When we see research into drug and alcohol addictions then we see this below we see that former research is an extension of the later. If we figure out how to treat addiction we know better how to enhance addiction.
THIS IS THE DR JEKYLL AND MR HYDE OF MEDICAL RESEARCH BY GLOBAL WALL STREET HEALTH SYSTEMS DRIVEN BY PROFITEERING AND POWER.
'When smartphones become a teen's drug of choice
Anderson Cooper: You call this a “race to the bottom of the brain stem.” It’s a race to the most primitive emotions we have? Fear, anxiety, loneliness, all these things'?
"By manipulating the neural system of this animal, we can make it turn left, we can make it turn right, we can make it go in a loop, we can make it think there is food nearby," Ramanathan said. "We want to understand the brain of this animal, which has only a few hundred neurons, completely and essentially turn it into a video game, where we can control all of its behaviors."
Do we really need to control behavior to treat addictions or can we rebuild our public health mental health structures that worked for most defunded and dismantled by CLINTON/BUSH/OBAMA. Here is global IVY LEAGUE HARVARD corporation getting those Federal NIH/NSF funds as is true of now global IVY LEAGUE corporation Johns Hopkins and global IVY LEAGUE Stanford-----all tied to ONE WORLD ONE GOVERNANCE lying, cheating, stealing---no morals, no ethics, no US Rule of Law, no God's natural law PRAGMATIC NILISM.
Clinton era dismantled the holistic approach to addiction treatment and replaced it with ALL PHARMA.
Public Release: 23-Sep-2012
Understanding the brain by controlling behavior
Using precisely-targeted lasers, researchers manipulate neurons in worms' brains and take control of their behavior
In the quest to understand how the brain turns sensory input into behavior, Harvard scientists have crossed a major threshold. Using precisely-targeted lasers, researchers have been able to take over an animal's brain, instruct it to turn in any direction they choose, and even to implant false sensory information, fooling the animal into thinking food was nearby.
As described in a September 23 paper published in Nature, a team made up of Sharad Ramanathan, an Assistant Professor of Molecular and Cellular Biology, and of Applied Physics, Askin Kocabas, a Post-Doctoral Fellow in Molecular and Cellular Biology, Ching-Han Shen, a Research Assistant in Molecular and Cellular Biology, and Zengcai V. Guo, from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute were able to take control of Caenorhabditis elegans - tiny, transparent worms - by manipulating neurons in the worms' "brain."
The work, Ramanathan said, is important because, by taking control of complex behaviors in a relatively simple animal - C. elegans have just 302 neurons -we can understand how its nervous system functions..
"If we can understand simple nervous systems to the point of completely controlling them, then it may be a possibility that we can gain a comprehensive understanding of more complex systems," Ramanathan said. "This gives us a framework to think about neural circuits, how to manipulate them, which circuit to manipulate and what activity patterns to produce in them ".
"Extremely important work in the literature has focused on ablating neurons, or studying mutants that affect neuronal function and mapping out the connectivity of the entire nervous system. " he added. "Most of these approaches have discovered neurons necessary for specific behavior by destroying them. The question we were trying to answer was: Instead of breaking the system to understand it, can we essentially hijack the key neurons that are sufficient to control behavior and use these neurons to force the animal to do what we want?"
Before Ramanathan and his team could begin to answer that question, however, they needed to overcome a number of technical challenges.
Using genetic tools, researchers engineered worms whose neurons gave off fluorescent light, allowing them to be tracked during experiments. Researchers also altered genes in the worms which made neurons sensitive to light, meaning they could be activated with pulses of laser light.
The largest challenges, though, came in developing the hardware necessary to track the worms and target the correct neuron in a fraction of a second.
