Paradigm shift in monitoring and improving brain health
The world’s most prestigious gathering of medical practitioners in functional medicine and integrative care hosted a symposium in Los Angeles recently, featuring today’s greatest revolutionaries in changing how we view and treat brain health.
The Annual International Conference of the Institute for Functional Medicine chose scientifically-disruptive and broadly-acclaimed neuroscientist Dr Michael Merzenich to address its plenary session.
Dr Merzenich unveiled a revolutionary approach to monitoring, maintaining and improving brain health. The system uses apps and digital therapies.
He joined Alzheimer’s experts Dr Dale Bredesen (of UCLA and the Buck institute) and Dr Rudolph Tanzi (of Harvard and Massachusetts General Hospital) for a discussion of the application of neuroplasticity to dementia.
The theme of the conference was The Dynamic Brain: Revealing the Potential of Neuroplasticity to reverse Neurodegeneration.
Dr Merzenich discussed research supporting the idea that we can systematically harness brain plasticity and drive positive changes in brain systems through plasticity-based training.
“Breakthroughs in technology and science will permit people to monitor their brain health on a daily basis and take appropriate action to maintain their brain health using a device they already carry in their pockets,” he said.
“A phone with apps to assess current condition, to suggest holistic interventions, and to deliver the right brain exercises. This technology already exists, and all the pieces are coming together.”
Dr Merzenich believes we are in the midst of a paradigm shift regarding how we view and treat most aspects of brain health.
“We don’t have a magic pill to prevent or cure heart disease, and instead look to behavioural changes to reduce risk and early interventions to address symptoms,” he said.
“There is a rapidly growing consensus among thought leaders that we need a similar approach to cognitive disorders and improvement. This approach will include nutrition, physical exercise and environmental factors – but the single most important elements will be lifelong monitoring of brain health and appropriate plasticity-based brain exercises.”
Dr Merzenich is professor emeritus at University of California San Francisco, where he maintained a research lab for three decades. He ran the seminal experiments that led to the discovery of lifelong plasticity – the ability of the brain to change chemically, structurally and functionally based on sensory and other inputs. He pioneered harnessing the power of plasticity in the co-invention of the cochlear implant, which has restored hearing to 100,000s of people living with deafness.
Dr Merzenich also pioneered the application of plasticity in the development of plasticity-based computerised brain exercises, which have helped millions of people.