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Neuroplasticity, Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News


Mental Health Innovation and Dr. Tom Insel: from the NIMH to Google/ Verily Life Sciences to Startup Mindstrong

For­mer Alpha­bet exec is work­ing on an idea to detect men­tal health dis­or­ders by how you type on your phone (CNBC):

Can a smart­phone detect whether a user is sui­ci­dal or depressed?

That’s the promise of an explod­ing num­ber of men­tal health entre­pre­neurs, who are explor­ing oppor­tu­ni­ties to mon­i­tor users’ smart­phone behav­ior to detect a vari­ety of symp­toms — all with their con­sent.

Dr. Thomas Insel joined Ver­i­ly, Alpha­bet’s life sci­ences unit, less than two years ago to do just that.

Insel, a psy­chi­a­trist and the for­mer chief of the U.S. Nation­al Insti­tute of Men­tal Health, was tasked with form­ing a team ded­i­cat­ed to inno­vat­ing in men­tal health with new tech­nol­o­gy. Insel remained qui­et about his goals for the unit, until he left the com­pa­ny this week for a new start­up…

Men­tal health tech­nol­o­gy is a big mar­ket oppor­tu­ni­ty, with stud­ies find­ing that some 30% of peo­ple will expe­ri­ence a men­tal health dis­or­der in their life­time — and the major­i­ty of these peo­ple aren’t get­ting the care that they need, accord­ing to the World Health Organization…“In con­trast with most of the tech­nol­o­gy in med­i­cine, there’s an oppor­tu­ni­ty in men­tal health to do every­thing on the phone,” said Insel.

The Startup

Star Neu­ro­sci­en­tist Tom Insel Leaves the Google-Spawned Ver­i­ly for … a Start­up? (Wired):

At Mind­strong, one of the first tests of the con­cept will be a study of how 600 peo­ple use their mobile phones, attempt­ing to cor­re­late key­board use pat­terns with out­comes like depres­sion, psy­chosis, or mania. “The com­pli­ca­tion is devel­op­ing the behav­ioral fea­tures that are action­able and infor­ma­tive,” Insel says. “Look­ing at speed, look­ing at laten­cy or key­strokes, look­ing at error—all of those kinds of things could prove to be inter­est­ing.” Maybe in five years dig­i­tal phe­no­types will have gone the way of neu­ro­bi­ol­o­gy and genet­ics in men­tal health, Insel acknowl­edges, but for now the tech ideas are worth a look… “Those kind of appli­ca­tions are the ones I like most, because they’re one-to-many,” says Joseph Kvedar, who runs the Con­nect­ed Health pro­gram at Part­ners Health Care in Boston. “They enable us to look at a pop­u­la­tion, screen in the back­ground for chal­lenges, and then inter­vene when nec­es­sary with a qual­i­fied pro­fes­sion­al to help. What we do now is wait for you to decide you’re depressed and come to us.”

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As seen in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, BBC News, CNN, Reuters,  SharpBrains is an independent market research firm tracking how brain science can improve our health and our lives.

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