"The goal is to activate only one neuron," he explained. "That's challenging because the animal is moving, and the neurons are densely packed near its head, so the challenge is to acquire an image of the animal, process that image, identify the neuron, track the animal, position your laser and shoot the particularly neuron - and do it all in 20 milliseconds, or about 50 times a second. The engineering challenges involved seemed insurmountable when we started. But Askin Kocabas found ways to overcome these challenges"
The system researchers eventually developed uses a movable table to keep the crawling worm centered beneath a camera and laser. They also custom-built computer hardware and software, Ramanathan said, to ensure the system works at the split-second speeds they need.
The end result, he said, was a system capable of not only controlling the worms' behavior, but their senses as well. In one test described in the paper, researchers were able to use the system to trick a worm's brain into believing food was nearby, causing it to make a beeline toward the imaginary meal.
Going forward, Ramanathan and his team plan to explore what other behaviors the system can control in C. elegans. Other efforts include designing new cameras and computer hardware with the goal of speeding up the system from 20 milliseconds to one. The increased speed would allow them to test the system in more complex animals, like zebrafish.
"By manipulating the neural system of this animal, we can make it turn left, we can make it turn right, we can make it go in a loop, we can make it think there is food nearby," Ramanathan said. "We want to understand the brain of this animal, which has only a few hundred neurons, completely and essentially turn it into a video game, where we can control all of its behaviors."
###Funding for the research was provided by the Human Frontier Science Program, the NIH Pioneer Award and the National Science Foundation.
'The Checkered History of Military Brain Tampering'
Here is an important member of our brain stem---the amygdala---from where many of our emotions and addictions arise. Research into these brain activities will produce good medical treatments for many behaviors but as has always been the question who decides what behavior is bad or normal. We have a decade of misuse of behavioral PHARMA used on our school children----on a broadening definition of depressive states. Children labelled with these brain differences will indeed be tested and tracked in pre-K to vocational career paths with no income future. The Affordable Care Act contains wording that will take rights to gun ownership away from citizens having any mental illness....well, that could be all of us.
Back-door gun control is not a left social Democratic stance to protecting US Constitutional rights especially when health policies have become so selective.
Where will parental rights come into play when these research map our brain stem impulses and a health system decides it is COST-EFFECTIVE to physically treat these areas or force PHARMA to treat any number of behaviors. Today, our ability to get with a health insurance plan we can afford is tied to citizens following what those health systems prescribe as treatment----little room for patient rights.
'The amygdala’s diverse role results from its “promiscuous” connections to many other brain regions, explains Tye, who has been working to disentangle these connections to understand each projection’s specific effect on behavior'.
'Sanchez and DARPA officials were adamant (exceedingly so) that the intent of the Neuro-FAST program is to advance brain science broadly. Officials were reluctant to discuss any other specific applications for that research. But that doesn’t mean those applications don’t exist, or that the military isn’t interested in them'.
Of course here is the DOD being allowed to slowly dismantle all patient rights, HIPPOCRATIC OATH, medicine for the common good protocol to fast-track their dastardly needs to manipulate human capital brain and behavior.
A recent military-funded program could up-end the way brain research is conducted.
By Patrick Tucker
Scientists funded by the Defense Department have just announced a breakthrough that could allow researchers to create in 220 days an extremely detailed picture of the brain that previously would have taken 80 years of scans to complete.
The military has been looking to build better brain hacks for decades with results that ranged form the frightening to the comical. This latest development could revolutionize the study of the brain but also the national security applications of neuroscience.
Scientists at Stanford University who developed the new way to see the brain in greater detail, outlined in the journal Nature Protocols, said that it could mark a new era of rapid brain imaging, allowing researchers to see in much greater detail not only how parts of the brain interact on a cellular level but also to better understand those interactions across the entire brain.
“I absolutely believe this is going to transform the way that we study the brain and how we perform neuroscience research,” said Justin Sanchez, program manager for the Neuro Function, Activity, Structure, and Technology, or Neuro-FAST, program at the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, or DARPA, which funded the research. “What we’re saying here today is that we can develop new technology that changes how we observe and interact with the circuits of the brain.”
