Train the Motivation Center in the Brain

mWhat biofeedback was to the 1970’s, neurofeedback could be to the 2020’s. Neurofeedback is a diverse and fascinating area of research that combines neuroscience and technology to monitor and modulate brain activity in real time.

Recently, Adcock Lab at Duke University studied to see if people could train themselves to increase brain activity in a tiny region of the brain called the VTA. The VTA is thought to be involved in motivation—the desire to get something that you want. For example, if you believed that by buying a lottery ticket you would be guaranteed to win $1,000,000, you would probably be very motivated to buy the ticket and would have a spike in brain activity in this region of your brain. But while studies have shown that motivation for external rewards (like money) activate the VTA, until now, we didn’t know whether people could internally generate a motivational state that would activate this brain region.

To see if people could self-activate their  VTA,  the study used neurofeedback, which provides information on a person’s brain activity milliseconds to seconds after it happens. Neurofeedback can use either an EEG machine, which records the electrical activity of the brain and is very fast, but not very specific, or it can use functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), which records changes in blood flow in the brain and can better target specific brain regions, but is slower. Studies on rtfMRI (the rt stands for “real-time”), have found that giving people feedback on their brain activity might be able to help them to control that activity.

The study’s purpose was to use the technology to better understand the functioning of the VTA and its relationship with internally generated motivation, with potential for clinical applications down the road. The premise is – if people could learn to activate their VTAs deliberately, it could have important clinical applications, like helping someone stick to a diet, helping with psychological disorders or chronic pain.

Participants were placed in one of four groups. All four groups started out by getting in the scanner and trying to activate their brains using their own motivation strategies (for example, winning a race) , but first without receiving any feedback. After doing this for several minutes, people in the first group  would try again, but this time would see a thermometer on the computer screen in front of them. When activity in the VTA went up, the bar on the thermometer would rise. When activity in the VTA went down, the thermometer would drop. The other groups either got feedback from a different brain region, got fake feedback, or were shown a visual distraction. These groups were used as comparisons to ensure that it really was the signal from the VTA that was being registered in the neurofeedback group.

The results were published recently in the journal Neuron. It turns out that the strategies people tried initially did not activate their VTAs very much.  In other words, what people thought of as motivating did not match up with activity in what we consider to be the “motivation center” of the brain. How could that be? One possible explanation is that it can be difficult to get a sense of just how motivated we are to do something. Consider times when you might have thought you were highly motivated (“I know I am going to stick to my diet/exercise regimen this year”), and didn’t follow through. Another interpretation is that while we might have some sense of how motivated we are in a given moment, our subjective perceptions might not translate to VTA activation. That’s where the feedback (the rising/falling thermometer visual) came in.

The study did find that people were better able to activate their VTAs, on average, once they got neurofeedback compared to people who got false feedback or no feedback. And the learning stuck—once people knew the strategies that worked for them, they were effective even once the feedback was taken away. Overall, different strategies worked for different people and some people in the control groups were still able to activate their VTAs even without the neurofeedback. The take-home message is that there is still a lot to learn.

Perhaps the biggest unanswered question is: What could result from an ability to better activate one’s VTA? One possibility is that internally generated VTA activation could allow people to have the extra oomph to better meet their goals. So maybe when you need to do errands, but are really not in the mood, you  might think about winning a race and it will give you the drive to go to the grocery store. For others, enhanced VTA activation might be able to help with studying. After all, studies have found VTA activation associated with better memory performance. And given other studies showing VTA signaling being related to eating and mood, it’s possible that it could help people with eating disorders or depression. Time will tell whether this method will be useful clinically, it can be a lot of fun getting to know your brain—and it seems that having fun is one of the keys to activating your VTA.

Does TV Rot Your Brain?

television--electronics_19-105647Watching TV is something virtually everyone does, but did you know that TV can actually be harmful to you?  Television viewing can, for example, increase your risk of premature death, reduce your level of intelligence, completely obliterate your ability to concentrate and increase your risk of developing neurodegenerative brain disorders.

Researchers in Australia have concluded that watching television increases risk of death from heart disease, strokes and even cancer. Every hour spent watching television each day increases the risk of dying from heart disease by almost a fifth, say scientists. Studies found that people who sat in front of the box for more than four hours a day were 80% more likely to die for reasons linked to heart and artery disease.

“Even if someone has a healthy body weight, sitting for long periods of time still has an unhealthy influence on their blood sugar and blood fats,” said the study’s lead researcher, Prof David Dunstan, from the Baker IDI Heart and Diabetes Institute in Victoria, Australia.

