mayfield
Future Pundit
Pulse Mental Health
Carl Zimmer
Pat Kane
Pipeline
Psychscape
Virginia Postrel
William Gibson
Technorati Profile

Resources

Acumen Journal
Affective Computing
Journal of Bioethics
BioSpace
Bus. 2.0 Neurotech
Cerebrum
Drug Discovery World
Emotions Research
Neuroscience Info
Gyre-Neurotech
Int'l Brain Research
Neuro-Jobs
Neuroeconomics
Neuroethics
Neuroesthetics
Neurotech Reports
Neurosociety Analysis
Nobel
PharmaPortal
Play Ethic
Rutgers Memory Lab

News Sources

Bio-IT World
BusinessWeek
Corante Biotech
Discover
Economist
Forbes
Fortune
GenomeWeb
J. Neurobio Learning
J. Neuroscience
J. Complexity Psych.
Nature-Neuroscience
Nature-NeuroPharma
Nature-NeuroNews
NY Times - Science
The Scientist
Reason Magazine
Science Magazine
Seed Magazine

Organizations

BLTC
Bionomics
CDC
Cold Spring Harbor
Cognitive Liberty
Dana
Gruter Institute
Keck-UCSF
NBIC
US Bioethics
NanoBiotech
NCBI
NCGR
NIH
NIMH
ONR-media
Neuroscience Society
Scripps Research
Pubmed
Weizmann Institute
Whitehead Institute