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10 Highlights from the 2019 SharpBrains Virtual Summit to shape the Future of Brain & Mental Health

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Wow. Fas­ci­nat­ing three days last week. Some of our favorite moments and take-aways…

1. Dr. Tom Insel pro­vid­ed a spec­tac­u­lar overview of the dig­i­tal rev­o­lu­tion in brain health and men­tal health. While we have his­tor­i­cal­ly failed to bend the curve as well as in oth­er areas of health, since “you can’t man­age what you can’t mea­sure”, new dig­i­tal and neu­ro­log­i­cal mon­i­tor­ing tech­nolo­gies are final­ly allow­ing us to rem­e­dy that fun­da­men­tal issue so we can iden­ti­fy prob­lems ear­ly and inter­vene ear­ly. Mul­ti­ple Speak­ers dur­ing the Sum­mit like Dr. Sri­jan Sen, Jan Samzelius and Louis Gagnon built upon Insel’s remarks with much research, tech and exam­ples.

2. Richard Han­bury won the 2019 Brainnova­tions Pitch Con­test by pre­sent­ing a nov­el com­bi­na­tion of audio-visu­al stim­u­la­tion and neu­ro­feed­back train­ing to  alle­vi­ate chron­ic pain. Our “Sharp Tank” Judges were very impressed by Kate Sharadin work too, who came in as close sec­ond thanks to her dig­i­tal ther­a­peu­tics start­up.

3. Dr. Anna Wexler, Dr. Karen Rom­melfanger and Jacque­line Stud­er shared a fas­ci­nat­ing ses­sion on pri­va­cy and ethics, help­ing to bridge acad­e­mia and indus­try. We lack clear stan­dards and tax­onomies for neu­rotech­nol­o­gy, but they men­tioned sev­er­al ini­tia­tives to antic­i­pate and address the chal­lenges, and  encour­aged par­tic­i­pants to be aspi­ra­tional rather than “legal­is­tic” — by con­sid­er­ing diverse per­spec­tives, striv­ing for the widest ben­e­fit with the min­i­mum risks, and edu­cat­ing users, we can enable ben­e­fi­cial inno­va­tion in ways that reg­u­la­tion alone, as impor­tant as it is, prob­a­bly can­not.

4. Sev­er­al pre­sen­ters includ­ing Dr. Lew Lim, Ana Maiques and Nick­o­lai Vysokov dis­cussed the grow­ing field of adap­tive and per­son­al­ized neu­ro­mod­u­la­tion meth­ods. This emerg­ing tech­nol­o­gy class deserves atten­tion and research, as it could mean a non-inva­sive, non-phar­ma­co­log­ic treat­ment for a vari­ety of con­di­tions. (For exam­ple, the FDA recent­ly cleared the use of the first non-drug treat­ment for ADHD thanks to the study dis­cussed here).

5. The theme of per­son­al­iza­tion was also dis­cussed by pre­sen­ters work­ing on an array of brain-based and cog­ni­tive ther­a­pies in schools, the work­place and con­sumer tech. Speak­ers like David Klein, Ariel Garten, and Dr. Gre­go­ry Rose dis­cussed emerg­ing find­ings and best prac­tices in the “real word” out­side of research labs and clin­i­cal set­tings.

6. Back to cut­ting-edge research, Dr. Nir Gross­man and Dr. Reza Zomor­ro­di unveiled excit­ing advances in non-inva­sive brain stim­u­la­tion while Dr. Peter White­house remind­ed us of the crit­i­cal impor­tance of soci­etal fac­tors which impact the indi­vid­ual brain and of com­mu­ni­ty-based inter­ven­tions that can help pro­mote brain health. Dr. Hag­it Alon dis­cussed fund­ing oppor­tu­ni­ties to advance the “Neu­ro-Well­ness” field.

7. Dr. Dean­na Bel­sky, Dr. Tony Chang, Avery Bedows, Elan Tye and oth­er ven­ture investors through­out the Sum­mit dis­cussed the oppor­tu­ni­ties and chal­lenges for a suc­cess­ful mar­riage of research and com­mer­cial­iza­tion,  nav­i­gat­ing the com­bi­na­tion of reli­able sci­ence and tech, fea­si­bil­i­ty, and mar­ket need.

8. We had an “Oprah moment” when Mar­cel Legrand at Total Brain promised to give away licens­es for all Sum­mit par­tic­i­pants to try out their cor­po­rate well­ness plat­form to bet­ter assess, under­stand and improve brain capac­i­ties.

9. Dr. Margie Mor­ris pre­sent­ed Left to Our Own Devices (MIT Press; 2018), a great book pro­vid­ing mul­ti­ple sto­ries and exam­ples on how to out­smart our smart­phones,  and Alvaro Fer­nan­dez pre­sent­ed his lat­est book El Cere­bro Que Cura (“The Brain That Heals;” Platafor­ma Edi­to­r­i­al; 2019), co-authored with Dr. Alvaro Pas­cual-Leone, which pro­pos­es a sim­ple but rev­o­lu­tion­ary idea — a healthy mind/brain is both the prod­uct and the dri­ver of over­all phys­i­cal health.

10. All this, and much more, hap­pened dur­ing 3-days and engag­ing up to 174 par­tic­i­pants in 18 coun­tries…and yet not even one per­son out­side the orga­niz­ing team had to jump on a flight and gen­er­ate tons of trav­el-relat­ed CO2 emis­sions…

Time to pro­tect those pre­cious nat­ur­al resources out­side AND inside our skulls 🙂

 

– Alvaro Fer­nan­dez is the CEO & Edi­tor-in-Chief of Sharp­Brains, and Bran­don Frank is a PhD can­di­date at Ford­ham Uni­ver­si­ty with a con­cen­tra­tion in Neu­ropsy­chol­o­gy.

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