How Digital Technology Is Shaping the Future of Brain Research

According to a recent report.

A recent report from the World Economic Forum Global Agenda Council on Brain Research details five emerging ways in which technology can help shift from care of the sick to prevention of sickness.”

One of those technologies is cloud computing, which allows researchers to both share data and store the massive amount of data now available to them through projects like the study of the genome. The report suggests that such sharing can create “open channels for fresh voices and minds to join with industry veterans to solve big challenges in healthcare.”

Another trend is machine learning, a branch of computer science in which programs are designed to “self learn how to predict patterns from complex data.” This will allow for technology that can identify disease markers and address potential treatment. The report also notes how continuous monitoring, a process that uses remote sensors, smartphones and similar devices to send data to doctors, can provide a more complete picture of patient health by allowing doctors to take in information outside of the brief “snapshot” they get during an office visit. Similarly, the report adds that digital platforms may be effective for treatment of mental illness, addressing both a “severe shortage” of mental health providers and the tendency for people suffering from mental illness to avoid help for fear of stigmatization. Mental illness costs the U.S. nearly $193 billion in lost earnings every year, and technological solutions — such as an app, or support in “the form of help in navigating the mental health system” or social support from peers, is a potentially affordable and accessible way to provide care.

A major takeaway from the report is that all of these technological advances also include the prospect of increased collaboration, both in research fields and between doctors and patients, which, the report notes, can catalyze a “digital revolution” in which patients will have “unprecedented power to take control of their own health and their participation in research.”