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The New Hybrid Work Model Will Require Hybrid Skills

Tue, 04/06/2021 - 21:11
Resilience, empathy and creativity are the key human skills of our hybrid world.

For more than a year, we’ve been wondering what work will look like when the pandemic ends. And for an increasing number of companies, the answer is a hybrid model that combines in-person and remote work. The conversation has now moved to what will happen to the commercial real estate market, how office and desk design will change and what tech tools we will need in our new hybrid future.

But even more important than the organizational design and the tech tools of our hybrid world order are the hybrid skills we’ll need to develop wherever and however we’re working. Of course, hard skills and expertise are always going to be table stakes, but to successfully navigate the new hybrid world defined by changing routines and continuing uncertainty we’ll need human skills — empathy, resilience, collaboration, team building and creativity. These are the skills that will allow us to adapt to new environments and constant changes, and use all of our other skills in a sustainable way without burning out.

Seize the Moment to Rethink Productivity

Not since the Industrial Revolution have we so fundamentally rethought everything about where and how we work. We have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to create a new normal that’s based on the way we actually perform at our best. “People are now stepping back and thinking about the qualitative aspects of being productive over the quantitative,” said Sandra Bond Chapman, a cognitive neuroscientist at the Center for BrainHealth at the University of Texas, Dallas. “Instead of how many things we have done, we now have an opportunity to shift towards the measures that matter most — was I more innovative? Was I more purpose-driven? Was I more socially driven?”

Read more in Thrive Global.

Published April 2021

The post The New Hybrid Work Model Will Require Hybrid Skills appeared first on Center for BrainHealth.

Four emerging technologies with the potential to improve MS treatment options

Thu, 03/18/2021 - 22:05
From focused ultrasound to electronic autoinjectors, we take a look at four innovations and technologies that could improve future MS treatment options

As is the case with many debilitating, chronic diseases in the 21st century, the wonders of technology and medical innovations are currently showing huge potential in enabling multiple sclerosis (MS) treatment to become more effective.

MS is a lifelong condition that affects the central nervous system and can cause problems with vision, movement, and sensation, as well as fatigue. It can’t be cured, but relapses of the disease’s outward symptoms are commonly treated using steroid medicines.

However, various studies over the past few years have indicated that improved treatment options – perhaps even some that target the condition’s underlying causes – may be on the horizon.

We take a closer look at four unique technologies that are at differing stages of the research and development process, but could all hold the key to drastically improving the lives of MS patients in the future.

Improved treatment through more precise diagnosis

In 2019, researchers from the University of Texas at Dallas’ Center for BrainHealth announced they had developed a novel diagnostic technology for MS.

Working with a team from the UT Southwestern Medical Center, they used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to scan 23 patients’ brains, before deploying a unique, patent-pending tool to create 3D images of the lesions – areas that have been damaged by the effects of MS – found there.

The resulting images showed which of these areas were metabolically active, and therefore held a capacity for healing, and which were metabolically inactive and unable to heal themselves. The areas capable of healing appeared spherical with a rough surface, while those incapable of healing were more irregular in shape but had a smoother surface.

These differing visual indicators were then used to determine which lesions had increased levels of surrounding oxygen – the biomarker that correlates with a capacity for healing.

The upshot is that, in theory, this could help doctors to distinguish between MS patients that will benefit from certain therapeutic drugs designed to heal damaged areas of the brain, and those that won’t.

At the time, Dr Dinesh Sivakolundu – the lead author of the study detailing these findings, which was published in peer-reviewed scientific publication Journal of Neuroimaging – said: “Our new technology has the potential to be a game-changer in the treatment of MS by helping doctors be more precise in their treatment plans.”

Read more in Learning NS Medical Devices.

Published March 2021

The post Four emerging technologies with the potential to improve MS treatment options appeared first on Center for BrainHealth.

Center for BrainHealth Researchers Create Virtual Reality Cognitive Assessment

Sat, 02/27/2021 - 01:37

Virtual reality assessment effectively tests executive function in a real-world setting

Virtual reality isn’t just for gaming. Researchers can use virtual reality, or VR, to assess participants’ attention, memory and problem-solving abilities in real world settings. By using VR technology to examine how folks complete daily tasks, like making a grocery list, researchers can better help clinical populations that struggle with executive functioning to manage their everyday lives.