While we know a sedentary lifestyle can be dangerous to our health, few studies have  examined the effects of what watching too much TV can do to our brains. Research carried out over 25 years by California’s Institute for Research and Education has recently shown the dangers of television for our neurons, even in those who exercise regularly.

The participants were divided into two groups according to their television habits: frequent viewers (more than 3 hours of television per day) and moderate viewers (less than 3 hours per day). Their cognitive function was evaluated using the DSST (Digit Symbol Substitution Test), Stroop test, and RAVLT (Rey Auditory Verbal Learning Test).

The results showed that the most frequent viewers over the 25 years (10.9%) were more likely to perform poorly on the cognitive tests. Secondly, the participants with low physical activity (16.3%) performed poorly on the DSST. Thirdly, when compared to moderate viewers engaging in regular physical activity, frequent viewers who exercised little were nearly twice as likely to perform poorly on cognitive tests. Too much television and a lack of physical activity represent independent factors linked to a decline in cognitive brain performance.

And the worst news: Exercise can’t compensate for the harmful effects of too many hours spent watching television. If you’re athletic, you are undoubtedly maintaining your cognitive abilities better than sedentary individuals, but if you also watch television for more than three hours per day, it is likely to have negative consequences on your intellectual activity.

Television reduces your ability to think critically. When you watch TV, brain activity switches from the left side of your brain (responsible for logical thought and critical analysis) to the right side.  This is significant because the right side of the brain tends not to analyze incoming information.  Instead, it uses an emotional response which results in little or no analysis of the information.  In other words, this is like someone telling you something and you believing what they say without doing your own research.

Your brain is actually more active when you are sleeping than when you are watching television! Since the health of your brain is largely determined by how much you actively use it, watching too much television can have a detrimental effect on the health of your brain.  One of the reasons that brain activity is so low when watching TV is because you really don’t have to do anything.  When you read, for example, you have to mentally create images of what you are reading. This requires significant brainpower to do so.

So, the saying ‘TV rots you brain’ has more truth to it than you might imagine. Excessive television viewing has also been linked to degenerative brain disorders later in life such as dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.

What happens to your feelings when you slouch? Go all negative on you?

There have been studies that have confirmed that changes in body posture are related to a subject’s feelings and memory recall. However, until now, there hasn’t been a study that explores brain activity (EEG patterns) when combining body posture and emotional recall.

A recent study explored the electroencephalogram (EEG) patterns under erect and slouch body postures while recalling positive and negative events. The purpose of this study was to explore EEG patterns under both postures while recalling happy or depressive events.

Twenty-eight healthy college students were instructed to sit quietly with their eyes closed for 1 min, and then to sit in erect or slouch postures while recalling happy or depressive events for 1 min each. EEG, with linked-ear references, was recorded and analyzed under five conditions. The results showed that, independent of the body position, recalling happy events in a collapsed position significantly increased the high-frequency oscillatory activity than recalling depressive event in an erect posture. This suggests that it takes much more effort and time to evoke and maintain positive thoughts in a collapsed position. This was also confirmed by the significant increase in reaction time when attempting to recall positive events in the collapsed body position as compared to the erect body position.

The conclusion was that evoking positive thoughts in a slouch body position takes more effort or arousal than other positions as indicated by the significant increase in high-frequency oscillatory activities.

The implication for cognitive behavior therapy is that body posture matters; clients have more difficulty shifting to evoking a positive emotional state when sitting in a collapsed position than when sitting in an erect position. The study further supports the theory that body posture might affect our mental, emotion and memory recall.

This may have significant implications for people who are depressed. Walking in a slouch posture may decrease energy and increase negative emotion, such as sadness, loneliness, isolation and sleepiness. This slouch position accompanies feelings of ‘wanting to sit down, low energy, depressive feelings or being ‘zombie-like.’

Alternately, when walking in an erect posture and skipping, participants increased their energy and experienced more energetic, happy and positive feelings. In addition, they found that the erect posture makes subject much stronger to resist the downward pressure compared to the collapsed position.

In a therapy session, most depressed patients have a slumped collapsed posture which would inhibit accessing positive thoughts thus augmenting their depressive ones. To increase the access to positive thoughts, the patient benefits greatly by sitting erect and looking up. In this position, positive and negative thoughts can equally be accessed.

So, think about your posture, think about accessing positive thoughts, stand tall!!

