It's been a busy year, with hundreds of studies and media stories about brain health, neuroplasticity, lifestyle and emerging neurotechnologies.
To summarize where we are, and to better prepare for the opportunities and challenges in the year ahead, let's step back for a minute.
Let's take a look at the big picture presented in the article Both Important and Urgent: Getting ready to serve the Cognitive & Brain Health needs of an Aging Population, prepared by David Stoller at the new Canadian Centre for Aging and Brain Health Innovation (CC-ABHI):
"The urgency to develop innovative new technologies that will support brain health is closely linked to the fact that a growing proportion of the global population is living longer than at any other time in history. As this population ages, the need to maintain brain health and/or manage declining cognitive function will have far-reaching impact both socially and economically." -- David Stoller @ CC-ABHI.
Good news is, scientists, technologists and entrepreneurs are working hard on this in the US and abroad.
The list of insights and initiatives worldwide is too long to detail; let me just highlight Ten Important Signals to help Reinvent Brain Health in the Digital Age we live in:
1. "Our health starts and ends with brain health," as Dr. Sandra Bond Chapman, Founder and Chief Director of the Center for BrainHealth at The University of Texas at Dallas, reminds us.
2. "There is too little wisdom in brain health (as practiced today)," cautions Dr. Peter Whitehouse, Professor of Neurology at Case Western Reserve University.
3. The American Academy of Clinical Neuropsychology (AACN) just announced a new Disruptive Technology Initiative focused on "assessment and/or intervention-prevention-improvement of cognitive functions, accessible to the entire population."
4. Both the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) and the Canadian Centre for Aging and Brain Health Innovation (CC-ABHI) have substantial funding programs to help start-ups access seed capital to develop and commercialize evidence-based digital brain health platforms.
5. Venture investors see a burgeoning landscape and future of the mind training space.
6. Many pioneers are working on ways to harness neuroplasticity for good, via cognitive assessments and therapies (BrainHQ, Akili, Click Therapeutics, Cogniciti, SBT Group) mindfulness apps (Claritas Mindsciences), EEG (Emotiv) and virtual reality (MindMaze).
7. A growing number of pharma companies, from Merck to Janssen, are investing in digital therapeutics by developing tools, licensing them, even investing in start-ups in the space.
8. "Clinically-guided" video capture of behavior can aid in diagnosis...behavior imaging, augmented by deep learning, will lead to real precision medicine, thanks to firms like Behavior Imaging Solutions, MyndYou, Pear Therapeutics, and more.
9. Old and new players in education--Pearson, ETS, UC Berkeley, the Arrowsmith School-- are developing digital and in-person programs to promote lifelong brain development.
10. The Coaches and Psychologists of the Future-exemplified by the Institute of Coaching, The Synapse System, the new Watson Centre for Brain Health-are already augmenting their practices with latest brain & cognition findings and digital neurotechnologies.
As you can see, a lot is happening. And a lot more will happen in 2017.
On behalf of everyone working on brain health and mental health innovation, Happy Holidays and Prosperous New Year!
Alvaro Fernandez is the co-author of The SharpBrains Guide to Brain Fitness. SharpBrains.com is a popular blog tracking the latest brain fitness and brain health tips, and offering fun brain teasers for adults to test and improve concentration and memory.