For invasive cognitive enhancement to work, firms will need to validate both the “neuro” and the “tech”

A Hard­ware Update for the Human Brain (The Wall Street Journal):

The field that gave Emi­ly her life back is known as neu­rotech­nol­o­gy, or sim­ply neurotech—a mar­riage of neu­rol­o­gy, neu­ro­science, neu­ro­surgery and the kind of hard­ware that goes into smart­phones. Today, most neu­rotech com­pa­nies are focused on med­ical appli­ca­tions, which they think could be a multi­bil­lion-dol­lar mar­ket. Deep-brain stim­u­la­tors, which use elec­tric puls­es to reduce the tremors asso­ci­at­ed with Parkinson’s dis­ease, have been implant­ed in more than 100,000 peo­ple. Pre­lim­i­nary research sug­gests that tar­get­ed brain stim­u­la­tion with sim­i­lar tech­nol­o­gy can improve recall in those with mem­o­ry loss—a poten­tial game-chang­er for the 5.4 mil­lion Amer­i­cans with Alzheimer’s dis­ease. Neuropace’s RNS sys­tem is cur­rent­ly the only FDA-approved implant able to both sense and respond to neur­al activ­i­ty. Med­ical-device mak­ers such as Medtron­ic, Boston Sci­en­tif­ic and Stryk­er aren’t far behind.

But a num­ber of play­ers have entered the field of neu­rotech with a dif­fer­ent goal: cog­ni­tive enhance­ment of healthy humans, made pos­si­ble by the for­mal, phys­i­cal union of com­put­ers and our brains…Dr. Brem is quick to point out that the biggest obsta­cle to advanced neu­rotech implants isn’t the devel­op­ment of new hard­ware or the surgery required to implant it. “Open­ing and clos­ing the skull isn’t the chal­lenge for us,” Dr. Brem says. “Con­cep­tu­al­ly it sounds very fright­en­ing, but the tech­nol­o­gy to do that is very sim­ple. The rate-lim­it­ing step is what you do when you get there.” Accord­ing to the chief of neu­ro­surgery at what is arguably the best neu­ro­surgery depart­ment in the world, the lim­it­ing fac­tor is our lim­it­ed under­stand­ing of how the brain works. And Dr. Brem isn’t the only expert con­cerned that neu­rotech star­tups are putting the “tech” before the “neu­ro.”

Arti­cle in context:

About SharpBrains

SHARPBRAINS is an independent think-tank and consulting firm providing services at the frontier of applied neuroscience, health, leadership and innovation.
SHARPBRAINS es un think-tank y consultoría independiente proporcionando servicios para la neurociencia aplicada, salud, liderazgo e innovación.

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