Use tDCS to Improve Depression, Memory and Brain Plasticity

Transcranial Direct Current Stimulation, or tDCS has been used for years to treat patients suffering from conditions such as stroke, depression and bipolar disorder. A new breakthrough study from the researchers at the Catholic University Medical School in Rome shows that this non-evasive treatment could also improve how people learn and retain information.

The study, sponsored by the Office of Naval Research (ONR) Global, involved the use of tDCS on mice. tDCS is applied using two small electrodes placed on the scalp, delivering short bursts of extremely low-intensity electrical currents. After exposing the mice to single 20-minute tDCS sessions, the researchers saw signs of improved memory and brain plasticity (the ability to form new connections between neurons when learning new information), which lasted at least a week. This intellectual boost was demonstrated by the enhanced performance of the mice during tests requiring them to navigate a water maze and distinguish between known and unknown objects. Using data gathered from the sessions, it was discovered that synaptic plasticity in the hippocampus, a region of the brain critical to memory processing and storage, was increased.

While tDCS has been used for years, this study is unique as it supports the theory that there is a direct link between tDCS and improved brain plasticity. Understanding how this technique works biochemically may lead to advances in the treatment of conditions like post-traumatic stress disorder, depression and anxiety–which affect learning and memory in otherwise healthy individuals. The implications of this research also have great potential to strengthen learning and memory in both healthy people and those with cognitive deficits such as Alzheimer’s.

More important, the researchers identified the actual molecular trigger behind the bolstered memory and plasticity, increased production of BDNF, a protein essential to brain growth. BDNF, which stands for “brain-derived neurotrophic factor,” is synthesized naturally by neurons and is crucial to neuronal development and specialization.

While the technique and behavioral effects of tDCS are not new, this study is the first to describe the technique and potential behavioral effects of tDCS which could help improve how people learn and retain information.

Beating Social Anxiety With Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

Have you ever had someone tell you… “Wow, you’re a really shy person.” It can be incredibly embarrassing. It’s difficult enough having to deal with social anxiety on a daily basis, it’s even worse when people point it out. The normal reaction to a statement like that for someone with social anxiety is probably to turn red, dart the eyes to the floor pretend to be completely invisible.

Social anxiety may seem silly to those who don’t have it, but for those that do it’s serious business. Social anxiety transforms even the smallest bits of social awkwardness into big mountains of fear and insecurity.

Thankfully, we now have more information and knowledge from psychology research on how to better manage social anxiety and not let it completely ruin people’s lives.

We’re constantly learning more in psychology and neuroscience about how to improve our lives and overcome certain obstacles and mental disorders. Interestingly, a new study has just come out in the journal Transactional Psychiatry with some incredibly promising results for those who suffer from social anxiety and excessive shyness.

After just 9 weeks of  cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), patients showed a significant reduction in social anxiety symptoms. But most surprisingly, the study found that the “fear center” in people’s brains – the amygdala – actually decreased in size by the time they were done with the course.

The shrinking of this “fear center” is neurological evidence that cognitive behavioral therapy can absolutely make a drastic impact on how our brains work.

How To Train your Brain to Reduce Stress and Anxiety

Ever wonder how some people are able to handle extremely hectic schedules and still seem calm, relaxed and having fun while at it?  The answer is: They have effectively learned to manage stress and anxiety. We all know that stress can cause us to perform our work poorly and therefore, be less productive. When we have too much on our plate, we often end up not accomplishing what we planned to at the start of each day. You can guess what happens then – this causes more stress and adds anxiety which further compounds the problem!

The good news is that there are ways that you can train your brain to handle the stress and anxiety positively, resulting in increased productivity and more joy in your life.

There is exciting new research and positive case studies about a new treatment that has been used  to help treat stress and anxiety disorders in the brain. This treatment is referred to as neurofeedback and has been touted to be the savior when it comes to real-time treatments. This is an exciting development since many people are either unresponsive to brain-enhancing supplements or are simply looking for a safer and healthier alternative to drugs such as antidepressants – especially when treating children.

The mechanism fronted by neurofeedback is aimed at being more precise than previously available therapies. As such, it goes to target the dysfunction in the cognitive and emotional processes in the brain. These are the areas that underlie psychiatric disorders. It is hoped that treatments can be personalized to address the various challenges in the brain, taking to account that each patient has their own unique set of problems. Neurofeedback also studies phobia, traumatic brain injury, PTSD, obsessive compulsive behavior, ADD/ADHD, autism, depression, sleep disorders, chronic pain, learning differences, memory loss and migraines.  The best feature of neurofeedback is that it is safe. It eliminates the need for brain enhancing supplements and medication.