Lead author Zhengsi Chang is a PhD student that works in the lab of Daniel Krawczyk, PhD, deputy director of the Center for BrainHealth®. Along with Brandon Pires, a researcher at Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center, the team investigated whether VR can be used to effectively test a participant’s executive functional load, or how much information a person can process to achieve a goal. Their findings were recently published in Computers in Human Behavior Reports.

The researchers adapted the Virtual Reality Functional Capacity Assessment Tool’s (VRFCAT) “kitchen test”, where participants plan a trip to the grocery store by comparing ingredients in kitchen cabinets to a list of recipes. Making a grocery list is an everyday task and should therefore accurately capture participants’ daily working memory and performance. “Function-led tasks using VR technology allow us to maintain a balance between ecological validity and experimental control,” said Chang.

The researchers hope to use their VR assessment to help people that suffer from executive function impairments. “We used VR technology to create an executive function assessment that can be used in neuropsychology to understand how veterans and other clinical populations manage their everyday lives,” said Chang.

Read more in Immersive Learning News.

Published February 2021

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Feed Your Brain: Tips for Better Brain Health

Thu, 02/18/2021 - 21:28

Are there proactive steps we can take to stop the deterioration of the brain as we age?

According to mounting evidence in the field of neuroscience, the answer appears to be yes. Research is revealing that the aging brain actually has more capacity to change and adapt than was previously thought. According to Sandra Bond Chapman, PhD, founder and chief director at the Center for BrainHealth in Dallas, Texas, it appears that the brain continues to develop neural pathways to adapt to new experiences, learn new information, and create new memories.(1) In fact, studies show that the brain can actually get smarter as we age: the more new learning experiences we have, the more neural pathways we create, which means we can actually stockpile a larger network of neurons that can markedly slow down the process of cognitive decline. The more we develop in the brain now, the fewer years of decline we experience down the road.

Research conducted by the Center for Brain Health shows that older brains can be more receptive to pattern recognition, judgment, and accumulation of knowledge and experience, giving those over 50 an advantage over younger brains if—and that is a big if—the physical structure of the brain is not in decline.(2) Physical decline of the brain, meaning the actual shrinkage and deterioration that begins in our forties, corresponds with cognitive decline. All of this is to say that brain health needs to be a priority for those heading into their forties and fifties to reap the most significant rewards.

The goal is to decrease stress on the brain, which breaks down brain function, and to build new neural pathways through mental stimulation. The good news is that building better brain health in your everyday life is easier than you might think.

6 Tips for Brain Health

Here are six lifestyle factors that can have an impact on brain health.

  1. Diet. Many foods have been linked to brain health, and new information about the role of diet continues to emerge. Some of what research is revealing includes the benefit of the anti-inflammatory properties of a plant-based Mediterranean diet.
  2. Weight control. An increasing body of evidence shows that being overweight in midlife increases risk factors for lower and faster decline in cognitive ability.
  3. Sleep. The brain actually does a lot of smart things while you sleep, so getting adequate sleep (seven to nine hours for the majority of us) can boost learning, attention, and memory.
  4. Exercise. Cardiovascular exercise is vital to brain health; it increases blood flow, delivering more nutrients to the brain.
  5. Stress management. Stress and anxiety are associated with memory disorders. Stress can interfere with the function of neurotransmitters in the brain and create toxins that cause cell damage and shrinkage of the brain.
  6. Supplements. Dietary supplements that have flooded the market have not been proven effective in slowing cognitive decline. It is not about one nutrient but the diet as a whole.

Read more in A Women’s Health.

Published January 2021

The post Feed Your Brain: Tips for Better Brain Health appeared first on Center for BrainHealth.

The Last Word: Digital Decision Making and Safety in the COVID World

Tue, 02/09/2021 - 01:43
A recent study in the American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry found that more frequent late-life cognitive activity may maintain and improve decision making among older persons.1 These are helpful findings from a public health perspective. In this article, we extend the implications of this study by noting the ubiquity and complexity of digital decision making in a time of pandemic. We then consider the impacts of these digital services on late-life cognitive activity and propose digital safety strategies for clinicians, researchers, public health practitioners, and regulators.

Digital safety strategies are considered approaches to optimize digital decision making and protect late-life users of digital technologies. In the accompanying table online, we provide an overview of this topic.

We recently reviewed the effects of computers, the internet, and social media on the daily decision making of people living with brain health conditions.2 Teaching older adults to use social media has been found to significantly improve executive functioning as measured by their inhibitory control and overall cognition.3 Social media use among older adults may also positively boost health by increasing social connectedness, which is critical with social and physical distancing imposed by COVID-19.

