'The Fear Has Significantly Diminished': UCLA Neuroscientists Discuss Next Steps on Brain Chips
Francesca Billington is a dot.LA editorial intern. She's previously reported for KCRW, the Santa Monica Daily Press and local publications in New Jersey. Before joining dot.LA, she was a communications fellow at an environmental science research center in Sri Lanka. She graduated from Princeton in 2019 with a degree in anthropology.
Researchers are getting closer to using bionics to treat patients with memory loss and depression, but they'll have to address some crucial questions before it's commercialized. That's what three neurology UCLA researchers and professors said during the dot.LA Summit panel "Building the Bionic Human in L.A." hosted by managing editor Rachel Uranga.
Most of these concerns have to do with the ethics, safety and security of implanting brain chips, which are designed to stimulate memory functions for patients with Alzheimer's or inhibit them for patients with PTSD.
And they were skeptical about Neuralink founder Elon Musk's promises to quickly bring to market a device that interfaces with the brain that Musk says could ease depression or other ailments. The bottom line, they said, was that there's still a gap between the technology and what researchers know about the brain.
"What are the guarantees that we can provide for these devices? Can I guarantee it'll work on ten out of ten patients and if not, is it worth the risk associated with the implant?" said Fabien Scalzo, assistant professor of neurology and computer science at UCLA. "I think there are still a lot of questions regarding that."
Each of the panelists focus on a different aspect of bionic engineering at UCLA: Scalzo works with a team to produce the hardware that Nader Pouratian implants into the brain. Meanwhile, Nanthia Suthana examines its effects on the patient's neurological functions.
Pouratian, a professor and vice chair of neurology at UCLA's school of medicine, said brain stimulation devices evolved from cardiac pacemakers, the first of which were developed in the 1970s.
"It's the same idea," he said. "We've been using that technology for over two decades. It hasn't changed radically in that time until very recently."
Today, engineers, scientists and neurosurgeons are rallying around an industry that's seen rapid growth. Specifically, they're working to stimulate the brain with greater precision and listen to brain activity, similar to the way doctors listen to the heart. The other key component of development includes improving the patient experience. Think scaling down the size of these devices and making them both wireless and rechargeable.
"The fear of brain stimulators has significantly diminished," said Pouratian. "As we expand and understand that better and make it safer, I think we're going to see it much more commonly accepted and sought after."
The devices in development are largely geared toward helping people with ongoing conditions, but Pouratian said he could see a day when people use them cosmetically to enhance memory, for example. The prospect could potentially expand human potential but would raise a whole host of concerns including access and the possibility of these devices being hacked.
Suthana, a UCLA assistant professor of neurosurgery and bioengineering, said some of the fears you hear surrounding bionic solutions might be premature.
"We're not quite where people might think we are in terms of doing these nefarious things that people suggest or 'Black Mirror' likes to show in their shows," she said. "But it's still absolutely critical to think about these things before we go down this road."
- Kernel Raises $53M in Quest for Brain-Reading Machines - dot.LA ›
- Brain Chips and What's Next for Neuroscience - dot.LA ›
- Are Sports Cards the New Currency? - dot.LA ›
Subscribe to our newsletter to catch every headline.
Their Russian investor was dead.
On a late Tuesday night in early May, the billionaire Russian coal tycoon, Dmitry "Dima" Bosov stopped answering phone calls and messages. When his wife, Katerina, arrived at their mansion in the suburbs of Moscow, she found her 52-year old husband locked in the family's home gym, dead from an apparent gunshot wound to the head.
Editor's Note<p><em></em><em>The story is pieced together from interviews with more than 40 former employees and business associates, active and retired county officials, as well as federal and county law enforcement; state court records, arbitration, arrest and corporate records in the U.S. and Canada; other public records in six California counties; Genius Fund corporate records and emails. Some former employees and business associates spoke to dot.LA on condition that their names not be mentioned out of fear of reprisals.</em></p><p>This is first story in our "Green Rush" series. Read more:</p><p><a href="https://dot.la/genius-fund-cannabis-startup-2646866270" target="_self">Part 2: Growing Pains in Plumas County</a> | <a href="https://dot.la/cannabis-products-genius-fund-2646866366.html" target="_self">Part 3: A Line of Failed Products</a> | <a href="https://dot.la/green-rush-genius-fund-2646866354.html" target="_blank">Part 4: What Went Down in Adelanto</a> | <a href="https://dot.la/dmitry-bosov-genius-fund-2646866356.html" target="_self">Part 5: The Sudden Death of Dmitry Bosov And His Dream of a California Cannabis Empire</a></p>
- Genius Fund's Plans to Build the Biggest Pot Farm in CA' - dot.LA ›
- Is the Green Rush Over? - dot.LA ›
- Green Rush: What Went Down in Adelanto - dot.LA ›
- The Death of Dmitry Bosov and His Dream of a Cannabis Empire - dot.LA ›
- LA Metal Icon Expands His Cannabis and Design Brand into Nevada, Arizona - dot.LA ›
"The time for inaction is over."
