CNS Events and Publications
The Potomac Institute for Policy Studies undertook the Neurotechnology Futures Study to anticipate the path of future development of neurotechnology,1 and to develop a strategic plan to advance the progres- sion of this technology. The Potomac Institute also examined the potential ethical, legal and social issues that may arise as the technology develops, and considered approaches to be prepared for and mitigate these concerns.
The study group found that neurotechnology is a rapidly advancing eld, with potential impacts that could far surpass those of the information revolution, the pending biotechnology revolution, or the anticipated nanotechnology revolution. The study concluded that targeted Federal government investment in a few key areas could play a signi cant role in developing and furthering the neurotechnology revolution.
The study group developed a technology investment Roadmap, which outlines the key research areas and technologies that will be needed to move neurotechnology forward. The Roadmap is divided into two main tracks (Figure 1). The rst is fundamental science, or scienti c discovery and understanding of the brain and cognition. The second is the development of technology and applications, which will feed back into scienti c discovery and into the development of products and applications for medicine, the military, and the public.
A Collaboration Between the Potomac Institute for Policy Studies and SharpBrains
Tuesday, September 29, 2015
12:00 PM - 1:30 PM
On Tuesday, September 29th, 2015, the Potomac Institute for Policy Studies hosted a seminar in collaboration with SharpBrains titled, “The Neurotechnology Revolution: Market Trends & Impacts”. The seminar sought to initiate a discussion of the growing trends in funding and market development based on two recently released reports on emerging neurotechnology by Potomac Institute and Sharpbrains.
Dr. Jennifer Buss, Director of the Potomac Institute’s Center for Neurotechnology Studies provided opening remarks for the seminar and introduced the Potomac Institute’s Trends in Neurotechnology Report. Unnati Mehta, the author of the report, presented some of the key components of this report to the audience. The report focused on the recent acceleration in neuroscience research publications and technology development. Neurotechnology can be used to further understand the natural processes of the brain, study and treat neurological disorders and injuries, and enhance neural capabilities, resulting in increased human intelligence and efficiency. Outside of the realm of health, it will be used in social contexts to improve overall quality of life. Brain Computer Interfaces (BCIs), imaging capabilities, cognitive load and wearable technologies have all improved rapidly and are being applied in multiple fields.
Alvaro Fernandez, CEO & Co-founder of Sharpbrains, provided remarks to summarize and highlight some of the most important findings from Sharpbrains’ Pervasive Neurotechnology report. The report is a comprehensive analysis of more than 10,000 patent filings that are transforming medicine, health, entertainment, and business. He delved into the key trends and insights that define pervasive neurotechnology developments, from exponential intellectual property growth and technology acquisition from large companies to the use of neuro-monitoring technologies and sensors in many social applications.
John Cammack, Managing Partner of Cammack Associates, spoke about his observations of significant growth in our understanding of the brain’s functionality in complex areas like consciousness, awareness, attention, and memory. Because of these exciting, groundbreaking findings in the field of neuroscience, entrepreneurs and innovators are looking to translate this research into a market for enhancing human capabilities and brain fitness. These technologies will help us to improve outcomes for sufferers of mental illness and neurodegenerative diseases and disorders, but they will also provide normative datasets for use in large-scale research applications.
A panel discussion following the speakers’ remarks involved the topics of neurotechnology personalization, the indicators that neurotechnology investment is here to stay, the impacts of neurotechnology on society, and policy recommendations on advancing neurotechnology. The neurotechnologies and their future iterations discussed during the panel will provide improved communication and make society more productive. Along these lines, there are many opportunities to apply the available science to government policy decisions in many areas. Additionally, these growing technology trends should be incorporated into policy ideas for the successful development and implementation of neurotechnology, such as the President’s BRAIN Initiative, so that we can make the most of the tremendous potential that neurotechnology offers.
In his opening remarks, Mike Swetnam called for greater investment in neurotechnology, an endeavor that should match our past investments in nanotechnology and information technology.
In the future, neuro-enhancement will be as widespread as today’s computing technologies. Our society and economy is heavily based on the computerization of information through powerful computer chips. A continued progression into the Digital Age requires further strengthening of the field of neurotechnology.
