DNA nanotechnology

Nanomix, Inc. have developed nanotubes that detect genetic mutations in DNA. Pitt researchers created carbon nanotubes that detected a mutation in the gene that causes hereditary hemochromatosis, a disease in which too much iron accumulates in body tissues.

"The applications of our method for detection of other, more serious genetic diseases can be seen," said Alexander Star.

The method is faster, cheaper, more portable and produces better results than traditional optics.

Read more.


False memories

Are your memories your own? Maybe not.

Chocolate brains

Chocolate brains, with or without cherries inside. Or if you don't want to shop around online, make your own. Chocolate contains mood boosting chemicals like anandamide, tryptophan, and phenylethylamine. These are also a good Valentine's gift for zombies.



The brilliant Renwick Vel Eros has just released his book The Psychonomicon. Description:

"Covering everything from the infamous LSD to the exotic 2C-T-7, The Psychonomicon is the ultimate guide to the effects, pharmacology, chemistry, and use of psychoactive drugs. The Psychonomicon covers a diverse field of topics including tryptamines,phenethylamines,GABA analogues,dissociative anesthetics,introductory pharmacology, personal experiences from a wide variety of people,drug combinations,organizations devoted to the research of psychoactive substances and psychoactive substance resources on the internet."


Love and madness neurochemically

A new article in World Science examines the chemical basis of love and compares it to several mental disorders. "Lovesick" is apt after all.


11 Steps to a Better Brain

New Scientist published this article outlining 11 ways to improve your brain. They include drugs (of course), nutrition (see my article in Psych Central for more), musicianship, technology, working memory training and more. Great ideas.


Blue Brain Project

IBM and The Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL) are working together on an initiative called the Blue Brain Project, creating a supercomputer simulation of the neocortex.

"Modeling the brain at the cellular level is a massive undertaking because of the hundreds of thousands of parameters that need to be taken into account,” said Henry Markram, the EPFL professor heading up the project. “IBM has unparalleled experience in biological simulations and the most advanced supercomputing technology in the world. With our combined resources and expertise we are embarking on one of the most ambitious research initiatives ever undertaken in the field of neuroscience.”

They began last June, and have made progress resulting in the release of some spectacular images since that time.



Brain Ethics posted a great link to a podcast from The Science Show posing the question, "What are the implications of the latest advances in neural prosthetics?" It includes transhumanist themes like brain implants and robotics. Download mp3.


Neuroscience lecture collection

Here's an absolute treasure trove of 129 neuroscience lectures on video, archived by the National Institutes of Health. Free downloads and an RSS feed for video podcasting. "Decisions, Uncertainty, and the Brain" sounds especially intriguing.


PKD podcast

BBC podcast in which acclaimed author Philip K. Dick describes his experience with psychosis.


Neuroethics podcast

Neuroscientist Susan Greenfield discusses advances in and ethical consequences of neuroscience. Links to the podcast, and other info, via Mind Hacks


Pharmacotherapy, freedom and crime

PHARMACOTHERAPY AND THE FUTURE OF THE DRUG WAR - a report by the Center for Cognitive Liberty and Ethics

Over the next decade an increasing number of new "pharmacotherapy" medications will become available with the potential to tremendously impact the use and abuse of illegal drugs and the overall direction of national and international drug policy. These pharmacotherapy medications are designed to block or significantly reduce the "highs"" elicited by illegal drugs. Used as part of a drug treatment program, pharmacotherapy medications may provide a valuable aid for people seeking a chemical aid in limiting or eliminating problem drug use. However, the tremendously politicized nature of the "drug war," raises substantial concerns that in addition to those who choose to use such medications, some people will be compelled to use them. In the absence of extraordinary circumstances, governmental action compelling a person to use a pharmacotherapy drug would violate a number of constitutional guarantees and other legal rights protecting people from forced medical treatment. Among the rights potentially implicated by compulsory use of pharmacotherapy drugs are the right to informed consent, the right to bodily integrity and privacy, the protection against cruel and unusual punishment, and the right to freedom of thought.

The 50 page report is available here on PDF.


RNAi and gene therapy

"...the potential to silence any gene in any tissue you might want."

Details in this news item in EurekAlert from the AAAS.

fMRI lie detection

Two articles from Wired on the use of fMRI neuroimaging for lie detection: the feature Don't Even Think About Lying, plus The Cortex Cop about fMRIs in airport security.


Bipolar gene

Researchers have been searching for genetic links to bipolar disorder for years, and in Australia they've just isolated a gene.

