Virtual reality can help treat symptoms in patients with psychosis, according to a new study published in The Lancet Psychiatry.
GameChangeVR automates psychotherapy, guiding users with a virtual coach. It was developed by OxfordVR, a digital therapeutics company, the University of Oxford and Oxford Health NHS Foundation Trust … The study, based on 346 patients, found that automated VR therapy led to “significant reductions” in symptoms of anxious avoidance and distress. The technology especially benefited those with severe symptoms. The study concluded that the technology has the potential to increase access to effective care for psychosis. [Read more…] about Study: Automated VR psychotherapy can help reduce anxiety and distress, especially among those with psychosis and severe agoraphobia
Welcome to a new edition of SharpBrains’ e‑newsletter, this time featuring eleven timely resources and research findings for lifelong brain health and mental well-being.
#1. “Awe is the feeling we experience when encountering vast things that we don’t understand. Around the world and in culturally varying ways, studies show, we experience awe in response to others’ kindness and courage, nature, music, religious or spiritual practice, the visual and dramatic arts, and epiphany … It leads us to share, collaborate, and wonder. In experiences of awe, people often speak as if they have found their soul.”
Sometimes it IS awesome to learn how the sausage was made: How Pixar’s “Soul” met the Science of Awe
#2. Here are six suggestions to incorporate awe into daily routines and improve mental well-being, based on the new book Awestruck: Linger, Slow down, Appreciate your senses, Unplug, Awe walks, Awe journaling.
#3. Speaking of Awe and Wonder, why not take a few minutes to appreciate our most precious natural resource via these
five brain teasers?
A few wonderful news for many with unmet mental/ brain health needs:
#4. Prediction: In just a few years we’ll look back at today and wonder, why didn’t we all, of all ages, access biofeedback tools and games designed to measure and retrain heart rate variability? Growing research supports Heart Rate Variability (HRV) biofeedback training to lower stress and anxiety, increase sports performance
#5. Blue Note Therapeutics raises $26M to help treat cancer-related distress via cognitive behavioral stress management (CBSM): “Nearly half of all cancer patients experience psychosocial distress, anxiety, or depression. If left untreated, these feelings can lower a cancer survivors’ quality of life and may negatively affect survival.”
#6. AppliedVR raises $29M to help make virtual reality the standard of care for treating chronic pain: “Chronic pain is one of the most common medical conditions in the world, yet it still is incredibly debilitating to patients, costly to the system and complex to treat. While our mission has always been to demonstrate that VR can be a powerful analgesic in any setting, the COVID-19 pandemic has created a surge in demand for digital medicines like VR that can be delivered safely to patients in their own homes” — Matthew Stoudt, co-founder and CEO of AppliedVR
#7. Happify Health raises $73M to deepen partnerships with pharmaceutical companies and insurance payers: “We are also working with five leading pharmaceutical partners on digital therapeutic solutions and four out of the five national payers to help support their members’ mental health and chronic illness needs. We look forward to reaching an even bigger audience with the support of our new partners.” — Tomer Ben-Kiki, cofounder and CEO of Happify
This growing number and range of innovative digital health tools demands more and better research, smarter regulations, and more transparent privacy policies:
#8. Consumer Reports finds unclear, questionable privacy practices and policies among popular mental health apps. “In general, these mental health services acted like many other apps you might download. For instance, we spotted apps sharing unique IDs associated with individual smartphones that tech companies often use to track what people do across lots of apps. The information can be combined with other data for targeted advertising. Many apps do that, but should mental health apps act the same way? At a minimum, Consumer Reports’ privacy experts think, users should be given a clearer explanation of what’s going on.”
#9. Tip for digital health start-ups: To navigate regulatory gray areas, “engage early and engage often” with the FDA. Important advice as “…a growing number of companies are finding themselves in a gray area of enforcement discretion, a term the FDA uses for lower-risk products that meet the definition of a medical device, but do not require regulatory submission, review and authorization before heading to market”
#10. Innovation in COVID times: Otsuka and Click Therapeutics announce fully virtual clinical trial, leveraging Verily’s Project Baseline: “We do believe that the treatment landscape in mental disease is going to evolve in a way where obviously pharmacotherapy will always play a role, but we do think digital therapeutics can play an additional role, and to some extent, substitute as well as augment pharmacological intervention.” — Otsuka Chief Medical Officer Christoph Koenen
#11. Finally, much of the opportunity around applied neuroscience and neuroplasticity relies not on tools but on mindsets, as discussed in this fantastic interview (To prevent “cognitive entrenchment,” think like a scientist and be wrong often):
“JS: You write that being wrong is tied to a more joyful life. Why is that?
