Improving brain function is one of the topics explored in the latest issue of Technology and Innovation – Proceedings of the National Academy of Inventors®*. The special issue, which also contains studies on medical technology and health care delivery, contains two articles on brain health: one on preventing and curing mental illness and one on improving the brain through training.
The BRAINnet Foundation uses technology to prevent and cure mental illnesses
The non-profit BRAINnet Foundation is using standardized protocols and assessment platforms to pool data across mental disorders, sites and studies, says Stephen H. Koslow of the San Francisco-based BRAINnet Foundation.
“The BRAINnet Foundation goal is to understand mental illness as a brain disease and to ultimately discover how to prevent and cure these illnesses,” says Koslow. “This is accomplished through open electronic sharing and continued expansion of a global database of human brain data in health and disease across the lifespan.”
According to Koslow, data are available for 5,092 healthy subjects and from those with specific disorders. Studies using their data have shown how the standardized approach is a quality and efficient way to take the lead in initiatives being forged in psychiatry and neuroscience, an example being the National Institutes of Mental Health’s Research Domain Criteria, with which BRAINnet’s data domains align.
“BRAINnet provides scientists with access to thousands of data sets obtained and quantified using standardized protocols… that span multiple modes of measurement,” explains Koslow. “These data sets also include healthy subjects as well as a continually growing spectrum of multiple specialized patient cohorts. The BRAINnet standardized data sharing approach and infrastructure offers researchers new ways to conduct and raise funds for research.”
Citation: Koslow, S. H.; Wang, Y.; Palmer, D. M.; Gordon, E.; Williams, L. M. BRAINnet: a standardized global human brain project. Technology and Innovation. Appeared or available online: April 18, 2013.
Brain training improves thinking and wellbeing
The brain benefits from training, according to Dr. Evian Gordon of Brain Resource, an organization that over a two and a half year period used a “naturalistic study design” to analyze data from an online brain training program called MyBrainSolutions. The training included online games.
“Games within the domains of thinking, emotion, feeling and self-regulation were found to have beneficial effects in improving measured scores,” explains Gordon. “The most significant benefits were found for games training positivity to improve scores within anxiety, stress and depression (feeling scores).”
Training in self-regulation was found to be beneficial in terms of improved memory, attention, and executive function as well as a reduction in anxiety, stress, and depression levels.
“Results suggest a synergistic effect of cognitive and emotional training,” concludes Gordon.
Citation: Gordon, E.; Palmer, D. M.; Liu, H.; Rekshan, W.; DeVarney, S. Online cognitive brain training associated with measurable improvements in cognition and emotional wellbeing. Technology and Innovation. Appeared or available online: April 18, 2013.
The how and why of medical technology
According to Nasser Arshadi and Joseph J. Parks of the University of Missouri, who wrote an editorial on this special issue highlighting medical technologies, the studies and papers present “empirical evidence on the efficacy of select technologies” and “contribute to the public policy discourse on the use of health care technologies.”
Citation: Arshadi, N.; Parks, J. J. The how and why of medical technology. Technology and Innovation. Appeared or available online: April 18, 2013.