The most common research methods for exploring the brain today involve the sensing of brains’ electrical activity, a technique called EEG, or observing of hemoglobin flow under functional magnetic resonance, called fMRI. Rather than simply listen to the brain’s thought spasms of electro-magnetic activity, the Stanford researchers’ technique instead uses light to reveal causal relationships in the circuits themselves. “It’s all about optical interfaces for the brain, optical techniques to image the brain, optical techniques to record activity from the brain and optical techniques to record neurons and their firing effects form other neurons,” said Sanchez.
This technique is related to the emerging subfield of optogenetics, and while it is considered the cutting edge of neuroscience research, it’s not new. But the technique pioneered by the Stanford researchers allows for three-dimensional visualization that is both granular and wide enough to encompass the entire brain. Said Sanchez, “Traditionally, with the optogenetic technique, you really don’t have the structure to go along with the activation. That’s why the Neuro-FAST program is so exciting.”
Sanchez and DARPA officials were adamant (exceedingly so) that the intent of the Neuro-FAST program is to advance brain science broadly. Officials were reluctant to discuss any other specific applications for that research. But that doesn’t mean those applications don’t exist, or that the military isn’t interested in them.
The Checkered History of Military Brain Tampering
For a quick and historic tour of the Defense Department’s interest in brain hacking, start with this 1973 report, written for DARPA, detailing Soviet research into psychokinesis, the manipulation of matter through thought, and other aspects of “paranormal phenomena.” This report became part of the bases for the book and film The Men Who Stare At Goats, the later of which saw the character of George Clooney, as an army trained “psychic weapon,” successfully killing one of the unlucky hoofed animals entirely through the force of focused will.
Then move on to this 1988 National Academy Press report on issues, theories and techniques for “Enhancing Human Performance,” which eagerly anticipates future super soldier motor skills and concentration states acquired through applied brain science. From there, continue to this 2009 report outlining
Over the years, the military’s research into brain science has produced some bizarre results, such as the DARPA “roborat” a rat that had electrodes implanted into its motor cortex allowing researchers to manipulate direction and movement.
There have also been some big hits.
Researchers at Sandia National Laboratory showed in 2012 that the human brain’s electrical activity could predict how well an individual was going to perform on a test. According to The Futurist magazine:
The researchers asked 23 people to attempt to memorize a list of words while undergoing brain scanning. The average subject recalled 45% of the words on the list. The EEG data correctly predicted which five of the 23 subjects would beat the competition, remembering 72% of the words on average.If you had someone learning new material and you were recording the EEG, you might be able to tell them, ‘You’re going to forget this, you should study this again,’ or tell them, ‘OK, you got it and go on to the next thing,’” chief researcher Laura Matzen said in a statement.
A previous program actually did yield some remarkable insight into the potential for better soldier performance through focused brain states. Amy Kraus, a former DARPA program manager, on Monday told a group at the Potomac Institute for Policy Studies, the work that she presided over succeeded in finding the secret mental secret that preceded good marksmanship. “It turns out the expert marksman has a brain state,” she said, “a state that they enter before they take the perfect shot. Can I teach a novice to create this brain state? The answer was yes.”
She said that by recognizing that state, researchers were able to improve the ability of regular people to improve their marksmanship by 100 percent. “These are recordable, measurable, algortyhmical,” Kraus said.
But according to Sanchez, improved performance through changes in brain state is still not something we truly understand.
“The neuroprocesses associated with those advanced functions – we don’t know what they are yet. We don’t know how all of those advanced circuits can produce those brain functions. That’s why we’re at the more basic level.”
The ability to see the cellular interconnections that actually contribute to mental activity is far more important to an actual understanding of mental states – super and otherwise – than is the ability to measure the electromagnetic rumblings associated with those states. Similarly, a bit of know-how about animal husbandry will tell you something about why a horse is fast or slow but not nearly as much as will genetics.
