Dark chocolate on the brain, May 3rd – 9th
- Strides forward toward memory-enhancement: Who knew that epigenetics could affect memory so much? Just published in Science is an article about how histone acetylation affects synaptic strength and plasticity. In other words, the way in which DNA is wrapped inside of the cell effects the brain’s capacity for memory. There were multiple media outlets picking up on this story, all of which jumped to the conclusion that memory-enhancing drugs were nigh at hand. We’ll see–it may indeed be true that this discovery will ultimately contribute to drugs which legitimately enhance our brain’s capacity to store and recall information. I’m convinced that memory enhancment will ultimately be available…its just a question of which avenue will prove to be the most efficient route to take.
- Pentagon turning to brain implants: Speaking of other avenues for increasing memory…WIRED had a titillating article this week on the Pentagon’s backing of brain implant research. If anybody can accelerate the progress of sci-fi sounding technology developments, it is the U.S. military. This begs a whole slew of moral and ethical questions for me. Don’t get me wrong–I’m not overly naive on this point. I fully support strong national defense: secure society is a prerequisite for human flourishing. But when it comes to military and fighting, I think it is highly fitting to apply the cliche, “Just because we can doesn’t mean we should.” As far as I can tell, brain implants under development are intended to support healthy mental functions of military personnel, which is a good thing that could easily translate into enhancing the quality of life for civilians. As soon as someone crosses the threshold, though, to talking about brain implants that would create the Manchurian Candidate…The bottom is we should all be thoughtful about what limits we draw well before it is time for us to choose whether or not to cross those lines.
- Goldman exec invest $20M into neuroscience research: This one made me chuckle. Note to self: when I start my own lab, be sure to hire the son of a wealthy Goldman Sachs businessman to be a laboratory assistant. That’s probably the best undergraduate hire that Mount Sinai has ever made.
- NIH envisions the future of molecular neuro research: I’m yet to hear details about the proceedings of this conference, but I’m very excited that the NIH hosted a two-day symposium specifically to discuss neural imaging at the molecular level. Learning how the brain works in vivo at the molecular level is going to revolutionize our concepts of self and empower a plethora of therapeutic and enhancement options. It’s good news all around for quality of life considerations for humankind.
- fMRI evidence rejected by Brooklyn court: While some may view this as a set back for the emergent field of neuro law, I actually see the incident taken as a whole as a tremendous step forward. The simple fact that a court was seriously contemplating the use of fMRI evidence for lie detection means that it’s only a matter of time (and probably only a matter of a very short period of time) before a U.S. legal case does permit fMRI lie detection evidence in a hearing. The defense for a Tennessee trial scheduled for the 13th of this month has moved to submit fMRI evidence as part of their case. The forthcoming standard practice of using fMRI evidence in legal cases has already started to create quite a hubbub, and will certainly be the subject of much conversation as the technology forges its way into the mainstream of the U.S. legal system.
- Hurray for dark chocolate: On a lighter note (er…a darker note?), Johns Hopkins published a study indicated that riboflavins in dark chocolate have neuro-protective properties in cases of stroke. It didn’t take me long to jump on this bandwagon–I’ve already purchased three dark chocolate bars this week and a bag of dark M&M’s. What??…My brain needs it!