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Next: Monitoring the body’s electrical signalling to enhance brain health

Researchers are seek­ing to record and inter­pret the body’s elec­tri­cal sig­nals. Pic­ture: ZEISS Microscopy/Flickr

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READING THE BODY’S ELECTRICAL SIGNALS TO TREAT ILLNESS (Uni­ver­si­ty of Mel­bourne):

Chem­i­cal elec­tric­i­ty is how we move, think, and remem­ber.

And increas­ing­ly, as tech­nol­o­gy minia­turis­es and com­put­er pow­er mul­ti­plies, it’s how we are treat­ing chron­ic ill­ness.

Since the ful­ly implantable pace­mak­er was devel­oped in the 1950s to keep a patient’s heart beat­ing in rhythm using elec­tri­cal impuls­es, engi­neers have now gone on to devel­op devices that can be implant­ed direct­ly in the brain, under the scalp, or even inside blood ves­sels to treat dis­eases and dis­or­ders like Parkinson’s and epilep­sy, as well as men­tal ill­ness­es and paral­y­sis.

But Pro­fes­sor David Gray­den in the Uni­ver­si­ty of Melbourne’s Depart­ment of Bio­med­ical Engi­neer­ing is aim­ing to go fur­ther Read the rest of this entry »

Study: Few wearable neurotechnologies have been directly tested by high-quality, peer-reviewed research

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Wear­able brain devices sold with ques­tion­able claims (Com­put­er World):

Wear­able ‘neu­rotech­nol­o­gy’ devices have in recent years hit the main­stream mar­ket; pitched to con­sumers as a way to improve mem­o­ry and atten­tion, boost brain fit­ness and con­trol games and objects with the pow­er of the mind.

An analy­sis of com­mer­cial­ly avail­able wear­able ‘neu­rode­vices’ pub­lished this week in jour­nal Neu­ron has cast doubt on whether their mak­ers can back up such claims. Read the rest of this entry »

Trend: Consumers spend significantly more on digital brain health and neurotechnology apps

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Peo­ple spent $1.9 bil­lion last year on apps to keep their brains sharp as they age — here’s what actu­al­ly works (Mar­ket­Watch):

With an aging pop­u­la­tion wor­ried about cog­ni­tive decline and demen­tia, such train­ing pro­grams have seen a burst in pop­u­lar­i­ty in recent years. Con­sumers spent an esti­mat­ed $1.9 bil­lion on dig­i­tal brain health and neu­rotech­nol­o­gy apps in 2018, a four­fold increase from $475 mil­lion in 2012, accord­ing to glob­al data from Sharp­Brains, an inde­pen­dent mar­ket-research firm.

But despite the ris­ing inter­est in cog­ni­tive train­ing, evi­dence of its ben­e­fits is still a mixed bag, experts say. Read the rest of this entry »

Six DARPA-funded research teams aim at revolutionizing noninvasive brain-machine interfaces

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DARPA Funds Ambi­tious Brain-Machine Inter­face Pro­gram (IEEE Spec­trum):

DARPA’s Next-Gen­er­a­tion Non­sur­gi­cal Neu­rotech­nol­o­gy (N3) pro­gram has award­ed fund­ing to six groups attempt­ing to build brain-machine inter­faces that match the per­for­mance of implant­ed elec­trodes but with no surgery what­so­ev­er. Read the rest of this entry »

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.

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.

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