"Our study seems to be good evidence that we've identified one of the risk genes for bipolar which is really quite an important advance for the field."

Read about it in New Scientist, the Sydney Morning Herald, and watch it spread rapidly through the media.


Wellbutrin for gambling

Bupropion Versus Naltrexone in the Treatment of Pathological Gambling in the Journal of Clinical Psychopharmacology. Here's a buproprion (Wellbutrin, Zyban) monograph. It's also used for nicotine addiction, OCD, depression and more.


News release from the Society for Neuroscience:


WASHINGTON, DC, November 13, 2005 — New research is offering fascinating insights into what happens to our brains when we empathize with the feelings of others. Such research supports the concept of “maternal love” and suggests neurological reasons for monogamy. It also promises to lead to a greater understanding of depression and neurological disorders characterized by a deficit of empathy, such as autism and schizophrenia.

“At this time when conflicts among groups of people across the world are increasingly threatening individual safety, it is more important than ever that we understand what drives human social interactions,” says Elizabeth Phelps, PhD, a professor of psychology and neural science at New York University. “The ability to empathize with others promotes greater bonding and less hostility. This collection of studies starts to explain how the brain enables empathy and the individual factors that may moderate this response.”

Read more

And from the New York Times:

Cells That Read Minds

The human brain has multiple mirror neuron systems that specialize in carrying out and understanding not just the actions of others but their intentions, the social meaning of their behavior and their emotions.

"We are exquisitely social creatures," Dr. Rizzolatti said. "Our survival depends on understanding the actions, intentions and emotions of others."

He continued, "Mirror neurons allow us to grasp the minds of others not through conceptual reasoning but through direct simulation. By feeling, not by thinking."

The discovery is shaking up numerous scientific disciplines, shifting the understanding of culture, empathy, philosophy, language, imitation, autism and psychotherapy.

Read more

Dr. Robert Hare maintains an excellent Page for the Study of Psychopaths, a disorder involving empathy.

Controversy about its legal defence and treatment is heavily influenced by this trend in new discoveries.


The Hedonistic Imperative

HedWeb is a detailed resource for cosmetic neurology (including psychopharmacology). Here's their mission statement:

The Hedonistic Imperative outlines how genetic engineering and nanotechnology will abolish suffering in all sentient life.

The abolitionist project is hugely ambitious but technically feasible. It is also instrumentally rational and morally urgent. The metabolic pathways of pain and malaise evolved because they served the fitness of our genes in the ancestral environment. They will be replaced by a different sort of neural architecture. States of sublime well-being are destined to become the genetically pre-programmed norm of mental health. It is predicted that the world's last unpleasant experience will be a precisely dateable event.

Two hundred years ago, powerful synthetic pain-killers and surgical anesthetics were unknown. The notion that physical pain could be banished from most people's lives would have seemed absurd. Today most of us in the technically advanced nations take its routine absence for granted. The prospect that what we describe as psychological pain, too, could ever be banished is equally counter-intuitive. The feasibility of its abolition turns its deliberate retention into an issue of social policy and ethical choice.

Neuroscience nanotechnology articles

GA Silva (2006) Neuroscience nanotechnology: Progress, opportunities, and challenges. Nature Reviews Neuroscience 7:65-74. >PDF

The Silva Research Group, Cellular Neural Engineering at the University of California, San Diego has archived PDFs of a collection of articles by Gabriel Silva. This latest look at nanotechnology was published in the January 06 edition of Nature Reviews Neuroscience; indexed here on PubMed.


The future is now, in many ways. Neuroscience and psychiatry are fields that have experienced tremendous growth, especially in the last few decades, and these advances already have practical applications. Neuropsychopharmacology and neuroimaging are exciting fields right now, as we develop and refine our understanding of the brain. At the same time, much is still unknown and in the individual, and some psychopharmacology is essentially experimental.

Imaging genetics have raised questions centering on the classic mind/brain argument, which antipsychiatry factions are challenging in court and the media. If behaviour is neurochemical, what of free will? And ethically, what is considered personal responsibility? Neuroethics addresses these questions and more.

Transhumanism advocates the responsible application of technology to overcome the body's limitations. Cosmetic psychopharmacology involves using medication to enhance brain functions, rather than to restore. There is growing demand and interest, and there are ethical concerns involved here as well.

Neuroscience, psychiatry, neuroethics and transhumanism are the four areas of focus for this blog. They have applications in a broad range of fields, and I'll be aggregating diverse information. Expect a lot of interesting links. I invite your comments.

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