A few slow-paced breaths are enough to significantly reduce physiological stress

Wel­come to a new edi­tion of Sharp­Brains’ e‑newsletter, shar­ing impor­tant brain & men­tal health news plus a cou­ple fun brain teasers to test your men­tal self-rota­tion skills.

#1. Study: Edu­ca­tion and lifestyle helped over a mil­lion old­er Amer­i­cans avoid seri­ous cog­ni­tive prob­lems in 2017

Let’s kick­start 2022 with some good news: “The preva­lence of seri­ous cog­ni­tive prob­lems in the US pop­u­la­tion aged 65 and old­er declined from 12.2% to 10.0% between 2008 and 2017. Had the preva­lence remained at the 2008 lev­els, there would have been an addi­tion­al 1.13 mil­lion old­er Amer­i­cans with seri­ous cog­ni­tive prob­lems in 2017.”

#2. Study: A few slow-paced breaths are enough to sig­nif­i­cant­ly reduce phys­i­o­log­i­cal stress

And more good news: “Our find­ings showed that guid­ing a group of chil­dren through one minute of a slow-paced breath­ing exer­cise in an every­day set­ting can, in the moment, sig­nif­i­cant­ly low­er the aver­age lev­el of phys­i­o­log­i­cal arousal” — Jele­na Obradovic at the Stan­ford Grad­u­ate School of Education

#3. APA: With dig­i­tal men­tal health going main­stream, will/ should psy­chol­o­gists be able to “pre­scribe” interventions?

The asso­ci­a­tion is also work­ing with stake­hold­ers to address the fact that, at present, FDA-approved products—even those with a psy­chol­o­gy basis—need to be pre­scribed but that most psy­chol­o­gists lack this author­i­ty. To help fix this prob­lem, APA and oth­ers “are work­ing to devel­op a more inno­v­a­tive reg­u­la­to­ry mod­el that fits these soft­wares bet­ter and doesn’t use the word ‘pre­scrip­tion,’” said Vaile Wright, PhD, APA’s senior direc­tor of health care inno­va­tion. To aid in this effort, in Sep­tem­ber 2021, the FDA des­ig­nat­ed APA an “expert part­ner orga­ni­za­tion,” which will allow the asso­ci­a­tion to pro­vide exper­tise on behav­ioral change tech­nol­o­gy and methodology.”

#4. Dig­i­tal ther­a­peu­tics pio­neer Akili Inter­ac­tive plans to go pub­lic in mid-2022 at a $1B valuation

By har­ness­ing advances in cog­ni­tive neu­ro­science and con­sumer tech­nol­o­gy, Akili is chang­ing the neu­ropsy­chi­atric treat­ment par­a­digm. Akili’s patent­ed and clin­i­cal­ly val­i­dat­ed tech­nol­o­gy plat­form rep­re­sents a new cat­e­go­ry of soft­ware-based med­i­cine: advanced and pro­pri­etary dig­i­tal ther­a­peu­tics that are designed to direct­ly tar­get neur­al phys­i­ol­o­gy to bet­ter serve the needs of patients and their families.”

Great com­pa­ny and team, very promis­ing approach…and quite tough con­text in the mar­kets (com­pa­ra­ble com­pa­ny Pear Ther­a­peu­tics went pub­lic in Decem­ber at $10/ share; closed Jan­u­ary 28th at $3.89/ share). The Times They Are a‑Changin’

#5. Are ADHD med­ica­tions over­pre­scribed or under­pre­scribed? (Quick answer: both)

Longer answer: “The main take­away from this study is that a only a minor­i­ty of chil­dren and teens with ADHD receive med­ica­tion treat­ment for the con­di­tion. And, rel­a­tive­ly few youth who don’t meet ADHD diag­nos­tic cri­te­ria are receiv­ing ADHD med­ica­tion. While rec­og­niz­ing that the actu­al num­bers pre­sent­ed are only esti­mates, it is there­fore rea­son­able to con­clude that under-treat­ment is sub­stan­tial­ly more com­mon than over-treatment.”

#6. Lyra Health, Big Health and Mantra Health raise a com­bined $332M to com­mer­cial­ize dig­i­tal ther­a­peu­tics for mental/ behav­ioral health

Hope­ful­ly this will lead into much high­er fund­ing for RCTs to explore the short-term and long-term Pros and Cons of a range of promis­ing interventions.

#7. Head­space Health acquires AI-dri­ven dig­i­tal men­tal health start-up Sayana

Sayana per­son­al­izes users’ expe­ri­ences based on their check-ins and mood trends, sur­fac­ing high-qual­i­ty con­tent and self-care exer­cis­es root­ed in cog­ni­tive behav­ioral ther­a­py (CBT), accep­tance com­mit­ment ther­a­py (ACT) and dialec­ti­cal behav­ioral ther­a­py (DBT), as well as breath­ing exer­cis­es” … “We’ve got­ten to the point now where con­tent rec­om­men­da­tions via AI are high­er qual­i­ty by engage­ment rate than rec­om­men­da­tions from providers them­selves. The AI rec­om­men­da­tions for con­tent are used more fre­quent­ly,” [Rus­sell Glass, CEO, Head­space Health] said.

#8. On schools, men­tal health, dig­i­tal sur­veil­lance, stu­dent pri­va­cy and parental input

In the past year, school dis­tricts in Cal­i­for­nia and else­where have con­tract­ed with dig­i­tal sur­veil­lance com­pa­nies to spy on stu­dents at school and home, cit­ing the need for men­tal health sup­port dur­ing the pandemic.
Despite being a vig­i­lant and involved par­ent, I found out only recent­ly that my own kids, who attend high school in the Coro­na-Nor­co Uni­fied School Dis­trict, have been under con­stant dig­i­tal sur­veil­lance for the past year.”

This is not a wise way to intro­duce new tech­nolo­gies, much less those aimed at improv­ing men­tal health (of stu­dents, of par­ents, of staff). Your take?


Last but not least, as promised, a cou­ple fun brain teasers to test your men­tal self-rota­tion. What is men­tal self-rotation?

It is the cog­ni­tive skill to imag­ine your­self in dif­fer­ent loca­tions in space and to imag­ine your­self mov­ing accord­ing­ly. We need that skill in every­day activ­i­ties such as read­ing a map or find­ing our car in the park­ing lot. Enjoy!

#9. Test your con­cen­tra­tion and men­tal self-rota­tion skills with this quick brainteaser

#10. Men­tal rota­tion exer­cise to chal­lenge your brain’s pari­etal lobe


Wish­ing you and yours a healthy February,


The Sharp­Brains Team

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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