Dr. Amy Kruse highlighted the role of the private sector in developing new neurotechnology and bringing neuro-enhancements to the everyday consumer. Dr. Kruse believes that the current market is ready for neurotechnology: the commercial world has poured a lot of money into neuroscience. However, we need a rigorous, tested set of technologies and a set of trusted providers. The government should encourage and provide the necessary research and funding to develop the applied neurotechnologies that fit into this framework.
Next, Dr. Jonathan Moreno pointed to the immense growth of excitement surrounding neuroscience over the past few years and its potential to affect society. Dr. Moreno detailed the rich history of enhancement in neuroscience, including the CIA interest in the “Mind Race,” investigations into oxytocin, and the development of transcranial magnetic stimulation. Dr. Moreno’s numerous examples helped to illustrate the many ways in which neuroscience has already and will continue to enhance our lives. In addition, as Dr. Moreno is a bioethics professor at the University of Pennsylvania, he explained several of the ethical dilemmas that may arise from these new technologies including the issue of cognitive liberty and reversibility.
The final speaker, Dr. Gerold Yonas, addressed the ability of neuro-enhancements to revolutionize treatment and improve lives. Dr. Yonas focused on how electromagnetic stimulation can enhance and restore brain function. He described how increasing slow wave sleep time or using stimulation to induce specific brain activity would improve cerebral blood flow and the ability of the brain to respond to stress. He also discussed the applications of transcranial stimulation (in both direct current and alternating current forms) and how research and proper investment can improve the safety and function of these neurological tools. Lastly, Dr. Yonas discussed the potential for neuro-systems engineering to transform our interactions and roles in society.
The panelists convened to discuss neurotechnology together and to take questions from the audience. The discussion covered health topics including the value of sleep and how to improve it, treatments for migraines, and curing Alzheimer’s disease. The discussion hinged on the role of business and government regulations and how to ensure that neuro-enhancements are rigorously tested and validated (how do we ensure that these technologies are sold at CVS and not GNC?). The conversation also included discussion of how scientific progress can be hindered by government regulation and control. Neuroscience has the potential to advance faster than the government regulations that limit it, a trend that is seen with the internet today.
Dr. Jennifer Buss highlighted how policy solutions for neuro-enhancement can address the field of neuroscience as a whole. She called for expanding the BRAIN Initiative into a National Neurotechnology Initiative. The coordinating and oversight power of the initiative would be placed within the National Science Foundation. There is great potential for neurotechnology, and increased government funding, inclusion of industry, and developed research focuses will make this potential a reality. Neuro-enhancements will provide new means of communication, learning, machine control, and medical treatment, all while spurring new industries and job creation.
The Potomac Institute for Policy Studies and the American Association for the Advancement of Science held a symposium on the topic of education neuroscience on May 14, 2014. This symposium tackled the issues of how to apply neuroscience research to the classroom and how to reshape the future of education through neuroscience. Incorporating neuroscience and neurotechnology into our education system has the potential to revolutionize the way every student learns as an individual – a unique and personalized education, tailored to their interests and highly interactive, allowing each student to excel in their own capacity. Education of our children is our future. We do not have to accept education as a static, unchanging field. We should expect a constant improvement in our education system and now, neuroscience provides us with the best tool to effect such changes.
On Friday, March 21, members of the science and policy communities met to discuss the current challenges and opportunities in neuroscience data sharing as well as possible ways to advance data sharing going forward. Panelists included representatives from the neuroscience, industry, statistics, database, funding, and scientific journal communities. The biggest obstacle facing neuroscience data sharing appears to be the need for cultural change (i.e. creating an environment in which data sharing is part of the work flow for scientists instead of an afterthought and a burden). One solution that was discussed is the inclusion of data sharing practices in the evaluation of promotion and tenure decisions. Another is the development and widespread use of technologies that make data sharing an easy part of the scientific process. A second obstacle is the high cost for not only sharing data, but also maintaining and curating that data. It is currently unclear whose responsibility this should be. Before sharing can become widespread, the community must determine exactly what data should be shared. There are differing opinions on this; should investigators share all raw data, only processed data, or only data pertaining to the experimental questions of the study? Improvements in hard drives continually make it easier to store and share large quantities of data, but as more and more data is collected with new tools and techniques, this will become a bigger issue and one that must be addressed.