One of the most significant near-term applications of military-funded neuroscience is not the potential to create super soldiers but rather an understanding the effects of combat and training on service men and women. “As we’re doing more to and with war fighters, how much of a burden can we place on them? How much risk can we expect them to take over a lifetime? How much medication? How many devices? How much change in their behavior, through direct manipulation of their brains?” said Jonathan D. Moreno, University of Pennsylvania professor and author of the book Mind Wars, at the Potomac Institute. “These are people who sign up to defend us. They sign up to take risks. Nonetheless, in the 21st century, we will have to slice that finer than we have in the past because we are asking them to do more for us.”
We have listened to global Wall Street pols and 5% to the 1% players shout as usual it is ALL THOSE REGULATIONS that keep INNOVATIONS at bay and make medicine expensive. All those regulations are what allowed WE THE PEOPLE to go to any medical facility and feel a level of professionalism and 'DO NO HARM' patient protections. Yes, Affordable Care Act DEREGULATED public health and yes these Federally funded medical research projects now do not have to be in public interest----if profits are to be made.
When medical research has become for-profit driven by global corporations we now have those corporations crying foul that DOD is ignoring all developed nation protections for WE THE PEOPLE so why should they have to adhere to those bothersome public health protection REGULATIONS?
Please think how global Wall Street is using these political terms like SOCIALIZED MEDICINE----we need to return to our patient-centered left social Democratic health stance.
This is the problem with today's advancement in DECADE OF BRAIN RESEARCH coming right at the time our US health and medical industries have been capitalized to global Wall Street profit-making----accumulating wealth anyway you can------the research can be good AND can be very, very, very bad and ugly.
AMERICA’S SOCIALIZED HEALTH CARE
By Dr. Lawrence Wilson
© September 2016, L.D. Wilson Consultants, Inc.
All information in this article is for educational purposes only. It is not for the diagnosis, treatment, prescription or cure of any disease or health condition.
Health care systems in most developed nations are in financial difficulty. Health benefits are being cut back due to exploding costs. Degenerative illnesses such as diabetes and cancer are at epidemic levels in spite of new drugs and treatments. While doctors, politicians and insurers blame each other, they rarely mention the real problem.
Skyrocketing costs are due to the structure of health care in all these nations. All are mainly socialized, including America. This means they operate as top-down bureaucracies, out of touch with people’s real needs.
THREE HEALTH ARE SECTORS
America really has three health care sectors:
- The socialized sector comprises about 65-70% and includes Medicare, Medicaid and the Indian Health Service. It also includes the Veterans Administration, the Public Health Service, programs such as Kidscare and the bulk of medical research. The latter includes the National Institutes of Health, National Cancer Institute, National Heart Institute and about 30 other government institutes. The ‘donors’ for this research have little say over what or how wisely their health research dollars are spent.
- All the above are funded from taxes confiscated from the people at the point of a gun, making them a less-than-compassionate system. All are insulated from the health care marketplace and thus from rational decision-making. All are run as huge bureaucracies, with their inherent problems of fraud and high administrative overhead. Medicare rules alone are 133,000 pages. This makes the 10,000-page income tax code look like a model of simplicity.
- The regulated sector, which is called the private sector, comprises most of the rest of the health care system. It is not a free market or private sector by any means. The correct word is the over-regulated sector because it is riddled with thousands of cartel-inspired rules and regulations that cripple most of the real competition from alternative method of healing, for example, and from alternative healing devices that must be approved by the FDA, which is thoroughly corrupt and does not allow most of them.
DEREGULATING HEALTH CARE
Whenever an industry becomes mired in special-interest rules, deregulation is the answer. It is a healing process that many industries periodically need. America deregulated trucking, airlines, the phone system and power generation. In every case, dire predictions of chaos did not come true and the public benefitted greatly. Power deregulation has been very successful everywhere except California, where it was not done correctly. This is important, because medical deregulation must be fair and encourage competition in order to benefit the public.