There are other safe, natural and free ways to train the brain to release ‘feel-good’ hormones to help stay relaxed and calm. The most obvious is by engaging in relaxing activities. These help wire the brain to be calm and relaxed as opposed to the normal day to day demands that stress us out.

A great ‘calming exercise’ is meditation. Meditation allows us to slow down all the activities going on in and around ourselves and find peace and serenity within. In so doing, it becomes much easier to notice when your internal balance is off and to how to react accordingly. Focusing on the now allows us to be more present and be sharp at mind.

Another way to reduce stress is to ward off anxiety. In most cases, our bodies overreact to a given threat – causing a rush of anxiety. When threats are overestimated, we find ourselves worrying too much, thus causing more stress. A great tool to manage anxiety is to remember a time when you truly felt strong and could cope with just about anything that was thrown at you. Next, make a list of all the various resources that can help you deal with the uncertainties of life. Then, try to meditate on how good it feels to be strong and safe. This good feeling helps the body come out with renewed energy and focus going into the future.

And finally – and this is sometimes harder than it sounds-  you need to learn to ‘let it go.’ We tend to hang on to the negatives in life. Let go of resentment, regret, pain and unrealistic expectations that you may have had in the past. Letting go allows one to be strong and gives one renewed energy to move on to better. Letting go can start off from something simple as saying goodbye to a friend, taking out the trash, donating some of your old stuff to charity, or just plain sending that email you have been procrastinating. Letting go helps one appreciate the past for what it was and move forward to the future with renewed focus. A simple exercise in ’letting go’ is to write yourself a letter describing how you’re feeling, then reading it aloud.  This ‘literal’ release of negative feelings allows the body to move on to a positive state with renewed feelings of calm and focus.

Teach the Brain to Calm the Mind

Now that we have made our list of resolutions for the new year, it seems appropriate to re-visit the concept of ‘Mindfulness.’ We’ve discussed the practice of mindfulness meditation – the act of observing your thoughts, feelings and sensations, moment by moment without judgment. By training yourself to observe these things without judgment, you can break the destructive associations that typically arise from them. The practice of mindfulness meditation is a type of cognitive behavioral therapy that has a unique regulating effect on your mind. It increases the activity in the parts of your brain that are underactive and it decreases the parts that are overactive. When you develop a mindfulness practice, you’ll notice a difference in the way you respond to others. You’ll develop an inner strength and more compassion in your response to others. It’s kind of like a smart drug, but without the drug.

Research published in Psychiatry Research, Neuroimaging gathered people who were brand new to meditation and tracked them through an 8-week mindfulness course. Participants reported spending just under 30 minutes per day on their practice. At the end of the eight weeks, the researchers scanned their brains and found an increase in the thickness of grey matter in the regions of the brain involved in learning, memory and emotion regulation.

Again – less than 30 minutes a day and you’ve got structural changes for the better in your brain!

The best thing about a daily mindfulness practice is that it can be done anywhere, anytime and doesn’t cost a dime.

Not sure how to start?

Begin with 10 minutes a day. It will take your mind 5 minutes to calm down and to focus, to settle into stillness. It’s a settling-in period and it can take a bit to calm the monkey mind. Once you get through those five minutes, you’re really practicing mindfulness. Start with 10 minutes throughout your day. Then, as it works for your schedule, you can work up to 20 and 30 minutes per day.

There are 2 types of mindfulness practices: formal and informal. To begin, start with informal. With informal practice, you can pick any activity that you do on a daily basis and you can turn it into mindfulness training. Things like brushing your teeth, shaving, taking a shower, putting on makeup, getting dressed in the morning, dishwashing, ironing, raking the leaves, shoveling the driveway, walking the dog—any activity where your mind is off and wandering—part of that 47% that we learned about earlier where we’re on autopilot.

Start with brushing teeth. Brushing teeth is something we do every day, multiple times a day, without fail. You might pick up your toothbrush, begin brushing and then start moving about the house getting ready for work, looking for keys, getting the kids out of the bed, picking up clothes off the floor. You know the drill. We never seem to just stand still while brushing our teeth.