Such was the through-line in dot.LA's Thursday panel discussion on "Measurably Increasing Diversity in the Workplace."
Joining dot.LA host Kelly O'Grady was Oona King, VP of diversity, equity & inclusion (DEI) at Snap and a member of the UK House of Lords, and Kobie Fuller, partner at Upfront Ventures. The conversation centered on what organizations must do to ensure that this moment of acute awareness of the societal issues around DEI does not go to waste.
"I am grateful that white people have woken up," said King, who has also worked in diversity and inclusion at the UK's Channel 4 and YouTube. "But my gratitude will turn back to rage if they go back to sleep."
Kobie Fuller, Partner, Upfront Ventures<p><strong><br></strong></p><p>Kobie joined Upfront in June 2016, bringing deep expertise in enterprise SaaS and emerging technologies including VR and AR. Over his career he has invested early in notable companies including Exact Target (sold to Salesforce for $2.5B) and Oculus (sold to Facebook for $2B). Prior to Upfront, Kobie was an investor at Accel and, earlier, was the chief marketing officer at L.A.-based REVOLVE, one of the largest global fashion e-commerce players. Earlier in his career, Kobie helped found OpenView Venture Partners and was an investor at Insight Venture Partners. Kobie graduated from Harvard College.</p>
Oona King, VP of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion at Snap Inc.<p>Oona King is the VP of diversity, equity & inclusion at Snap Inc. Previously, Oona was Google's director of diversity strategy, YouTube's director of diverse marketing, and before that chief diversity officer for British broadcaster Channel 4. Oona is a member of the House of Lords (a life-time appointment as Baroness King in January 2011), and former senior policy advisor & speechwriter to the prime minister at 10 Downing Street. </p><p>Oona became a member of the House of Commons at 29, the second woman of color, and 200th woman of any color elected to the British Parliament. She became parliamentary private secretary to the minister for e-commerce, and secretary of state for trade and industry. Oona was voted by other MPs as "the MP most likely to change society." In the Lords, Oona's front bench roles included shadow education minister, shadow minister for the digital economy, and shadow minister for equalities.</p>
Chief Host & Correspondent and Head of Video Strategy at dot.LA
Chief Host & Correspondent and Head of Video Strategy at dot.LA<p>Kelly O'Grady is dot.LA's chief host & correspondent. Kelly serves as dot.LA's on-air talent, and is responsible for designing and executing all video efforts. A former management consultant for McKinsey, and TV reporter for NESN, New England's premier sports network, she also served on Disney's Corporate Strategy team, focusing on M&A and the company's direct-to-consumer streaming efforts. Kelly holds a bachelor's degree from Harvard College and an MBA from Harvard Business School. A Boston native, Kelly spent a year as Miss Massachusetts USA, and can be found supporting her beloved Patriots every Sunday come football season.</p>
- How Can L.A. Tech Promote More Diversity in Its Ranks? - dot.LA ›
- Bloomberg's Emily Chang on Solving Tech's Diversity Problem ... ›
- Valence Funding Network Intends to Boost Black Startups - dot.LA ›
- How Can L.A. Tech Promote More Diversity in Its Ranks? - dot.LA ›
- Which Tech Workers Send Money Back Home? ›
- Kara Nortman Named Upfront Ventures' Co-Managing Partner - dot.LA ›
- Mark Suster of Upfront Ventures on VC's Primary Job - dot.LA ›
- 'VC is Like a Pimple' - dot.LA ›
- Pool, Gym? Check. Electric Car? - dot.LA ›
- Streaming for the Arab Diaspora - dot.LA ›
- A Startup's Stark COVID Pivot - dot.LA ›
- Making Audio Sharable - dot.LA ›
- A 3D Revolution - dot.LA ›
- Podcast Nation - dot.LA ›
- COVID Crashes Thanksgiving Holiday - dot.LA ›
- Can a Former Wolf of Wall Street Partner Make the Next Big Social Network? - dot.LA ›