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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:

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Categories: Cognitive Neuroscience, Education & Lifelong Learning, Peak Performance, Technology

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As seen in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, BBC News, CNN, Reuters,  SharpBrains is an independent market research firm tracking how brain science can improve our health and our lives.

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