Private regulation of health care is not new. For her first 120 years, America had a true free market health care system free of government interference. Herbalists, hydrotherapists, nature cure practitioners, allopaths or drug doctors, homeopaths, osteopaths and others offered services and competed with one another. There were few licensing laws so no group had a legal advantage. Whoever helped people the most prospered. Competition between many kinds of practitioners kept prices low, people paid for exactly what they wanted and our health statistics ranked first in the world. Today America ranks 19-22nd in the world in many health care areas.
BECAUSE OF MASSIVE HEALTH INDUSTRY PROFITEERING AND FRAUD OF HUNDREDS OF BILLIONS OF DOLLARS EACH YEAR SINCE CLINTON/BUSH/OBAMA KEEPING MANY PEOPLE FROM ACCESSING ORDINARY PUBLIC HEALTH CARE-----IT IS NOT THE HEALTH REGULATIONS.
PREVENTION AND PERSONAL RESPONSIBILITY
The biggest problem with the drug medicine cartel is that drugs and surgery do not prevent disease, do not address deep causes of disease and do not make people healthy. They mainly suppress symptoms. According to the American Public Health Association, 48% of the determinants of disease are now due to "behavioral lifestyle", 25% are due to genetic constitution, 16% to the environment and only 11% are due to lack of access to medical care. Often drugs make people sicker, which only adds to the cost. Malpractice lawsuits due to harm from the system add even more cost.
According to a recent article in the Journal of the AMA (JAMA 2000 July 26;284(4):483-5), modern medicine is the fourth leading cause of death in America, just behind cancer, heart disease and strokes. This only includes deaths that occurred in hospitals. The Nutrition Institute of America completed a broad survey of the side effects of drug medicine. They found that adverse drug effects and medical errors account for some 669,000 deaths, making it the leading cause of death in America. A 2009 report by Gary Null, PhD, entitled Death By Medicine also found that modern medicine is the leading cause of death in America.
A NEW PARADIGM
An entirely different model of health care is possible. Instead of focusing on diagnosis and treatment of disease entities, it focuses on supplying missing factors of health. The new model is a true science of preventive medicine. There is no reason to wait to supply the factors of health. Prevention is hundreds of times less expensive than treating a condition when it has fully developed.
The new model uses more sensitive assessment methods that detect imbalances long before a disease occurs. Whether by checking one's spine, hair tissue mineral analysis or acupuncture pulses, small problems can be detected and corrected before they become serious ones. It is the only way to control health care costs and really improve people’s health.
The new model stresses participation and presumes the patient is responsible for his health. Changes in diet and lifestyle can only be recommended. Self-discipline and desire to be well are required. An adult-adult or client-consultant relationship with the doctor replaces the current parent-child relationship. Patients need to ask a lot of questions. Taking responsibility is healing in itself. It is empowering, replacing the futile and energy-wasting attitudes of fear, denial and self-pity.
The new model redefines health. It is not just an absence of cancer or heart disease. It is the act of relating harmoniously with one’s physical, emotional, intellectual and social environment. Health is never a commodity that can be bought and sold, doled out to the poor or guaranteed by a government agency. All such thinking is incorrect. Health is an outcome of understanding oneself and perfecting one’s relationship with one’s surroundings.
ADOPTING THE NEW MODEL
The health care cost crisis offers an opportunity to view health care like any other industry. There is no market failure. How can there be market failure when there is almost no health care market, in the sense of free agents who willingly buy and sell based on free access to information?
Deregulating health care would have to be part of dismantling the welfare state, as the two are closely related. Medical licenses are not only the basis for the cartel’s control. They are meal tickets for any doctor who wants to participate in the welfare state. No one mentions how unfair this is. All Americans pay for the welfare system, but only licensed practitioners receive benefit in the form of reimbursement for their services.
Replacing licensing with private certification would break the power of the cartel and help restore a free market. No physician would be prosecuted and jailed for doing his best. Many people, brainwashed by 100 years of life under the cartel, would object, as they have objected to all the other deregulation efforts. I believe, however, the American people would be much better off.
