Sharp Brains: Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News

Neuroplasticity, Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News

Icon

Why we need to extend our mental lifespans to match our physical ones

_________

Beep!’ This is one of the most mad­den­ing com­put­er games I’ve ever played. I’m track­ing a flock of birds, and when I hit the right one, it explodes with a sat­is­fy­ing ‘phutt’. But as I get bet­ter at spot­ting them, the birds scat­ter ever more wild­ly across the screen, and I hear that unfor­giv­ing ‘beep’: you missed.

Frankly, I feel like giv­ing up. But many play­ers don’t dare. For this is Hawk­Eye, a brain-train­ing pro­gram that claims it can sharp­en my brain beyond sim­ply get­ting faster at mouse-click­ing. Tri­als have found that old­er peo­ple who play enough hours of this par­tic­u­lar kind of game have few­er car crash­es — and even, appar­ent­ly, a low­er risk of demen­tia …  Keep read­ing arti­cle Train your brain: How to keep your mind young over at Spec­ta­tor web­site.

Article in context:

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

_____

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.

Five Essential Guidelines to Improve Brain Health for All

Since 2010, the Sharp­Brains Vir­tu­al Sum­mit has been bring­ing togeth­er neu­ro­sci­en­tists, entre­pre­neurs, and prac­ti­tion­ers with a mis­sion to improve men­tal health­care, brain per­for­mance and gen­er­al well-being.

As we get ready to host our next col­lec­tive brain­storm­ing next week, let us share some key themes from our last Sum­mit, since they helped shape the Agen­da for this one.

In 2017, the gathering’s tone was gen­er­al­ly optimistic–given the explo­sion of sci­en­tif­ic and tech­no­log­i­cal break­throughs, start-ups and investments–but impor­tant eth­i­cal con­cerns were also wide­ly dis­cussed.

1. The Need is Very Real, Very Large and Largely Unmet

Dr. Tom Insel, a well-known sci­en­tist turned pol­i­cy-mak­er turned entre­pre­neur, shared a deep dive into the land­scape of health­care inno­va­tion: We have seen $15 Bil­lion invest­ed in Health Tech since 2012, in over a thou­sand new com­pa­nies … yet men­tal health­care has not tru­ly evolved while brain and men­tal dis­or­ders remain among the costli­est con­di­tions in the US, with an annu­al bur­den esti­mat­ed at $200+ Bil­lion.

 

_______

Same thing regard­ing aging and brain health: the need is very real and very large, both in devel­oped and in emerg­ing coun­tries. At least there we see stronger signs of advo­cates and pol­i­cy­mak­ers begin­ning to take note. For exam­ple, Sarah Lenz Lock from AARP spoke about the need for improved dig­i­tal assess­ments that are evi­dence-based and per­son­al­ized, help­ing mil­lions of old­er adults self-mon­i­tor their brain health and delay cog­ni­tive and mem­o­ry prob­lems.

 

A num­ber of researchers shared pop­u­la­tion-lev­el ways to pro­mote life­long brain health. For exam­ple, Belén Guer­ra-Car­ril­lo at UC-Berke­ley dis­cussed how Big Data com­ing from new online and mobile plat­forms can inform pol­i­cy. Dr. David Bartrés-Faz from the Barcelona Brain Health Ini­tia­tive described how track­ing behaviors–that sus­tain neur­al func­tion­ing in advanced age—can help per­son­al­ize inter­ven­tions, and how they are mea­sur­ing lifestyle fac­tors in a large, 3,000-subject-strong, ran­dom­ized tri­al.

 

2. Solutions Start with Early Detection and Digital Phenotyping

A very inge­nious pre­sen­ta­tions came from Jan Samzelius of Neu­raMetrix, one of the win­ners of the Brain­no­va­tions Pitch Con­test. His team, with a back­ground in cyber­se­cu­ri­ty, dis­cov­ered a method of assess­ing typ­ing cadence which could enable ear­ly detec­tion of neu­rode­gen­er­a­tive dis­eases, from Alzheimer’s Dis­ease to Parkinson’s. The sys­tem can run silent­ly (yes, per­mis­sion and pri­va­cy will be issues to address) in the back­ground of a per­son­al com­put­er or smart­phone, inte­grat­ing hun­dreds of vari­ables in a per­sons’ key­board cadence and flag­ging unusu­al pat­terns.

Anoth­er great exam­ple came from Nan­cy Briefs of Dig­i­tal Cog­ni­tion Tech­nolo­gies, which has adapt­ed a tra­di­tion­al neu­ropsy­cho­log­i­cal test (the ‘Clock Draw­ing Task’) and com­bined it with machine learn­ing to pro­vide fast, afford­able, and scal­able detec­tion of cog­ni­tive changes.

