A Sensible Opportunity

While much of the excitement in the neurotechnology industry has come from the stimulation side of the neural-electronics interface, we’re pleased to report on some interesting developments in neurosensing applications. As we report in our article on page 1 of this issue, manufacturers of neurodiagnostics systems have identified the market for psychiatric disorders as a growth opportunity.

We think this is an appropriate use of neurosensing technology, not only because there is a gaping void in psychiatrists’ offices when it comes to diagnostic tests for psychiatric disorders, but also because it meshes well with currently available therapeutic treatments, whether those be pharmaceutical or device based. While Cyberonics is likely to be the first neurostimulation firm to penetrate the psychiatric disorder market with its vagus nerve stimulation system, other neurotech vendors won’t be far behind. Neuronetics is making good progress with its transcranial magnetic stimulation system [see profile p6] and Advanced Neuromodulation Systems has recently acquired intellectual property relating to deep brain stimulation for treating affective disorders.

It seems to us that the availability of a diagnostic test based on analysis of electrical activation patterns emanating from the central nervous system might lead to a clinical community that is more open to modalities of treatment based on electrical activation (or inhibition) of the central nervous system. Of course, even if the diagnostic leads to more definitive use of pharmacological therapies for psychiatric disorders, this is still a good development for the neurostimulation community, especially if it more readily identifies the treatment-resistant population that seems to be the core customer base for stimulation approaches.

This may be one reason why Boston Scientific chose to underwrite Aspect Medical’s development process to the tune of $25 million, as an adjunct to the money it has already invested in Aspect. Boston Scientific’s investment in Cyberonics and its ownership stake in Advanced Bionics may well stand to benefit down the road from diagnostic tools that are well fitted to stimulation therapies.
And we expect that other neurosensing firms will take note of this market opportunity for other disorders. Lexicor has already targeted the market for ADHD, and Louisville, KY-based Neuronetrix is taking aim at the dyslexia market with its EEG-based tests.

Eventually, there may be the opportunity to merge some of these diagnostic tests into a system that incorporates stimulation or drug-delivery therapies, which might offer clinicians even more options for treating hard-core cases. But as it is, the active participation of neurodiagnostics vendors in the psychiatric disorders market looks like a move that serves patients, clinicians, and vendors very well.

James Cavuoto
Editor and Publisher



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