When you brush your teeth mindfully, you begin by bringing awareness to the body, and in particular the soles of your feet as they’re planted on the ground. If you’re barefoot, pay attention to the sensation of the floor. Is it a cold floor? Is it wet? Are you on a bathmat? Are you on a rug? Is it a warm floor? Really feel the pressure on the floor on the feet. Next, take notice of the texture of the toothpaste. What does it feel like on the tongue? Then notice the smell and how you respond to that smell. Next, notice the taste and also be aware of your arm as it moves up and down and around as you brush. Listen to the sound of the toothbrush on your teeth. If you have a battery operated toothbrush, you may listen to that buzzing sound. Also, just note your reaction to it. Carefully tune in to each tooth as you brush. Be sure to notice the sensations in your gums.

This all sounds pretty simple and basic, but what this does is train your brain to be completely focused on the task at hand. It’s attention training. It takes part of that 47%—that auto-pilot time—when we’re playing scenes from the past, arguments from the past, failures from the past, things we’ve done wrong in the past, things we could have done better or worrying about the future – and it brings the mind out of that into a time that is as simple as brushing the teeth.

The neurobiological basis of intelligence

Neuroimaging provides evidence that human intelligence is tied to several structural and functional brain properties. The concept of “neural efficiency” plays a central role in understanding intellectual performance and capability.

So, what exactly is ‘neural efficiency’? Think of it this way: Consider a very complex computer with thousands of components and perhaps 1 million or more interconnections between them. We all have experienced the failure of our computers to carry out a command sometimes leading to an unexpected output or a complete freeze. Very complex systems such as those used by the military and NASA often have built-in systems so that if one part fails others come into play so that commands can be completed accurately. Our brain consists of between 80 and 100 billion neurons and perhaps anywhere from many trillion to almost a quadrillion connections. In addition to structural connectivity there is the functional connectivity and the direction of flow within circuits.

When one is trying to comprehend a very complex concept it requires screening out extraneous stimuli and the ability to focus on those aspects of the problem which can lead to a successful solution. This may require the interaction of specific networks such as the salience network and the dorsal, ventral, attention networks and other brain systems such as those associated with output – both skeletal motor, and autonomic. In a system as complex as the human brain perhaps there are failures in those portions of the circuits that are necessary to fully comprehend and make decisions based on many types of information that must be integrated. Perhaps for an individual with more limited intellectual capacity more of these “circuit failures” occur than for individuals with superior intellect.

We are only beginning to develop measures that might help us understand how these circuits operate. A recently posted paper “multimodal description of whole brain connectivity” by Pilar Graces et al. examines the interrelationship for structural connectivity and functional connectivity using diffusion weighted imaging, FMRI, MEG\EEG. This information, particularly when cast in a graph format where we can look at the relationship between nodes and their hubs and the vertices or links between them, may begin to give us some idea of how to measure “neural efficiency” in individuals with different intellectual capacities under different task conditions. This may be particularly useful in being able to understand special abilities such as superior mathematical ability, artistic ability, musical, or advanced writing skills.

It is predicted that within the next decade, especially considering that articles are appearing at the rate of more than one per day dealing with the complexity of brain organization, we may be able to really understand at a very detailed level the basis for different intellectual capabilities and perhaps with neurofeedback and/or stimulation techniques develop ways to enhance people with deficient intellectual capacity as well as those who are normal or even have superior capacities that they would like to enhance further.

Is Depression All In Your Head?

Brain Scans May Predict Recurrence Risk in Major Depression

A recent study funded by the Medical Research Council and published online in JAMA Psychiatry has found that neuroimaging/neurofeedback can add value in psychiatry, in this case specifically in major depressive disorder.

The study focused on 64 non-medicated patients who had been in remission from major depressive disorder for at least 6 months and 39 healthy control participants who had no personal or family history of MDD.

During fMRI, participants were asked to imagine acting badly toward their best friends, and they experienced self-blaming emotions such as guilt. Over the next 14 months, 37 patients remained in remission (stable group), and 27 developed a recurrent major depressive episode.

During the experience of emotions of guilt, the group with recurring MDD showed higher RSATL-SCSR connectivity than the group with stable MDD and the control group, the researchers reported. They noted “We corroborated our hypothesis that during the experience of self-blaming vs. other-blaming emotions, RSATL-SCSR connectivity predicted risk of subsequent recurrence.”

“The group with recurring MDD also exhibited RSATL hyperconnectivity with the right ventral putamen and claustrum and the temporoparietal junction. Together, these regions predicted recurrence with 75% accuracy (48 out of 64 predicted cases),” the researchers say.

The importance of the finding is to show a likely causal relationship between depression and altered functional connections in a neural network that is selective for blaming oneself relative to blaming others. This is in contrast with a common assumption that an overall increase in negative emotion–related brain responses is key to understanding depression.