Social media may also have adverse brain health affects for older adults. Loneliness and social isolation in older adults can dramatically alter cognitive performance, decision making, and emotional regulation.4 Lonely older adults have more difficulty maintaining vigilance and self-regulating, demonstrate a heightened awareness of social threats, and pay greater attention to negative social stimuli.2

These findings—combined with social media algorithms that are intended to keep users on the platforms as long as possible—may help explain recent reports showing that individuals older than age 65 are seven times more likely to share and disseminate fake news domains on social media than are their younger counterparts.5 These findings may have societal implications, notably with the increased numbers of aging adults on social media and the fact that political and policy decisions are now often shaped by information that is publicly available on these platforms.

Geriatric health care providers will have to increasingly contend with technology use in their day-to-day practice. For example, ubiquitous smartphones are being used to collect data that can be used in the clinic. Wearable technology has the benefit of capturing real-time biometric data on autonomic nervous system activity, voice analytics, sleep quality and quantity, physical activity, and social activity, all of which can assist in diagnosis.

Data obtained by technology can be used as an adjunct to enhance the physician-patient connection and therapeutic alliance. Geriatric health care providers have a role in supporting their patients in navigating the potential minefield of technology, cutting through marketing claims and evaluating the benefit of new technologies. They should be cognizant of technologies on the market and appraise their utility, caution their patients about privacy and security implications, and help their patients evaluate the positives and negatives. Digital literacy workshops, such as those provided by Senior Planet (, are an increasingly important consideration in the primary care setting and may be able to reduce cyber-exploitation and the negative health consequences of engaging with fake news. These workshops teach older adults how to use fact-checking resources such as Snopes ( and

Understanding the decision-making implications of cognitive decline, especially within the digital realm, and enacting subsequent clinical and policy measures is critical. Existing issues are likely to be amplified due to the current effects and long-term repercussions of COVID, making these measures an urgent global priority.

— Erin Smith is a brain health executive and an associate at The PRODEO Institute in Palo Alto, California.

— Malcolm P. Forbes, MBBS, MPM, is a principal psychiatry trainee at Royal Melbourne Hospital and a senior lecturer in the department of psychiatry at the University of Melbourne in Australia.

— Sandra B. Chapman, PhD, is a professor in and founder and chief director of the Center for BrainHealth, as well as the Dee Wyly Distinguished University Chair at The University of Texas at Dallas.

— Ian H. Robertson, PhD, is the T. Boone Pickens Distinguished Scientist at the Center for BrainHealth at The University of Texas at Dallas and codirector of the Global Brain Health Institute, a collaboration of Trinity College Dublin and the University of California, San Francisco.

— Harris A. Eyre, MBBS, PhD, is a brain health executive, cofounder of The PRODEO Institute, and President of PRODEO in San Francisco.


Digital Care in the COVID World

Daily activities increasingly digital Benefits of digital activities Risks of digital activities Impacts of COVID on brain health Approaches to building brain health Work



Health care services

Entertainment services

Financial, legal, and administrative services Increased health literacy

Social engagement


Reduced cognitive decline Technology fatigue

Individuals gravitate toward “echo chambers” on social medial


Dissemination of fake news

Reduced depth of offline social connection Stress

Loss of control

Caregiver burden




Postintensive care syndrome

COVID infection-based inflammation-induced neuropsychiatric symptoms Cognitive activity

Physical activity

Social activity

Management of chronic disease


Healthy diet


Clinical and research-based digital safety strategies Regulatory, public health, and policy-based digital safety strategies Clinical strategies:
Careful assessment of COVID effects on brain healthBuild brain health to optimize decision making

Engage social worker in assessing digital safety optimization

Optimize digital literacy for consumer protection

Research strategies:
Rigorously assess the impact of brain health on digital decision making and digital safety

Continue to refine the personalization of brain health programs (eg, The BrainHealth Project) Regulatory strategies:
Responsible innovation framework used in digital service and product development (including assessing the individual’s capacity to consent, and data privacy provisions)Public health and policy strategies:
Optimize the use and adherence to scalable brain health programs (eg, Cleveland Clinic Brain Health Initiative)

Cybersecurity education for consumer employment
Increased cybersecurity resources (public and not-for-profit) for consumer protection

Broadband internet access

Develop Brain Health Innovation Diplomacy workforce

Published in Today’s Geriatric Medicine February 2021.

The post The Last Word: Digital Decision Making and Safety in the COVID World appeared first on Center for BrainHealth.

