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Last month I had the fortune to join over 1,900 pioneers from 90 countries at the World Economic Forum's Annual Meeting in Tianjin, China, to discuss how innovation can improve the state of the world.
Throughout numerous workshops, panels, private meetings and social gatherings, we examined how to handle climate change, how to invest in tons of other pressing topics, and public infrastructure to better control financial services. In addressing these issues, everyone -- independent of discipline or nationality - brought to the table our most precious asset: the Human Brain that was amazing.
During exciting and captivating sessions we researched the brand new frontiers in neuroscience. A prominent focus was around how emerging neurotechnologies, like those empowered by the White House BRAIN Initiative, can help detect and record brain process in unprecedented detail and, consequently, revolutionize our knowledge of the brain and the mind.
In parallel, high-ranking government officials and health experts convened to brainstorm about how to "maximize healthy life years." The conversation revolved around physical well-being and promoting positive lifestyles, but was mostly quiet on the subjects of emotional or cognitive health. The brain, that essential advantage everyone needs to learn, problem solve and make good-choices, as well as the related cognitive neurosciences where much progress has happened over the past two decades, are still largely absent in the health agenda.
What if present brain research and non-invasive neurotechnologies may be employed to improve public health and well being? Just how can we start building better bridges from existing science and the technologies towards wards that are tackling real world health challenges we're facing?
Good news is that the transformation is already underway, albeit underneath the radar. As William Gibson eloquently said, "The future is already here -- it's just not very evenly spread." Individuals and associations worldwide are likely to spend over $1.3 billion in 2014 in net-based, cellular and biometrics-based alternatives to assess and enhance brain function. Growth fueled by emerging cellular, is poised to continue and non-invasive neurotechnologies, and by consumer and patient demands for self-driven, proactive brain care. For instance, 83% of surveyed early-adopters agree that "adults of all ages should take charge of the very own brain fitness, without waiting for their physicians to inform them to" and "would personally require a brief evaluation each year as an annual mental check-up."
These are 10 priorities to think about, if we wish to improve well-being & wellness based about the newest neuroscience and non invasive neurotechnology:
1. Start up Thync only raised $13 million to market transcranial stimulation in 2015, helping users "alter their frame of mind." That is not a medical claim per se...but does the technology have to be regulated as a medical device?
2.Invest more research dollars to fine tune brain stimulation techniques, like transcranial magnetic stimulation, to empower truly personalized medicine.
3. Adopt big data research models, such as the just-declared UCSF Brain Health Registry, to leapfrog the present small clinical trial model and move us closer towards delivering personalized, incorporated brain care.
4. This is exactly what the Research Domain Criteria framework, set forth by the National Institute of Mental Health, is starting to do.
5. Coopt pervading activities, such as playing videogames...but in a way that ensures they have a beneficial effect, such as with cognitive training games made specifically to prolong cognitive vitality as we age
6.Track the negative psychological and cognitive side-effects from many different clinical interventions, to ensure unintentional effects from the treatment aren't more afflictive than the treated individual's original state.
7.And, last but definitely not least, encourage physical exercise and bilingual education in our schools, and reduce drop out rates. Enhancing and enriching our schools is perhaps the strongest societal intervention (and the original non invasive neurotechnology) to establish lifelong brain reservation, здравословно хранене and delay problems brought by cognitive aging and dementia.
Initiatives like those above are an important start to view and treat the human brain as an advantage to take a position in across the whole human lifespan, and to actually maximize years of purposeful, healthy and meaningful living.
Let us strengthen existing bridges -- and construct new ones that are needed -- to enhance our collective health and well being.