Instead of the FDA, several competing consumer rating groups would do far more to protect the American people than the current system. Lest this seem impossible, it was the system used successfully in America for over 120 years. Several organizations tested new medicines and medical devices and decided which merited their seal of approval.
Though we may not wish to admit it, American health care is only slightly less socialized than the single payer systems of Europe and Canada. No wonder costs are out of control. Deregulating health care would benefit all Americans and restore a crippled system to sanity. Health care does not have to be costly or dangerous.
The DECADE OF THE BRAIN produced many advancements for Parkinson's and Alzheimer's et al but along with the NOT REALLY CLINICAL TRIAL OR FDA oversight many of these early PHARMA have proven ineffective for most patients. Some patients benefit many do not but with today's COST BENEFIT VS MARKET VALUE health system DECIDER BOARDS----we are seeing as this article from UK states that health insurance plans will not take the expense of what are ever-increasingly expensive medical treatments in a global MARKET-VALUE pricing.
Dementia will no doubt be treated by BRAIN MAPPING nerve tissue growth ----implanting regenerative brain tissue designed for just those sectors of the brain found to be causing that particular malady. This is what we call DESIGNER MEDICINE and the costs will be what only the global 1% and their 2% can afford. This is the bad of all Federal funding going to private, profit-driven global IVY LEAGUES working for patenting wealth----what will be usual treatments will be declared designer and inaccessible to 99% while those research on the brain deemed behavior controlling, bad, and ugly will hit these same 99%. Most Americans will miss the good and get the brunt of bad and ugly in DECADE OF THE BRAIN.
Health & ScienceAlzheimer’s drugs are expensive, and they don’t work very well for most people
By Consumers Union of United States January 7, 2013
Alzheimer's drug 'too expensive' for NHS
by JENNY HOPE, Daily Mail
Last updated at 09:32 10 January 2006
An Alzheimer's drug that may be banned on the NHS could help relieve the suffering of tens of thousands of patients, a study reveals.
Ebixa is the first drug to treat the later stages of the disease successfully, with other methods effective only for mild to moderate symptoms.
The latest research shows it restores the ability of even severely ill patients to do routine activities such as washing, dressing and feeding themselves - as well as helping them feel more alert for at least a year.
But while the drug is licensed for use by NHS patients, it faces being banned by the Government's 'rationing' body, the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence.
NICE is planning to axe four Alzheimer's drugs, including Ebixa, as they are considered too expensive for the NHS at around £2.50 a day per patient. A final decision is expected later this month.
If the move is rubber-stamped, it would leave Alzheimer's patients in England and Wales without any treatments.
Doctors in Scotland and Northern Ireland will continue to be able to prescribe them.
Up to 600,000 people in the UK suffer from Alzheimer's, with around 100,000 said to have severe symptoms.
Delays causing 'anguish'
Professor Clive Ballard, director of research at the Alzheimer's Society, said: "We are deeply concerned that vulnerable people are being denied access to the only licensed drug treatment for severe dementia because of NICE's draft guidance and its delay in making a final decision.
"The Society and thousands of people with dementia and their carers are waiting in anguish."
The long-term US study involving 175 patients with moderate to severe Alzheimer's was published yesterday in the Archives of Neurology journal.
Dr Barry Reisberg, of the New York University School of Medicine, led the research.
He said "Our study verifies that this medication continues to be beneficial and is safe with remarkably few side effects."
Ebixa, which costs £69 a month, is the first in a new class of drugs called NMDA receptor antagonists which appear to have a protective effect on the brain, slowing down progress of the disease.
We introduced optogenetics as the AHA OF BRAIN RESEARCH and it is the favorite of Department of Defense research as well. Again, the science is always valued it is the financial costs to overall health outcomes for all Americans that raise the questions of WHAT GETS FUNDED. Optogenetics is very, very basic science that is more likely to fail than succeed but because we are seeing THE DECADE OF THE BRAIN occur at the same time as GLOBAL INNOVATION WHERE NO IDEA IS A BAD ONE------we will see more and more funds thrown at a few areas of research which already have questionable ETHICS AND MORALS.