AG: I had noticed Danny Kahneman [the Nobel prize–winning behavioral economist] just lights up with joy when he finds out that one of his hypotheses is false … In some ways, the joy of being wrong is the freedom to keep learning. If you can embrace the joy of being wrong, then you get to anchor your identity more in being someone who’s eager to discover new things, than someone who already knows everything or is expected to know everything.”
Wishing you a healthy and stimulating month of April,
The SharpBrains Team
AppliedVR Raises $29 Million for Immersive Headsets (LA Business Journal):
Century City-based AppliedVR, Inc. announced March 23 that it has raised $29 million in Series A funding that will be used to continue development of an immersive headset to help patients with chronic pain. [Read more…] about AppliedVR raises $29M to help make virtual reality the standard of care for treating chronic pain
Mental and degenerative disorders are among the most costly and common causes of disability in society today. Because the brain is the most complex organ in the human body, diagnosing and treating problems when things go wrong poses enormous challenges. Even before the 1990s was designated the Decade of the Brain, the potential of neuroimaging—the technology that makes it possible to see inside the working brain—was a major focus in [Read more…] about Neuroimaging, big data and mental health: A survey of the land
Welcome to a new edition of SharpBrains’ e‑newsletter, featuring 12 fascinating neuroscience findings and open questions–and the beautiful image above.
#1. “With this image I want to illustrate the large advances made in imaging methods over the past century, allowing modern neuroscientists to look at neurons in ways that Cajal could have only dreamed of.” – Silvia Rodriguez-Rozada, Center for Molecular Neurobiology, Hamburg. Award-winning image shows neuroimaging progress in a century
#2. One more reason why lifelong learning matters: Study: High Cognitive Reserve (CR) seen to significantly lower dementia risk even in the presence of high Alzheimer’s Disease (AD) neuropathology
#3. It’s Friday; perfect time to make some fun and healthy weekend plans: How feeling awe in nature can spur mental well-being and personal growth
#4. Not a bad idea either: On cutting “empty brain calories” by reading a book instead of social media
#5. “…humility helps people let go of defensiveness, take in information that challenges their political views, and see the humanity in people on the other side of the political spectrum. Though it’s not always easy to embrace—especially for those who wrongfully equate it with weakness or a lack of conviction—humility may be what we desperately need right now in the United States.” On perception, cognitive bias and cultivating humility ahead of next week’s vote
#6. “When it feels like the world is crashing down around them, giving young people a moment to feel, express, and receive gratitude can help—and that in itself is something to be grateful for.” Study: A combined teaching + app gratitude program helps adolescents address anxiety and improve mental health
#7. To honor ADHD Awareness Month, let’s address this most important question: What should come first to treat ADHD in children, behavior therapy or stimulant medication?
#8. Debate: Can mindfulness and meditation be harmful? Two new studies answer the question in apparently opposite but actually quite complementary ways.
#10. “…new study funded by the National Institutes of Health that aims to recruit 30,000 volunteers to participate in a memory training study that compares multiple approaches to train working memory”: Given cognitive strengths and needs are diverse, what brain training may work best for each person and under which conditions?
#11. “Virtual reality is a promising skills-based behavioral medicine that has been shown to have high patient engagement and satisfaction,” said Beth Darnall, PhD, AppliedVR’s chief science advisor. “However, chronic pain patients to date have had very limited access to it, so we’re excited to continue working with the FDA to develop our platform and get it into the market faster.” The FDA clears AppliedVR headset to help treat fibromyalgia and chronic pain
#12. “Having run a media company in a tough market with a young, millennial workforce, we witnessed first-hand how there was a complete lack of investment in helping this generation with their mental health in a way that they’re used to: a community product that is mobile-first and video-led. We want to make the world a happier place by making working on your mental health as normal as going to the gym.” — Adnan Ebrahim, co-founder and CEO of MindLabs. What will the ‘Peloton for mental health’ look like five years from now? And, who will develop it?
Wishing you a safe and healthy November,
Alvaro Fernandez and the SharpBrains Team
FDA Designates First Virtual Reality Device for Chronic Pain (Pain News Network):
AppliedVR, a Los Angeles-based virtual reality company, has announced that its EaseVRx headset has received Breakthrough Device Designation from the Food and Drug Administration for treating fibromyalgia and chronic intractable low back pain. [Read more…] about The FDA clears AppliedVR headset to help treat fibromyalgia and chronic pain