Although more clinical study is needed to convince healthcare stakeholders to apply these findings to daily clinical practice, this exciting research has reinforced the concept that neurofeedback can be a way to help identify those individuals who are more likely to suffer from recurrent episodes of depression and will therefore benefit most from long-term treatment.

Neurotechnology – A New Way To Train Your Brain

10 Neurotechnologies About to Transform Brain Enhancement and Brain Health

30,000 scientists and professionals gathered in Chicago recently for the annual Society for Neuroscience Conference, proving the growing interest to better understand the inner workings of the human brain, and to discover ways and technologies to enhance its health and performance.

To help discover which ongoing technological efforts are closer to touching our lives, Sharpbrains.com examined the world-wide landscape of Neurotechnology patents. Investment in these types of intellectual properties is a sign of what is on the horizon for Neurotechnology. They paid extra attention to neurtechnologies that were non-invasive and pose few, if any negative side effects. Through their year-long analysis of thousands of patents, they uncovered ten innovative brain health and brain enhancement systems on the cutting edge, that in their estimation are likely to go main­stream over the next few years.

  1. Big Data-enhanced diagnostics and treatments-  As the costs of computing power, cloud accessibility and hard­ware sensors dwindle, brain health systems can leverage measurements taken from a far broader swath of the population than ever before possible. This analysis helps understand precisely where an individual’s readings lie on the distribution curve of health to disease, drives the ability to understand with nuance how one’s readings changes over time, and allows better discernment of proper diagnoses through biofeedback and neurofeedback and other treatments based on the efficacy of treatments with others having similar brain signatures.
  1. Brain-Computer Interfaces for device control- Brain Computer Interfaces (BCIs) link the commands of our thoughts to the devices of the world. The global BCI market is expected to reach 1.5 billion by 2020, of which 85% is estimated to be non-invasive.
  1. Real-time neuromonitoring (plus robotic aids)- A good number of companies, including Medtronic, Neuropace and St. Jude Medical, are currently developing systems to actively monitor brain activity and respond in real-time with appropriate treatments. These systems can discern symptoms leading up to an undesirable brain event (such as a seizure), and provide preemptive treatments to mitigate or altogether thwart epileptic activity.  
  1. Neurosensor-based vehicle operator systems- Systems employing neural detection devices to monitor vehicle operator alertness (or a lack ­thereof) and take preventive measures with driver stimulation or vehicle autopilot/shut ­down systems are described by multiple patents. The US Army, automotive companies like Toyota, start-ups like Freer Logic, medical device makers and insurers are all patenting inventions addressing this concern. 
  1. Cognitive training video games- Software applications accessible online and via mobile devices include gaming systems that target specific cognitive and/or emotional systems of the brain.
  1. Brain-responsive computing systems- A recent study by Microsoft finds that 68% of early tech adopters and 67% of heavy social media users really have to concentrate hard to stay focused on tasks. So, large tech companies are patenting systems to improve productivity and worker out­put, for example by using EEG signals to recognize user’s mental state and tailor the computing experience.
  1. Virtual Reality treatments, in conjunction with EEG and/or tDCS – Whether for treating PTSD and phobias through exposure therapy, or assisting surgeons in the operating room, virtual-reality is quickly gaining momentum. Medical tech companies such as Medtronic and Brain­lab, and consumer research firms such as Nielsen are building significant IP portfolios in the area. The following patent by Evoke Neuroscience shows the interplay between virtual reality, EEG and transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS).   This will be the new addition to our treatment program in 2016.

  8. “Mindful” wearables – Wearables are being designed to improve not just physical health but mental well being as well. Meditation apps in                      tandem with con­sumer EEGs like InteraXon’s Muse  aim to help users build concentration and self-regulation skills.

  1. Collaborative cognitive simulations- These are systems that focus on improving learning and skill acquisition across the extended workforce through online interactive platforms and cognitive simulation models (cognitive behavioral therapies). Human capital-intensive organizations such as AT&T and Accenture, are developing multiple applications in the area, and securing relevant intellectual property rights.
  1. Electrical and magnetic brain stimulation- These are technologies that can influence brain activity via magnetic fields or electrical impulses, and they are becoming increasingly common. Multiple hospitals and clinics already offer treatments based on brain stimulation, DARPA has awarded contracts to develop systems to augment memory with targeted electrical stimulation techniques, and consumers can buy wearable devices claiming to induce an array of brain states from calming to energizing.