The pursuit of lasting brain health is one of the most exciting and urgent challenges facing humanity. Brain health among military service members is being called into question. Advanced reasoning skills in American students are falling behind those of other developed countries. Depression is estimated to cause 200 million lost workdays each year at a cost of $17 to $44 billion to employers. Among healthy adults, cognitive brain performance peaks, on average, in our early forties, and estimates suggest the number of those living with Alzheimer’s will triple by 2050.
Tremendous efforts have been directed toward better understanding of how the human brain works and fails to work. Dallas is prominently poised to achieve more – faster, with a nexus of global leaders and brain science experts right here within our city limits.
In the last 12 months, UT Southwestern created the Peter O’Donnell Brain Institute, and Texas Woman’s University launched the Woodcock Institute for the advancement of Neurocognitive Research and Applied Practice. In October, we, at UT Dallas, broke ground on the Center for BrainHealth’s Brain Performance Institute near Love Field.
Until recently, the majority of attention worldwide has focused on how brain injuries and brain diseases negatively impact and limit a person’s life, ignoring the brain’s remarkable ability to work around injuries and problems. This narrow lens towards brain issues leaves people feeling powerless and hopeless with an overwhelming sense that little can be done to improve brain and cognitive performance. A major reason for such a narrow focus is that diverse disciplines try to unlock the complexities of brain function in relative isolation from the others. For example, molecular biologists seek solutions to advance understanding of the genetic underpinnings of a disease while medicine seeks to reach diagnoses. Similarly, cognitive neuroscientists work to characterize how brain systems break down in support of cognitive function.
My vision is to attract leading brain scientists from diverse research domains to innovatively and steadfastly work together toward real solutions for all people – today; to capitalize on the brain’s dynamic capacity to be strengthened in health and repaired after brain injury and disease; to discover biomarkers of brain health so that we can monitor and optimize brain health fitness in the same way that we do physical fitness. The future of brain health will expand exponentially when cognitive neuroscientists, medical doctors, molecular biologists, neuroengineers and other interdisciplinary team members come together to discover ways to promote brain performance in health, neurologic injury, psychiatric disturbance and brain disease.
It is time for a paradigm shift in the way we think, talk and act about our brain. Let us begin to put our brain at the center of our health focus because the majority of us have the chance to achieve better our brain health each and every day. Research shows that multitasking spurs shallow thinking and destroys innovative ideas. Sleep deprivation can mimic dementia. Making relatively small lifestyle changes can garner a huge return. Adopting healthy habits, avoiding toxic routines and actively pursing brain health fitness, will reap significant rewards to benefit our communities, our cities, our state, our country and the world.
As we unlock our brain potential, we will thrive economically, learn to think better and in thinking better become happier, more productive, more competitive and ultimately more successful. We are each powered by a complex and fascinating machine, and it is ours alone to condition and care for. What are you dedicated to doing today to unlock your brain’s potential?
For more information about the leading edge research and program offerings now underway at the Center for BrainHealth and ways to benefit from them, visit www.centerforbrainhealth.org.
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