As science becomes an even more international venture, the melding of international data sharing policies will also become increasingly important to allow for data from around the world to be accessible to all. Discussion at this one day symposium revealed various issues facing sharing of neuroscience data which, once addressed further, will contribute to the creation of new policies in the neuroscience community in order to lower the costs and obstacles to data sharing and foster an environment where data sharing is encouraged and valued.
Neurotechnology, like many developing sciences, is a multi-disciplinary field that has the potential to revolutionize medicine, law, warfare, and education.
The Potomac Institute for Policy Studies and The American Association for the Advancement of Science will be hosting a series of symposia intended to provide a forum for the public and policymakers focused on the societal impacts of neuroscience and technology. One of the goals of the series is to develop future U.S. policy recommendations.
Neuroscience and technology will affect our society in more ways that we currently imagine. The speed of technology development significantly outpaces that of policy development.
The 2014 Neuroscience Symposia Series will feature the leading experts in science, policy, law, information technology, security, and education. The attendees will include US government officials, high-level industry members, and academics.
Topics of the Symposia series include:
- Data Sharing in Neuroscience. Despite increased ease of collaboration and convenience of data availability, various obstacles to open data sharing remain, including lack of incentives to researchers and the absence of data reporting standards. Researchers, policy makers, and information technology (IT) specialists will examine current neuroscience data sharing platforms and the potential for a common database and criteria for reporting neuroscience results.
- Cognitive Security. As neurotechnology advances and becomes more accessible, the scope of its use escalates to include weapons that might be used to attack the individual and collective conscience of our society. The potential for neurotechnology weapons raises a number of questions regarding the regulation and national security implications of such capabilities. Experts in neuroscience, policy, and military tactics will consider the current state of neuroweapons and the potential for future use of this technology.
- Educational Neuroscience: From Lab to Classroom. Recent developments in understanding how the brain learns have led to an important crossroad of neuroscience and education. Educators, policy makers, and scientists will review educational policies and anticipate how future neuroscience studies could affect the US education system.
- Neuroscience and Genetics. Recent advances established that the human brain has regenerative potential through a number of studies demonstrating plasticity of both cells and circuits in the brain, and the ability to genetically reprogram cells. Experts from the pharmaceutical industry, medicine, and academia will discuss the future of enhancing and rebuilding the brain through genetic and cellular methods.
- The Role of Neuroscience in Law and Policy. Progress in brain imaging technology has raised major political and societal questions, while advances in deception detection are partly responsible for the recent increase in the number of judicial opinions in the US involving neuroscience-based evidence. Experts in law, neuroscience, and policy will debate the place of neuroscience data and imaging techniques in law and policy.
- Neuroscience, Privacy, and Cybersecurity. Innovative research in the field of neurotechnology has lead to breakthroughs in brain-computer interface capabilities that will revolutionize the way society interacts with computers in the future. Scientists, IT specialists, and policy makers will examine the privacy and security questions that arise from advances in brain-computer interface technology and the accessibility to an individuals neural data.
On September 11, the Potomac Institute for Policy Studies' Center for Neurotechnology Studies was a co-supporter, along with the Nour Foundation, of a conference at the United Nations entitled "Toward a Common Morality." The Center's Director, James Giordano, PhD, was among the featured speakers.
Participants discussed the phenomenological and spiritual characteristics of human subjective experience, the neurophysiological and psychological foundations of these domains, and their role in practical reasoning and moral decision making. Emphasis was on elucidating how and why an understanding of the integrative neuroscience of the brain-mind both compels and sustains an appreciation for reverence and virtue, and provides a natural foundation for the emergence of a system of common morality.
About The Center for Neurotechnology Studies
Activities of the Center for Neurotechnology Studies
The Center actively shepherds research and public debate on neurotechnology, and advises public and private sectors working to study and develop neuroscience and technology. These objectives are achieved through:
Research: CNS is dedicated to advancing knowledge and understanding of the foci, use, and impact(s) of neurotechnology, particularly as relates to legal and social issues arising in and from this field.
Workshops/Seminars: CNS hosts lectures, seminars, and other activities to address development and issues of neurotechnology.
Briefings: The Center informs policy-makers and agency personnel on emerging scientific, legal, and social issues related to the development and implementation of neurotechnologies.