Boosting global confidence amid Covid-19

Tue, 02/02/2021 - 23:00

We are experiencing a loss of global confidence due to the pandemic.Ian Robertson, Harris Eyre and William Hynes outline a new brain-based approach to fostering confidence can help us address the global brain health emergency.

Economic crises like that produced by the pandemic can undermine the self-belief of millions of individual people and vice versa. For example, studies have shown that 18- to 25-year-olds who live through an economic recession believe less strongly that they can get ahead through hard work. This is starkly illustrated during the economic turmoil to date caused by the Covid-19 pandemic. In a UK study of 2000 16-25 year olds, 41% said that their future goals now seemed ‘impossible to achieve’ and 38% that they now felt they would ‘never succeed in life’.

Such a dramatic fall in confidence in almost half a generation is likely to have happened across many countries, and this will reverberate for decades in the global social, economic and political fabric long after the pandemic has passed. Individual confidence is central to national development and so the economic effects will be lasting.

Between 2000 and 2014, across 13 European Union countries, including Britain, Germany, France, and Spain, the confidence of individual consumers and company executives strongly predicted the unemployment rate. The relationship went in one direction: the confidence of individual people predicted eventual unemployment levels in each country.

In business, confident people are more likely to be entrepreneurial. Confident inventors with patents more readily find a company to commercialize them. And companies who manage to make their employees feel more confident, boost their productivity.

The Covid-19 pandemic affects confidence in multiple ways: social and physical distancing cause isolation and reduced social support; the crisis accelerates digitalisation, which generates many benefits but also threatens specific types of jobs and livelihoods; fragmented and inconsistent policy approaches exacerbates chronic stress and fear. Anxiety sabotages confidence. In addition, the virus appears to cause direct damage to some people’s brains, causing emotional disturbances and ‘brain fog’, among other symptoms. Health systems are struggling to keep up with overwhelming mental-healthcare demands.

Economic challenges have meant widespread job losses. The impact of the resulting loss of confidence has likely caused trillions of dollars of productivity loss. Unfortunately, our current economic systems are not well equipped to deal with these issues. The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) recently noted, “With the COVID-19 pandemic continuing to threaten jobs, businesses and the health and well-being of millions amid exceptional uncertainty, building confidence will be crucial to ensure that economies recover and adapt”. But the question is, how?

Confidence can be broken down into two elements: can happen, the belief that an action will produce an outcomeand can-do, the belief that you can carry out the actionBoth are needed for confidence to have its full energising effects. Economic and social turmoil sabotage both types of belief. People don’t channel their energies or finances in an uncertain future, a ‘can’t happen’ belief that acts as a self-fulfilling prophecy.

It is the effects of turmoil on the can-do belief that is perhaps the most pernicious in the long term for societies and economies. This is particularly the case in the context of accelerating technological, environmental and social change, and of which the Covid-19 turmoil offers a foretaste.

Personal confidence in the ability to take action – from learning a new skill to mastering emotional difficulties – will be one of the most crucial attributes of people facing up to exponentially accelerating challenges. It is this confidence that is diminished by economic reversals and which in turn perpetuates them. Personal confidence can be eroded by extreme inequalities and racial, age or gender stereotypes. Anxiety and low mood are also corrosive for confidence.

But there are also antidotes. Collective confidence exists as a supra-individual phenomenon whereby people believe that the group can-do, be it team, organisation, community or country. Collective confidence can inspire individual confidence and therefore offers opportunities to policymakers.

In uncertain times, with the brain health toll mounting, how can people be more confident? Clearly traditional approaches to address the global economic and psychological misery are not working and will not work. As we argue in the latest edition of the RSA Journal, an entirely new approach is needed. Enter Brain Capital, a new model for economic and policy thinking.

Brain Capital is a form of capital relevant to a complex, interconnected and fragile global economy, which puts a premium on brain skills and health. Brain health is essential to ensure that people have the brain skills to flourish in the modern economy. Brain skills include self-control, emotional intelligence, creativity, compassion, altruism, systems thinking, collective intelligence and cognitive flexibility. Brain health and brain skills are critical for resilience. Brain Capital puts value on individual and collective confidence. We argue that without Brain Capital we cannot pursue a confidence-building policy agenda.

Unfortunately, despite the critical role these skills play, we do not know enough about the impact of these brain health disorders on our workplaces, communities, economies and societies. How can we address this and effectively provide a supportive policy environment, invest in solutions and track outcomes? Think Brain Capital.

