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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May 12, 2003

Neuroceuticals Categorized

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Posted by Zack Lynch

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.

Comments (2) | Category: Neuropharma


1. tim mommens on October 16, 2003 7:34 PM writes...

A though has occured to me as I am sure it has to others. If research in this area continues will it be possible to enhace the recptors in the brain to interpret impulses sent by other people? As our ability to remember and think progress will the brain become sensitive to electronic stimuli that originates outside it self such as has been demonstrated with subconscious imagery?

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2. Double_L on November 1, 2003 3:44 AM writes...

Given how imperfect present-day psychiatric medications are for treatment of widespread conditions such as major depression, I appreciate the need for customized, new-generation treatments. I am concerned, however, that if "emoticeuticals" become available, the following may happen:

1) People will take it for granted that "pain and negative feelings" are a treatable disease rather than a normal part of the human experience. They will become disconnected from the huge existing body of classical art and literature focusing on the negativity as an integral part of the human emotional range, since they will not experience comparable emotions themselves. Furthermore, the depth and importance of families, relationships etc. may be drastically altered if people take to "emoticeuticals" as an easy way out of complicated personal situations.

2) The drugs may be used by repressive political regimes in the guise of giving a patient some other, routine medication.

3) They may also be overprescribed for mild depression or transient conditions which do not warrant medication at all.

4) They may never be made legal in some developed countries for these and other reasons. If they are made legal, they will further increase the disparities between the "working poor" and those who can pay for these treatments (in the West), and between the "developing" and "developed" worlds.

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