Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Google hires top government brain scientist to probe mental illness - FierceMedicalDevices

There is good news for behavioral scientists and clinicians.

We often picture mental health as a gray space, a subjective area, one that cannot be objectified or measured by standard laboratory tests, or readily available imaging techniques.

Although there have been some advances using newer imaging techniques, such as MRI and other colorful graphic displays of brain anatomy and/or physiology there gave been few studies connecting these measures with treatments.

Image Source: UCLA Laboratory of Neuro Imaging, UCLA, Derived from high-resolution magnetic resonance images (MRI scans), the above images were created after repeatedly scanning 12 schizophrenia subjects over five years, and comparing them with matched 12 healthy controls, scanned at the same ages and intervals. Severe loss of gray matter is indicated by red and pink colors, while stable regions are in blue. STG denotes the superior temporal gyrus, and DLPFC denotes the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex. Note: 

 Google has now seen this 'black hole' in neuroscience and has recruited an expert. Google ($GOOG) is bringing on Thomas Insel, former director of the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), to work for its burgeoning Life Science group and apply the company's technologies to mental illness.

Insel, who worked for the NIMH for 13 years, is "currently working out the final details for a move to the life sciences team" at Google's conceptualized Alphabet company, he said in a statement. The company is hard at work on new healthcare technologies, Insel pointed out, including a glucose-monitoring contact lens that it is developing with Swiss drugmaker Novartis ($NVS). While Google hasn't revealed any projects for mental illnesses, the fact that its life sciences team would launch a "major exploration into mental health … is by itself a significant statement," he added

Insel brings an impressive resume to the table, including time as co-chair of the National Institutes of Health's (NIH) Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies (BRAIN) program for neurological research. And Insel has worked with genetics and imaging data, which could come in handy as Google eyes an increasingly lucrative diagnostic market.

Active Funding Opportunities

The private-public partnership will strengthen funding for collaboration  in neuroscience and computer science.

Google hires top government brain scientist to probe mental illness - FierceMedicalDevices

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