Thomas Insel Leaves the Google-Spawned Verily for a Start-Up

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From Wired: Thomas Insel, neuroscientist and former head of the National Institutes of Mental Health, is leaving his role at the Google-spawned health science company Verily to work for a start-up called Mindstrong. He is reported as saying:

“I spent 13 years at NIMH really pushing on the neuroscience and genetics of mental disorders, and when I look back on that I realize that while I think I succeeded at getting lots of really cool papers published by cool scientists at fairly large costs—I think $20 billion—I don’t think we moved the needle in reducing suicide, reducing hospitalizations, improving recovery for the tens of millions of people who have mental illness…”

Since biomarkers are not effective in diagnosing mental health issues, Insel will now be working to find how patterns of phone use and keyboard use may be correlated with outcomes like depression, psychosis, or mania.

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4 COMMENTS

  1. I urge people to read the full article. Am I the only one to find this alarming…?

    “If biomarkers can’t diagnose mental health issues, maybe a “digital phenotype” can. In 2015, Insel told Technology Review that this was why he was jumping to Alphabet: the idea that a combination of your medical records (electronically stored, duh) and how you use your gadgets—tracking of activity correlating with depression or future self-harm, let’s say—could be a Big Data bonanza for predicting and treating health issues. “For a bipolar patient whose mania is manifested in rapid, uninterruptible speech or hypergraphia, their disease could be characterized by the frequency, length, and content of participation in social media,”

    • I’ll say it is! As ever, Dr. Thomas “Gizmos and Gadgets” Insel is true to his colors. Alright, we couldn’t find those “biomarkers” bio-psychiatrists have been looking for so long and so hard. Let’s look at “digital phenotypes”, the way people labeled with disorders use the internet. “Digital phenotypes”? That doesn’t even make literal sense, but now that you’ve got internet companies luring psychiatrists away from government agencies, there is, of course, money in it. You know Facebook is gleaning demographic information from it’s users. Should it also be gleaning “mental health” information that can be mined by the pseudo-medical establishment (i.e. psychiatry)? Information gathering is information gathering, only it seems that this information gathering will be used for purposes of social control. I remember a time before “digital phenotypes”, however I imagine there is an popularizing text on the way on the subject. Here’s another way for the mental health copper to be intrusive. Watch out! Big brother (and sister) are watching you. Step out of line, and they’ve got a label, together with a “digital phenotype”, for you. How far away can we be from a time when they will be showing up at your doorsteps with commitment papers on account of your recent internet activities? We know, thanks to Edward Snowden, that the NHS has been spying on us. Imagine this intelligence agency or that, and psychiatrists, working together in a concerted effort to keep people in their places (i.e. oppressed). Wow! We’re there now, aren’t we!?