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