Mind­strong Health has been at the fore­front of dig­i­tal phe­no­typ­ing. Dr. Tom Insel dis­cussed how ‘dig­i­tal exhaust’ –data tak­en from smart phones– can be used to pro­vide objec­tive, con­tin­u­ous, and proac­tive mark­ers of mood, cog­ni­tion, and behav­ior. The firm has found that vari­ables extract­ed through machine learn­ing are as good at pre­dict­ing cog­ni­tive func­tion as the test-retest reli­a­bil­i­ty of numer­ous cog­ni­tive tests, pre­sent­ing the oppor­tu­ni­ty for scal­able and non­in­va­sive solu­tions to detect men­tal health dis­or­ders.  Fur­ther, the infor­ma­tion gained from these meth­ods could be used by clin­i­cians and patients not only to enable ear­ly inter­ven­tion but also to mon­i­tor progress over time, some­thing that is rarely done today.

3. And continue with Lifestyle and Digital Health/ Medicine interventions

The upcom­ing ‘dig­i­tal cav­al­ry,’ as described by Dr. Oliv­er Har­ri­son from Tele­fon­i­ca Inno­va­tion, will be high­ly com­ple­men­tary to the ear­ly detec­tion and dig­i­tal phe­no­typ­ing ini­tia­tives out­lined above.

For exam­ple, Dr. Eddie Mar­tuc­ci of Akili Inter­ac­tive Labs shared find­ings from a recent­ly-pub­lished ran­dom­ized con­trolled tri­al (RCT) sup­port­ing the use of ‘pre­scrip­tion’ video games to tar­get symp­toms of atten­tion deficit hyper­ac­tiv­i­ty dis­or­der (ADHD), while rep­re­sen­ta­tives at Click Ther­a­peu­tics, Sin­cro­lab, and Myn­dY­ou out­lined a new wave of per­son­al­ized cog­ni­tive training/ ther­a­py pro­grams. Going fur­ther, researchers at Neu­roscape and UCSF pre­sent­ed vir­tu­al and aug­ment­ed real­i­ty plat­forms for mul­ti­modal bio-sens­ing, adap­tive eval­u­a­tion and brain-body train­ing, which could well help upgrade brain health­care and cog­ni­tive rehab in the near term.

 

 

Some of the ideas dis­cussed were sim­ple yet high­ly inspired. Dr. Albert Kwon and col­leagues at Aug­men­tX craft­ed an aug­ment­ed real­i­ty adap­ta­tion of mir­ror box ther­a­py to poten­tial­ly pro­vide home-based treat­ment for stroke vic­tims. Emma Yang, the youngest Speak­er being just 13-years old, unveiled Time­less — a dig­i­tal app using arti­fi­cial intel­li­gence to help per­sons with Alzheimer’s Dis­ease to remem­ber events, stay con­nect­ed, and engage with friends and fam­i­ly.

4. Open issues: data security, privacy, equity

While explor­ing the oppor­tu­ni­ties, Sum­mit par­tic­i­pants also detailed the con­cerns over data secu­ri­ty, pri­va­cy, equi­ty, and ethics.

Dr. Simone Schurle at ETH Zurich sur­veyed bio­med­ical sys­tems for neu­ro-mon­i­tor­ing and inter­ven­tion and issued a pow­er­ful call for respon­si­ble devel­op­ment: new plat­forms and devices can pro­duce great good in health care, but also have the capac­i­ty for mis­use and harm.

 

_______

Dr. Álvaro Pas­cual-Leone at Har­vard Med­ical School dis­cussed state-of-the-art neu­ro­mod­u­la­tion, which offers a sig­nif­i­cant and large­ly untapped oppor­tu­ni­ty, while Dr. Anna Wexler from Uni­ver­si­ty of Penn­syl­va­nia high­light­ed real-world issues expe­ri­enced by home-based users and cham­pi­oned the need for bet­ter eco­log­i­cal research and cus­tomer pro­tec­tion, giv­en the onrush of ‘do-it-your­self’ home devices and loose­ly reg­u­lat­ed prod­ucts.

Mul­ti­ple speak­ers dis­cussed major con­cerns regard­ing pri­va­cy and per­son­al auton­o­my raised by big data plat­forms, and poten­tials way for­ward.

5. The Time to Engage is Now

Giv­en every­thing dis­cussed above, now is the prime moment for change­mak­ers, investors, clin­i­cians and allied health­care pro­fes­sion­als to engage with the dig­i­tal brain health rev­o­lu­tion in ways that can ben­e­fit all.

Sig­nif­i­cant advances are com­ing, have come, and will con­tin­ue to come. Researchers, inno­va­tors and prac­ti­tion­ers should work togeth­er to direct the flow of the upcom­ing ‘dig­i­tal cav­al­ry’ and shape the Future of Brain Health – togeth­er we can bet­ter rec­og­nize needs, pro­vide feed­back on imple­men­ta­tion, and make sure that those who suf­fer receive actu­al ben­e­fits.

At the same time, we have a respon­si­bil­i­ty to iden­ti­fy and pre­empt eth­i­cal con­cerns and to guide respon­si­ble devel­op­ment and appro­pri­ate use. If users and pro­fes­sion­als pull back from these advances out of pro­pri­ety con­cerns, turf war, or feel­ings of threat, a great oppor­tu­ni­ty will be lost. Our brain/ men­tal health care prob­lems will only get worse, not bet­ter.

