Synthetic Neurobiology: Towards Engineering Brain Circuits for Health and Human Augmentation (Ed Boyden) – ETech08

What are the mechanisms of normal and pathological human function? And how can we improve them? Bridging the gap of human behavior, social behavior, and molecular function. Can we augment emotion & cognitive functions? Why do we feel and act the way we do? HOw can we cure intractable disorders?

Controlling neural circuits. INvent new tools and understand how to use them. What is the abstraction layer we need to deal with? Need to understand entire neural circuits from input to output.

Augmentation: towards a cognitive augmentation tool box. Transcranial Magentic Stimulation. Modifying magnetic fields across the cortex, activating brain circuits. Approved to treat depression. OpenStim open source brain stim – wearable device, cheap, light. How to target deep noninvasive stim?

Targeted brain stim can precisely alter cognitive processing. Ex: increase/decrease risk-taking; trust/judgement; memory. Can we make a creativity prosthetic?

Cognitive behavioral therapy: cancel out a negative thought by behavioral/psychological strategies. Better than pharm. Easy to learn, difficult to excercise in the midst of depression. POss to use hypnotherapy to treat procedural anxiety. State of suggestibility, attention , and distance from feelingss.

Customized adaptive treatment engine: generate scripts to match anxiety and pain-release strategies to individuals. Can be used before and during surgical/invasive procedures to reduce anxiety.

Neuroeconomics: scan the brain during work tasks to identify areas of activity, derive consequences of brain lesions and other problems. Why does someone do what they do, buy what they buy, invest or not invest? Intervene to temporarily perturb specific low-level function in order to study it’s role in higher-level emergent behavior. [scary! how to better market to the lizard brain]

Brain disorders are a huge problem. Problems are sever, robbing happiness, self, identity. Great untapped need inspiring many business opportunities for treatment. 20th century the era of pharmaceuticals. Developments are slowing down, lots of side effects, nonspecific.

Optical neural control: precisely sculpt activity in specific regions and cell types. Thousands of cell types. Most severe disorders are loss of specific cell types. Can tune molecular promoters to express chemical modulator, using viral vectors (gene therapy). Adeno-associated virus seems very safe so far. Modify specific cells to respond to light. Can drive neural activity in modified cells using colored light. Can turn on with blue light, off with yellow. Looking at hardware light arrays (ex: modulate epilepsy neural circuit, Parkinsons). Shuffling neural code to offset epileptic spike trains.

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