We recently outlined a Brain Capital Grand Strategy to provide a framework to explore policy drivers in-all-sectors, to consider traditional and non-traditional approaches to investing, and novel approaches to tracking (for example, a Brain Capital Index).

Brain Capital needs to be integral to a new narrative of growth and progress, which puts people at the centre of our economic system: their wellbeing, their interaction with others and their psychological resilience to shocks.

Covid-19 will not be the last planetary emergency, further pandemics, natural and man-made disasters are predicted in the future with increasing frequency and intensity. So we need fundamental reform to bolster our long-term confidence and resilience as individuals and as a society.

Ian H. Robertson PhD, Emeritus Professor of Psychology, Co-Director Global Brain Health Institute, Trinity College Dublin, T Boone Pickens Distinguished Scientist, Center for BrainHealth, UT Dallas  

Harris A. Eyre MD PhD, Co-Founder of the PRODEO Institute, Adjunct Associate Professor, Institute for Mental and Physical Health and Clinical Translation (IMPACT), Deakin University.

William Hynes DPhil, Senior Advisor to the Secretary General and the Head of the New Approaches to Economic Challenges (NAEC) Unit, OECD

Published in RSA February 2021.

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We Can Do Without It

Fri, 01/22/2021 - 22:40

Julie Fratantoni, PhD, CCC-SLP, Head of Operations for The BrainHealth Project and Research Scientists at Center for BrainHealth, discusses the topic of being #alwaysconnected to our phones and what that does to the brain.

“Not only are we are robbing ourselves of productivity, but we are robbing the potential of what we wanted to achieve because of constant interruptions.”

The segment with Julie starts at the 36:45 minute mark.




The post We Can Do Without It appeared first on Center for BrainHealth.

Meet the Finalists: Leaders From BenefitMall, Parkland Center for Clinical Innovation, and Center for BrainHealth

Fri, 01/22/2021 - 22:08
Three healthcare execs share their thoughts on resilience, the shift toward whole-person care, and the emerging “brain economy.”

Leading up to our second annual Innovation Awards event tonight, we’re sharing excerpts from interview Q&As with all 51 finalists, one category at a time. Today, we wrap things up by featuring our three Innovation in Healthcare honorees.

Stephen White Executive director, Center for BrainHealth 

ON INNOVATION: “Innovation comes from possibility thinking and can be learned from failure and intentionally taking different perspectives. It is a product of an overt effort to discover the unknown. What I’ve learned with our work is that becoming more innovative can be learned. You can rewire your brain to help you become a more innovative thinker.”  

2020 HIGHLIGHTS: “Until last year, our assessments, training protocols, and sustained engagement delivery were largely hands-on. Over the past year, we developed and piloted the online BrainHealth Dashboard, which will revolutionize how cognitive neuroscience research is conducted and accelerate how high-performance brain training and education are delivered.

The pilot phase of our signature initiative, The BrainHealth Project, was also conducted this year, despite the challenges of the pandemic. It is a large-scale, ten-year study exploring the brain’s upward potential, and it will provide research collaborators around the globe with access to well-characterized neuroscience data, including sophisticated neural imaging.”  

LESSON LEARNED: “I have learned that each of us can tap into our own neural pharmacy. Although the brain, especially the part that facilitates executive functioning, is the most complex organ in our body, it is extremely easy to influence. By acting with some basic knowledge and intent, we can begin to re-architect our brains, leveraging neuroplasticity. You can cast away toxic behavior such as chronic multi-tasking, which shrinks your brain and reduces neural connectivity. You can also improve those connections and stimulate brain blood flow and performance with simple changes to your everyday life.”  

RATING DFW: “I recently moved to North Texas from San Diego, which is known for its focus on technology development. My experience in North Texas has provided broader access to big thinkers, with more freedom to operate. The business culture here fosters big ideas and provides terrific access to a skilled talent pool. It sounds cliché, but Texas does ‘think big,’ and you can’t think any bigger than our founder and chief director, Dr. Sandra Bond Chapman, who with the support of The University of Texas at Dallas, has created the country’s premier research and translational science facility at the Center for BrainHealth.” 

LOOKING AHEAD: “We are heading into a ‘brain economy’ that depends on our capacity for innovation, emotional intelligence, and flexible adaptation. To borrow a phrase from one of our collaborators, ‘brain capital’ is going to drive not only the global economy, but also how we interact with each other in a more productive, collaborative manner. Our team, supported by some of the leading cognitive neuroscientists around the world, is leading that charge.” 

Read full story in D Magazine.

Published in D Magazine January 2021.

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