Got Brain? Investing in Our Most Precious Asset in 2013

Open a week­end New York Times or Wall Street Jour­nal and you’ll find a whole sec­tion with detailed infor­ma­tion and advice for indi­vid­u­als look­ing to invest wise­ly. What you will not find, how­ev­er, is com­pa­ra­ble infor­ma­tion and advice for invest­ing in your most impor­tant asset of all: your brain. Pre­cise­ly because it (usu­al­ly) does its job so smooth­ly and effec­tive­ly, it’s all too easy to for­get that your brain is there and that it needs to be invest­ed in just as with any­thing else we val­ue and want to con­tin­ue reap­ing ben­e­fits from. And with more than 2 bil­lion peo­ple world­wide cur­rent­ly suf­fer­ing from brain-based health and pro­duc­tiv­i­ty chal­lenges with a result­ing glob­al eco­nom­ic bur­den of more than $2 tril­lion, it’s also an issue of some importance.

We’ve made a lot of progress over the last cen­tu­ry in under­stand­ing the brain, but it wasn’t until the last few decades that we’ve come to under­stand the ways in which our every­day behav­iors affect, for bet­ter or worse, our brains’ health and per­for­mance. We now know that cer­tain basic activ­i­ties, includ­ing phys­i­cal exer­cise, prop­er nutri­tion, stress man­age­ment, and men­tal exer­cise, are inte­gral com­po­nents of a brain-healthy lifestyle, and peo­ple are wak­ing up to the fact that they need to be proac­tive in mon­i­tor­ing and man­ag­ing the health and fit­ness of their brains. As detailed in our new mar­ket report on dig­i­tal brain health, the large major­i­ty of respon­dents to a 2012 Sharp­Brains sur­vey of 3,000+ deci­sion-mak­ers and ear­ly adopters in the field found that the major­i­ty believe that brain health should be a health­care pri­or­i­ty, that adults should take charge of their own “brain fit­ness,” and that dig­i­tal tech­nolo­gies sig­nif­i­cant­ly aug­ment tra­di­tion­al approaches.

As a grow­ing num­ber of con­sumers, inno­va­tors, and deci­sion-mak­ers invest in dig­i­tal tech­nolo­gies to bet­ter mon­i­tor and enhance cog­ni­tion across the lifes­pan, we are wit­ness­ing the rapid growth and devel­op­ment of a new dig­i­tal brain health mar­ket­place. Right now, the dig­i­tal brain health mar­ket – which includes both soft­ware appli­ca­tions and bio­met­ric hard­ware prod­ucts designed to mon­i­tor, assess, enhance or repair neu­rocog­ni­tive func­tions such as exec­u­tive atten­tion work­ing mem­o­ry, emo­tion­al self-reg­u­la­tion – can be divid­ed into four main cus­tomer seg­ments: Con­sumers, Health­care, senior liv­ing, and insur­ance providers, K12 school sys­tems, and Employ­ers. Con­sumers have become the pre­dom­i­nant cus­tomer seg­ment, sur­pass­ing healthcare/insurance providers, as the com­bi­na­tion of an increase in the diag­no­sis of learn­ing dis­abil­i­ties, anx­i­ety dis­or­ders, and aging Baby Boomer pop­u­la­tion with a keen inter­est in main­tain­ing their men­tal sharp­ness, and the trend­ing desire for a healthy lifestyle, has con­sumers look­ing for health­i­er, non-inva­sive alter­na­tives to exist­ing drug-led and ther­a­pist-led approach­es. Not only that: self-mon­i­tor­ing options for bet­ter man­ag­ing one’s cog­ni­tive and emo­tion­al func­tion­ing are already becom­ing avail­able to con­sumers at user-friend­ly prices and pack­ag­ing, and strong sig­nals sug­gest the next fron­tier in the con­sumer appli­ca­tion of bio­met­rics is going to be brain health.

The over­all mar­ket has kept grow­ing since 2009 despite the over­all eco­nom­ic chal­lenges, both in the soft­ware and hard­ware seg­ments. We esti­mate the glob­al mar­ket for brain health appli­ca­tions of soft­ware and bio­met­rics to be over $1 bil­lion in 2012, and we fore­cast it will reach $6 bil­lion in 2020. The indus­try is still made up of many small com­pa­nies, which has been a lim­i­ta­tion for the marketplace’s mat­u­ra­tion giv­en con­tra­dic­to­ry, con­tro­ver­sial mar­ket­ing claims. That being said, siz­able recent invest­ments by strate­gic and finan­cial investors sug­gest boom­ing prospects and the increas­ing pro­fes­sion­al­iza­tion of the sec­tor. As ana­lyzed in our new mar­ket report, five lead­ing com­pa­nies –Brain Resource, CogState, Emo­tiv, Lumos Labs, Neu­roSky- are already gain­ing sig­nif­i­cant mar­ket and research trac­tion, and recent devel­op­ments, such as Bay­er part­ner­ing with Cog­niFit and Mer­ck with CogState, under­score the sector’s grow­ing lev­el of maturity.

We can expect sev­er­al dri­vers to fuel con­tin­ued growth and inno­va­tion. Equip­ment which used to be expen­sive and cum­ber­some is becom­ing user-friend­ly and inex­pen­sive, and tablets and mobiles phones are becom­ing a major deliv­ery vehi­cle for dig­i­tal brain health solu­tions. Heavy invest­ment into online plat­forms are geared to gain con­sumer mar­ket share, with many com­pa­nies offer­ing free or freemi­um sub­scrip­tions. Over the course of this decade, we will like­ly see Big Data and cloud-based appli­ca­tions that will enable tru­ly per­son­al­ized brain health solu­tions, and a more devel­oped ecosys­tem built around users and tools.

And while it’s unlike­ly that we’ll see peo­ple devot­ing as much time and atten­tion to invest­ing in their brains as in their finances any time soon, dig­i­tal brain health solu­tions going main­stream among both con­sumers and health­care providers will be a big step forward.

Because the fact is, we all got a beau­ti­ful human brain. We can invest in it to bet­ter live, love, work, innovate.

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About SharpBrains

SHARPBRAINS is an independent think-tank and consulting firm providing services at the frontier of applied neuroscience, health, leadership and innovation.
SHARPBRAINS es un think-tank y consultoría independiente proporcionando servicios para la neurociencia aplicada, salud, liderazgo e innovación.

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