I love seeing the voice of the man in the article below ----it makes me think at least some citizens being public interest are watching and reporting.
'But nowhere in my column did I urge that optogenetics research end--any more than in my criticism of the big new U.S. Brain Initiative last spring I urged that neuroscience stop. I want the hype to end. Believe it or not, my criticism of optogenetics and its coverage was meant to be constructive'.
I like as well this writer's reference to what is unproven science being MAINSTREAMED to the public via United Nations TED-X. This is the problem we have had these few decades of CLINTON/BUSH/OBAMA where commercialization of medical products before any FDA or peer-group approval hits global media in an attempt to get WE THE PEOPLE to demand more funds MOVE FORWARD not ready for prime time research. Not fair of these BRAIN RESEARCHERS knowing just how to stimulate our emotions.
'Neuroscientist Richard Tomsett says one of my examples of hype—a TED talk by Ed Boyden, another leader of optogenetics—doesn't count because "the whole point of such talks is hype and speculation." Really'?
Why Optogenetics Doesn’t Light Me Up: The Sequel
When asked about my style of journalism, I sometimes say that my goal isn’t necessarily to get people to agree with me. It’s to provoke readers into reconsidering some issue.
- By John Horgan on September 1, 2013
Has coverage of optogenetics, which thus far has only been tested in animals, exaggerated therapeutic potential for humans?
Well, my recent critique of optogenetics has provoked lots of folks, and most don't agree with me. We've been whacking each other on Twitter, but that format—I've belatedly realized--brings out the worst in me. Someone smacks me, I smack back, reflexively. I want world peace but can't control my own aggression. Embarrassing.
My obnoxiousness makes it too easy for people to attack the messenger and ignore the message. So instead of continuing to bicker with my fellow Twits, I decided to respond in a more measured fashion to several points made by bloggers who have criticized my post. My hope is that this exercise will lead to some useful lessons about science reporting.
Did I call for "the end of optogenetics"? My Scientific American colleague Scicurious suggests that I want to "throw out [optogenetics] because we haven’t cured anything yet." Journalist Paul Raeburn, similarly, says that the guy who proclaimed The End of Science (the title of my first book) is now calling for "the end of optogenetics."
But nowhere in my column did I urge that optogenetics research end--any more than in my criticism of the big new U.S. Brain Initiative last spring I urged that neuroscience stop. I want the hype to end. Believe it or not, my criticism of optogenetics and its coverage was meant to be constructive.
Did I overstate the hype? Lots of folks still insist that I exaggerate the degree to which scientists and journalists have touted the potential of optogenetics to transform treatments for human brain disorders. But that potential is a theme—implicit or explicit--of virtually all reporting on the field, including all the pieces I cited in my original post.
Here is how optogenetics pioneer Karl Deisseroth introduces his 2010 overview of the technique in Scientific American: "Despite the enormous efforts of clinicians and researchers, our limited insight into psychiatric disease (the worldwide-leading cause of years of life lost to death or disability) hinders the search for cures and contributes to stigmatization. Clearly, we need new answers in psychiatry."
Neuroscientist Richard Tomsett says one of my examples of hype—a TED talk by Ed Boyden, another leader of optogenetics—doesn't count because "the whole point of such talks is hype and speculation." Really? So scientists shouldn't be criticized for hyping their research in mass-media venues like TED—which reaches gigantic audiences--because no one is taking them seriously? Surely that can't be right.
Now, you could say that scientists and journalists have a right--and even responsibility--to envision possible directions of research. Fine. But they also have a responsibility to discuss limitations of such research, so as not to raise false hopes. The bulk of coverage has not gone far enough in outlining these limitations.
