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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.

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.

 

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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.

 

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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.

 

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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.

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Learn More & Register:

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

 

Final 24 Hours for Brain Health Start-ups to Submit Pitches @ 2019 SharpBrains Virtual Summit

Heads-up: The Brain­no­va­tions Pitch Con­test, to be host­ed at the 2019 Sharp­Brains Vir­tu­al Sum­mit, will high­light 8 star­tups world­wide work­ing on ways to har­ness brain research and emerg­ing tech­nolo­gies to help every per­son thrive in the dig­i­tal age.

Star­tups sub­mit their ideas and solu­tions to pitch in front of our expert Judges and Sum­mit par­tic­i­pants for a chance to get feed­back, boost indus­try recog­ni­tion and win a prize pack­age that could give a boost to their ven­ture and solu­tion. The peri­od for sub­mis­sions is open till Thurs­day, May 2nd, and the Final­ists will be announced on Fri­day, May 3rd.

You can learn more about the first edi­tion of the Brainnova­tions Pitch Con­test and about the upcom­ing sec­ond Brainnova­tions edi­tioncheck page for Guide­lines, FAQs and Sub­mis­sion Form.

We’re look­ing for­ward to hear­ing about many inno­v­a­tive ideas, prod­ucts and ser­vices!

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Learn More & Register:

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

–-This will be the Brain­no­va­tions Judg­ing Panel…our very own “Sharp Tank”

Thank You, brain health pioneers & Summit Sponsors!

We’d like to rec­og­nize these great orga­ni­za­tions for help­ing make it pos­si­ble to hold this com­pre­hen­sive 3-day brain­storm­ing on the future of brain health, in just ten days!

THANK YOU, and look­ing for­ward to a great vir­tu­al sum­mit!

 

Arrowsmith Program

The Arrow­smith Pro­gram, avail­able in 80+ schools in the US, Cana­da, Aus­tralia and New Zealand, is a com­pre­hen­sive suite of cog­ni­tive pro­grams for stu­dents with learn­ing dis­abil­i­ties to train key brain func­tions involved in learn­ing.

 

Ban­ner Health is one of the largest non­prof­it health sys­tems in the USA, employ­ing more than 50,000 staff mem­bers in 29 hos­pi­tals and oth­er set­tings rang­ing from home care and long-term care, to lab­o­ra­to­ries and reha­bil­i­ta­tion ser­vices.

 

The Cen­tre for Aging + Brain Health Inno­va­tion (CABHI), led by Bay­crest, helps inno­va­tors devel­op, dis­sem­i­nate, scale, and pro­mote adop­tion of promis­ing inno­va­tions in the aging and brain health sec­tor.

 

Joy Ven­tures is a pri­vate­ly fund­ed invest­ment com­pa­ny found­ed by Corun­dum Open Inno­va­tion and ded­i­cat­ed to spear­head­ing the Neu­ro-Well­ness are­na by sup­port­ing break­through sci­en­tif­ic research through grants and invest­ing in star­tups and entre­pre­neurs which bring inno­v­a­tive prod­ucts to con­sumers in ways that are fun and easy to use.

 

Total Brain is a ful­ly owned sub­sidiary of Brain Resource Lim­it­ed (ASX:BRC), at the fore­front of apply­ing clin­i­cal­ly val­i­dat­ed brain assess­ment and brain train­ing to improve behav­ioral health out­comes. For­mer­ly called MyBrain­So­lu­tions, Total Brain is the world’s first brain per­for­mance mon­i­tor­ing and train­ing plat­form pow­ered by the largest stan­dard­ized brain data­base.

 

VieLight has a mis­sion to engi­neer and com­mer­cial­ize non-inva­sive devices based on pho­to­bio­mod­u­la­tion that are safe and effec­tive, easy to use and afford­able. It focus­es on devel­op­ing new-gen­er­a­tion home-use brain stim­u­la­tion devices that are enjoy­ing a grow­ing rep­u­ta­tion to be help­ful for men­tal acu­ity in var­i­ous pre­sen­ta­tions.

 

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Learn More & Register:

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

Trend: Going on a brain health vacation

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A Look at Lux­u­ry Resorts That Now Offer Brain Health Pro­grams (Next Avenue):

Like any self-dis­re­spect­ing woman, I’ve spent a life­time of mir­ror scruti­ny (and cash) on my thighs, hips, heart, back, post-baby bel­ly, even my eye­brows. For all this invest­ment, I’ve paid scant atten­tion to the one irre­place­able body part that keeps every­thing else run­ning: my brain.

Why not learn how to show it some love, then, in the nicest pos­si­ble way — by tak­ing it on a brain vaca­tion?

Gray mat­ter is the lat­est twist in the red-hot well­ness tourism cat­e­go­ry, which is grow­ing by 7.5% a year, accord­ing to the Glob­al Well­ness Insti­tute .… “It’s pos­si­ble to alter 70% of your genet­ic des­tiny by chang­ing non­genet­ic fac­tors, with the deci­sions you make. That’s the new field called epi­ge­net­ics,” says Dr. Richard Car­mona, the 17th U.S. Sur­geon Gen­er­al…

Although any­one can learn brain-health basics at home, doing so with pro­fes­sion­al sup­port while on vaca­tion costs, well, big vaca­tion bucks. 10-room Life­works runs $5,000 for four nights of all-inclu­sive meals and activ­i­ties. Canyon Ranch’s “Boost Your Brain” pro­gram costs $500, and that’s above its stan­dard tab of $1,099 per per­son per night — also all-inclu­sive.

Maybe it’s best to think of this as a brain invest­ment as well as a hol­i­day. What’s the price of a brain that works bet­ter, longer?”

Trend in Context:

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