A Brain Capital Grand Strategy: Toward Economic Reimagination
KS is supported by NIMH, Training the Science of Child Mental Health Treatment, 5T32MH073517-14. MB is supported by a NHMRC Senior Principal Research Fellowship (1059660 and 1156072). JC is supported by KMA; NIGMS grant P20GM109025; NINDS grant U01NS093334; and NIA grant R01AG053798. DJ’s work was supported, in part, by the National Institute of Mental Health R01 grant (R01MH094151-01 to DJ [PI]),Sam and Rose Stein Institute for Research on Aging at the University of California San Diego. WDD reports funding from GBHI ALZ UK-20-640170 and from Oregon Health Authority. HL receives grant funding from NIMH, NIA, NCCIH, NIAMS, PCORI, Alzheimer’s Research and Prevention Foundation. E. Storch reports research support from NIH, Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board, Red Cross, Greater Houston Community Foundation, ReBuild Texas. AI is partially supported by grants from CONICET, ANID/FONDAP/15150012, the Interamerican Development Bank (IDB), GBHI ALZ UK-20-639295, and the Multi-partner Consortium to Expand Dementia Research in Latin America (ReDLat; NIH NIA R01 AG057234, Alzheimer’s Association SG-20-725707, Tau Consortium, and Global Brain Health Institute).
Current brain research, innovation, regulatory, and funding systems are artificially siloed, creating boundaries in our understanding of the brain based on constructs such as aging, mental health, and/or neurology, when these systems are all inextricably integral.
Grand strategy provides a broad framework that helps to guide all elements of a major, long-term project. There are converging global trends resulting from the COVID pandemic compelling a Brain Capital Grand Strategy: widespread appreciation of the rise in brain health issues (e.g., increase prevalence of mental illness and high rates of persons with age-related cognitive impairment contracting COVID), increased automation, job loss and underemployment, radical restructuring of health systems, rapid consumer adoption and acceptance of digital and remote solutions, and recognition of the need for economic reimagination. If we respond constructively to this crisis, the COVID pandemic could catalyze institutional change and a better social contract.
Our current economy is indeed a Brain Economy—one where most new jobs demand cognitive, emotional, and social, not manual, skills, and where innovation is a tangible “deliverable” of employee productivity. With increased automation, our global economy increasingly places a premium on cerebral, brain-based skills that make us human, such as self-control, emotional intelligence, creativity, compassion, altruism, systems thinking, collective intelligence, and cognitive flexibility . Investments in brain health and brain skills are critical for post-COVID economic renewal, reimagination, and long-term economic resilience.
Broadly, brain health encompasses emotional, behavioral, and cognitive strengths across the life span. Compromised brain health greatly increases the risk of disorders across the life span (e.g., depression, anxiety, substance misuse, dementias, and neurocognitive disorders) and hinders the achievement of each individual’s full human potential. The concept of Brain Capital encompasses both brain health and brain skills as contributors to this Brain Economy. A Brain Capital Grand Strategy is urgently needed. Such a plan would be a first-ever strategic alignment across diverse public and private entities to structure and track investments that protect brain health and produce brain skills.
This paper discusses the parameters of this Grand Strategy including: a Brain Capital Investment Plan, examination of Brain Capital from an in-all-policies approach, and a Brain Capital Index. Underlying such efforts is the notion that Brain Capital can amplify existing recovery and growth efforts while helping to build long-term global economic capacity that promotes an equitable and sustainable brain health future. We recommend establishing an action taskforce comprised of local, state, federal, and global leaders in these key areas to further advance this work.
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Smith, E., Ali, D., Wilkerson, B., Dawson, W. D., Sobowale, K., Reynolds, C., Berk, M., Lavretsky, H., Jeste, D., Ng, C. H., Soares, J. C., Aragam, G., Wainer, Z., Manji, H. K., Licinio, J., Lo, A. W., Storch, E., Fu, E., Leboyer, M., … Eyre, H. A. (2020). A Brain Capital Grand Strategy: toward economic reimagination. Molecular Psychiatry, s41380–020-00918-w. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41380-020-00918-w