Corinna E. Lathan: So, how many of you would say that you’re gen­er­al­ly healthy? Good, most of you. I’m hap­py to see that. Alright, so how many of you have ever mis­placed your keys? Okay, also most of you. How many of you have ever for­got­ten some­one’s name that you actu­al­ly knew pret­ty well? Okay. 

So, how do you know if that’s nor­mal, or if you have ear­ly onset Alzheimer’s? You don’t. Because we haven’t spent enough time to quan­ti­fy brain health to know if you need healthcare. In fact, we’re ignor­ing the brain. Every time you go into the doc­tor’s office, they take your blood pres­sure, your tem­per­a­ture, your height, your weight, but they do noth­ing to mea­sure your brain health. And track­ing your brain health, or cog­ni­tive health, over time is crit­i­cal if we want to detect a change if some­thing hap­pens, like a con­cus­sion, depres­sion, the onset of Alzheimer’s.

Why don’t we quan­ti­fy the brain? Well, what I want to argue today is that we need a shift from diag­no­sis and treat­ment, to well­ness and pre­ven­tion. And that we have the data to do it.

So, let’s talk about data. You’ve all heard of the Internet of Things. And gen­er­al­ly we think about machines and devices con­nect­ing to each oth­er. But it’s actu­al­ly an Internet of things and peo­ple. And we’re con­tin­u­al­ly gen­er­at­ing data, both through active­ly inter­act­ing with our envi­ron­ment as well as through pas­sive mon­i­tor­ing. Between my cell phone and my wear­ables, I gen­er­ate more data in a day than my doc­tor sees in a year. And the future of the Internet of Things is going to add more and more data that we can use to quan­ti­fy healthy.”

For exam­ple, we already have devices that we can use to con­trol and mon­i­tor our home envi­ron­ment. And the advances in AI and robot­ics are going to allow the smart home of the future, with sce­nar­ios such as the following.

So your refrig­er­a­tor of the future might sense that you’re low on milk, send a mes­sage to the store, a robot deliv­ers your milk, and direct­ly to your refrig­er­a­tor. You think a human’s out of the loop, but we actu­al­ly have real­ly inter­est­ing data on your behav­ior. We know where you live. We know where you shop. We know how much milk you drink. A lot of data that can be used to quan­ti­fy healthy.

So I want to move away from data for a moment and talk about the cost of ignor­ing your brain. Non-communicable dis­eases are respon­si­ble for 60% of deaths world­wide. This includes can­cer, dia­betes, car­dio­vas­cu­lar dis­ease, and men­tal ill­ness. And these dis­eases will cost us $47 tril­lion by 2030. This is about as much as the US, European, and China economies com­bined. And all of these non-communicable dis­eases affect your brain and cog­ni­tive health. Whether direct­ly, like depres­sion or demen­tia, or indi­rect­ly through med­ica­tion or the long-term effects of chron­ic disease.

But I want to focus on demen­tia for a moment. 44 mil­lion peo­ple world­wide have demen­tia. And one in three peo­ple over six­ty die with demen­tia. And by 2030, 75 mil­lion peo­ple will have demen­tia if we do noth­ing. There’s also a sec­ond cost to ignor­ing our brain, the sec­ond vic­tim of long-term chron­ic dis­ease, the care­givers. There are 66 mil­lion unpaid care­givers in the US alone. The val­ue of their care is $522 bil­lion per year. This is more than the amount of paid care. It’s also almost as much as the United States gov­ern­ment spends on Medicare for our elderly.

So, we invit­ed care­givers to a web­site that we cre­at­ed called the Health-eBrain Study, because care­givers are also at high risk for men­tal ill­ness, and depres­sion, and oth­er brain and behav­ioral issues. And so we sus­pect­ed, even though they say that they’re healthy, just like we did, that prob­a­bly, com­pared to the gen­er­al pop­u­la­tion, they might not be as healthy as they think they are. So we had a thou­sand peo­ple come to the web site and take a com­put­er­ized cog­ni­tive test. And the results were sober­ing. Sure enough, these healthy care­givers, when com­pared with matched con­trols had cog­ni­tive impairment.

So, what do we do? Do we wait till they report them­selves as sick, so that they can be diag­nosed and treat­ed? Or do we make that shift, and focus on health, not healthcare. So, how do we do that? Well, I want to end by telling you about a dig­i­tal health tool that we devel­oped for the mil­i­tary to mea­sure brain and cog­ni­tive health. The mil­i­tary nor­mal­ly only assess­es the cog­ni­tive health of the sol­dier if they sus­pect that a con­cus­sion may have occurred. The prob­lem is that all of our deployed men and women are exposed to con­di­tions that can affect your brain health, such as com­bat fatigue and stress, or even depres­sion and PTSD. So, we designed a mobile med­ical app that allows medics to track sol­diers’ brain health over time, and not just when an injury occurs. 

So, what does the future of brain health look like? Imagine, what if every time you walked into the doc­tor’s office they mea­sured your brain vital as well as your Body Mass Index. What if we used all of the data gen­er­at­ed by the Internet of Things to quan­ti­fy healthy aging? What if we pro­vid­ed tools to those who are at risk for demen­tia, tools for them to man­age their own brain health, so that one in three of us don’t die with demen­tia. We can all define healthy togeth­er. Thank you.


Help Support Open Transcripts

If you found this useful or interesting, please consider supporting the project monthly at Patreon or once via Cash App, or even just sharing the link. Thanks.