Should I have mentioned Helen Mayberg's research? Journalist David Dobbs calls me "wrong to declare that no one has yet identified any neurological correlates" of mental illness. He cites neurologist Helen Mayberg, whose research he calls "one of the past decade’s most significant lines of work in depression." Mayberg has reported alleviating depression in patients by stimulating a brain region called A25 with pulses of electricity delivered by implanted electrodes.
According to Dobbs, Mayberg has suggested that "it might be possible to use other means less intrusive than drills and wires--optogenetics in particular--to tweak the circuit she’s been buzzing with her stimulators." There it is again, the therapeutic promise of optogenetics.
I'm less impressed than Dobbs with Mayberg's work, for several reasons. First, her published brain-stimulation results involve small numbers of patients and have not been replicated in controlled, clinical trials. Dobbs mentions this caveat. What he does not mention is that Mayberg has received consulting fees from manufacturers of implantable nerve-stimulating devices.
Mayberg, oddly, has also served as a paid consultant for the prosecution in over 40 capital punishment cases, in which she has argued against the use of brains scans as mitigating information. I learned about Mayberg's corporate and legal consulting activities by reading posts written in 2010 and 2011 by journalist Alison Bass, who raises questions about Mayberg's conduct here, here, here and here. Bass, when I contacted her recently, said she stands by her reporting.
Dobbs has vigorously defended Mayberg against Bass's criticism, calling Bass "wrong, wrong and wrong." But Dobbs does not dispute the basic facts of Mayberg's consulting activities; he just thinks they have no bearing on her credibility. Dobbs should nonetheless have disclosed Mayberg's corporate and death-penalty consulting in his reporting on Mayberg, including a laudatory feature article in The New York Times Magazine in 2006, even if—indeed, because--that information would have cast Mayberg in a darker light.*
Are high costs of U.S. health care relevant to optogenetics? Several bloggers found my discussion of U.S. health care to be unfair and irrelevant to a discussion of optogenetics. Scicurious writes: "I also don’t understand the idea that you can’t get excited about opto because some people don’t have healthcare… That’s like saying that many people don’t have adequate transportation and therefore we shouldn’t get excited by going to Mars."
Actually, that's a pretty good analogy. I think that the poor state of public transportation and other government-funded services should have a bearing on discussions of and funding for big scitech programs, like missions to Mars or the Moon. For an especially eloquent expression of this perspective, check out this YouTube recording of the poet-rapper Gil Scott-Heron's famous poem "Whitey on the Moon."
In the same way, the abysmal state of health care in the U.S. should have a bearing on discussions about biomedical research. I'm not saying that journalists, every time they report on a biomedical advance, need to analyze its potential impact on our health-care problems. But knowledge of these woes should inform coverage of biomedical advances, especially since technological innovation is arguably contributing to our high health care costs.
I understand the desperation of scientists, journalists and everyone for progress in our understanding and treatment of brain disorders. I'm desperate too; mental illness has ravaged people close to me. The question is, How do we balance hope with skepticism? How do we avoid succumbing to what blogger Brandon Keim (in a lonely positive commentary on my original post on optogenetics) calls "the appetite of our public culture for (often tech-centric) narratives of progress and imminent improvement"?
I don't have any magic formula. My reporting on biomedicine is no doubts at times too skeptical and critical--but that's because of my conviction that most reporting is not skeptical and critical enough.
*Addendum: David Dobbs on Twitter says that "by my memory, Mayberg had no consulting relationship w device maker in 2005/6, when I wrote the Times piece." He adds, "I respectfully ask that you remove that accusation unless you can find that she did." Mayberg started serving on an "advisory board" for Cyberonics, a Texas-based manufacturer of vagus nerve stimulators, in 2003, according to this press release: http://www.ahrp.org/cms/content/view/293/29/. Dobbs tweeted, "Amazed u consider Bass credible." Bass is more credible than Dobbs--or Mayberg, for that matter.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR(S)John Horgan