FutureVigil 2011: Cognitive Enhancement; Neuroscience, Data Mining and Chronic Disease Therapy

Posted on January 16, 2011 by

FutureVigil’s focus during the coming year will be about ┬áthe significant work being done on the brain and our increasing understanding of how it works. Some of this stems from studies using Functional MRI imaging and PET scans and others are animal studies which are leading to clinical trials. Jonah Lehrer, who writes about neuroscience for WIRED, has been a wellspring of guidance on the research being done and also on others who are writing about this new phenomina. There is much interest in cognitive enhancement. Not just through drugs which help with concentration, memory and performance but also on non-drug induced self development of the brain through techniques and brain exercises which have shown to increase and create new synapses. For example, in a study of London taxi cab drivers, it was found that those who memorized the maze of streets in London, had increased the size of that portion of their brain required for this function as compared to those who did not. In addition to my focus on neuroscience and the brain, I will continue to examine the new uses and functions of data mining, including the examination of data from prior clinical studies. This was done in patients with early Parkinson’s disease, where it was learned that the bodies of those individuals produced a higher level of Urate, thought to be a means of slowing the disease. This finding lead to clinical studies on increasing the Urate levels in patients with Parkinson’s. The findings are not in yet. Finally, I will also continue to review and analyze studies on the effects of intense exercise on chronic disease, general health and preventive medicine, also a budding field within the scientific community. In my travels on these topics, I am learning about some other trends in writing on medicine, including the growing recognition that much of the published literature in medicine is based on studies which reach conclusions that cannot withstanding scrutiny and cannot be repeated. This derives in part from publications that have a bias towards positive results and will not print null findings but also from a bias in the ways in which studies are constructed. This is disturbing and worthy of review. In terms of style, the “blogs” will become longer and will contain more analysis than reporting, as before. I welcome comments including criticism and most will be posted as long as they are understandable and without profanity.

Leave a Reply