Neurodiversity, Neuroenhancement, Neurodisease, and

by Gregor Wolbring

April 30, 2007 
Recently a new trade association called the
Neurotechnology Industry Organization (NIO) was
formed, with membership ranging from pharmaceutical,
medical device, and diagnostic companies to academic
brain research centers, patient advocacy groups and
research foundations to venture capital firms and
strategic partners.

The FAQ of the NIO states that over 500
neurotechnology companies exist worldwide which work
on diseases impacting 1.5 billion people worldwide and
nearly 100 million Americans among them – “Alzheimer's
disease, addiction, anxiety, depression, epilepsy,
hearing loss, insomnia, multiple sclerosis, obesity,
chronic pain, Parkinson's, schizophrenia and stroke.” 

The FAQ judges the health care and lost income cost to
be “$1.0 trillion annually worldwide, $300 billion
annually in the U.S.”

In other words, one-third of the US population is a
patient target for the NIO. This vision of the NIO
reflects a very broad definition of the scope of
neurological and psychiatric disease. With such a
broad scope it is not surprising when a news release
states that the neurotechnology industry is a $110
billion business. According to the highlights of the
neurotechnology industry 2006 Report there are three
sectors in the industry: neuropharmaceuticals with
revenues of $93 billion and 7% annual growth;
neurodevices with revenues of $3.4 billion and 21%
annual growth; and neurodiagnostics with revenues of
$13.5 billion and 11% annual growth. A list of
companies covered in the report can be found here.

Besides the very broad definition of ‘neurological and
psychiatric disease’ another issue is now emerging –
the opportunity for neuroenhancement.


Zack Lynch, the founder of NIO said that the products
of NIO members cover implants, brain-computer
interfaces, brain scanners and diagnostic devices,
cogniceuticals and emoticeuticals. This hints at the
possibility that the focus is not just on fixing
people with ‘neurological and psychiatric disease’ –
restoring them to homo sapiens species typical
functioning – but that neuro-enhancement could also be
part of the game.  

John Hind at the UK newspaper Observer describes
cogniceuticals in his column, where Zack Lynch is
cited as believing that the use of cogniceuticals and
emoticeuticals will move into the mainstream between
2010-2040. Hind writes, “One pundit on cheers, 'Competitive advantage will
come not just from managing knowledge generated within
your company, but by cogniceutically managing the
ability of your employees to learn, think, be creative

It will be interesting to see whether the
Neurotechnology Industry Organization views species
typical cognitive functioning as a disease following
the “transhumanist version of the concept of health”
(1) leading to the “transhumanization of
medicalization” (1) described in one of my previous
columns, and the transhumanization of ableism in


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