 

_______

Let’s, togeth­er, explore and dis­cuss how to use every avail­able tool in the toolk­it to address the very real and very unmet needs of 7+ bil­lion peo­ple in the 21st Cen­tu­ry.

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.

_______

Learn More & Register:

2019 Sharp­Brains Vir­tu­al Sum­mit: The Future of Brain Health (May 7–9th)

 

Let’s discuss how to Outsmart Smart Technology to Reclaim our Health and Focus

I’m excit­ed to share that the upcom­ing 2019 Sharp­Brains Vir­tu­al Sum­mit will fea­ture, on May 8th, a fas­ci­nat­ing pre­sen­ta­tion and dis­cus­sion with Dr. Mar­garet Mor­ris, who spent 13 years as a researcher at Intel and recent­ly wrote a very time­ly book — Left to Our Own Devices: Out­smart­ing Smart Tech­nol­o­gy to Reclaim Our Rela­tion­ships, Health, and Focus (MIT Press, 2018).

Please learn more about the fan­tas­tic Sum­mit Agen­da and con­sid­er join­ing us!

To bet­ter under­stand Dr. Mor­ris’ work and insights you can read this great book review over at Psy­chi­atric Times:

Mor­ris is a skill­ful sto­ry­teller and takes that chal­lenge to task. Across eight easy-to-read chap­ters, she illus­trates how peo­ple, most like­ly younger users, “hack” tech­nolo­gies to fos­ter con­nec­tion, mind­ful­ness, and well-being. The chap­ters are cen­tered around a col­lec­tion of per­son­al nar­ra­tives from peo­ple who per­son­al­ized their dig­i­tal devices and expe­ri­ence pos­i­tive results. Mor­ris records these sto­ries with a gen­tle, engag­ing, and upbeat tone that requires no for­mal back­ground in either men­tal health or tech­nol­o­gy … This book is a good read for today’s dig­i­tal health ini­tia­tives and for clin­i­cians hop­ing to keep up to date in cur­rent trends in men­tal health tech­nol­o­gy. It reminds us that putting a device in a patient’s hands will often lead to out­comes that we could nev­er have imag­ined. It also pokes holes in the once reign­ing view that robot­ics and chat­bots are dehu­man­iz­ing and anti­so­cial. If any­thing, the nar­ra­tives sug­gest that tech­nol­o­gy can help patients mon­i­tor their emo­tion­al states and improve shar­ing and con­nec­tions. The book under­scores how use­ful it is to study how patients use apps in real-world set­tings and to learn from their lived expe­ri­ences.

 

Your take?

El Cerebro Que Cura is a bestseller for the third week in Catalonia, Spain

From the offi­cial list in el Per­iódi­co for the week March 11–17th:

NO FICCIÓN CASTELLANO

1-‘Cómo hac­er que te pasen cosas bue­nas’.  Mar­i­an Rojas.  Espasa.  Un lli­bre que vol aju­dar a mil­lo­rar les nos­tres vides.  200 pàgines.  12 set­mana.  19,90 euros.

2-‘Una his­to­ria de España’.  Arturo Pérez-Reverte.  Alfaguara. Pérez-Reverte ofer­eix la seva visió de la història d’Espanya.  256 pàgines.  1 set­mana.  18,90 euros.

3-‘Come comi­da real’. Car­los Ríos.  Paidós. Una guia per trans­for­mar la nos­tra salut men­jant salud­able­ment.  304 pàgines.  2 set­mana.  17 euros.

4-‘A mí no me callan’.  Pepe Rubianes.  Alrevés. Monòlegs, escrits i reflex­ions de l’actor Pepe Rubianes.  224 pàgines.  2 set­mana.  20 euros.

5-‘Dic­cionario de las cosas que no supe expli­carte’.  Ris­to Mejide.  Espasa. Ris­to Mejide expli­ca les seves emo­cions i exper­ièn­cies.  206 pàgines.  5 set­mana.  19,90 euros.

6-‘Sodoma. Poder y escán­da­lo en el Vat­i­cano’.  Frédéric Mar­tel.  Roca Edi­to­r­i­al. Una anàlisi dels escàn­dols i la decadèn­cia del Vat­icà.  604 pàgines.  1 set­mana.  20,90 euros.

7-El cere­bro que cura’. Álvaro Pas­cual-Leone, Álvaro Fer­nán­dez-Ibáñez y David Bartés-Faz.  Platafor­ma Edi­to­r­i­al.   Els ben­efi­cis d’una ment sana. 232 pàgines.  3 set­mana.  20 euros. Read the rest of this entry »

Watch All Recordings Now (40+ Speakers, 12+ Hours)

About SharpBrains

As seen in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, BBC News, CNN, Reuters and more, SharpBrains is an independent market research firm tracking health and performance applications of brain science.

Follow us and Engage via…

twitter_logo_header
RSS Feed

Search for anything brain-related in our article archives

Enter Your Email to receive Sharp­Brains free, monthly eNewslet­ter:

Join more than 50,000 Sub­scribers and stay informed and engaged.