Brain Capital is the new electricity

Harris Eyre
4 min readMar 8, 2021

Brain Capital is a newly appreciated asset which puts a premium on brain health and brain skills. Just as electricity revolutionized lives 100 years ago, Brain Capital is completely changing our lives today and is likely to tomorrow.

The ubiquity of Brain Capital in our lives makes it the new electricity. Just as electricity revolutionized society, optimized Brain Capital has the potential to take us to wide-spread flourishing, a state when people find fulfillment in their lives, social connectedness, prosperity, and accomplishing meaningful and worthwhile tasks.

Brain skills including emotional intelligence, resilience, critical thinking and creativity economies allow humans to flourish. This is however dependent on brain health.

The impacts of adverse brain function on an increasingly technological and skills-based economy (i.e., a Brain Economy) have never been more pervasive. Disruptions to brain health, such as mental health conditions (e.g., depression, anxiety, ADHD) and neurodegenerative diseases (e.g., mild cognitive impairment and Alzheimer’s disease), are becoming increasingly prevalent and therefore burdensome.

Consider the following effects on you, your friends and family, and the global society — the multi-trillion-dollar cost of mental disorders and dementia — which worsened due to COVID-induced stress and isolation; the damaging effects of the COVID virus on our neurons — the full extent is yet to be realized; the mass psychological distress of fake news and populist tribalism; the tragic and worsening effects of science denialism; disruptions to education systems during COVID and; the increasing rates of un- and under-employment due to industrial automation. These issues, invisible by nature, have for too long been ignored — but no longer.

Brain Capital is an exemplary transdisciplinary innovation — explicated in our new book ‘Convergence Mental Health: A Roadmap Towards Transdisciplinary Innovation’. This book outlines how modern brain health issues are characterized by their complex, multi-systemic nature and broad societal impact, making them poorly suited to siloed approaches of thinking and innovation. Convergence science integrates knowledge, tools, and thought strategies from various fields and is the focal point where novel insights arise. Convergence Mental Health presents a blueprint for leveraging convergence science within the context of brain health to improve patient outcomes and health care systems.

We recently developed and published a Brain Capital Grand Strategy aimed at building on the Brain Capital concept, and reorienting the global economy around optimizing Brain Capital — the ultimate public-private-people partnership. This includes a Brain Capital Investment Plan, leveraging diverse sources of capital (e.g. venture capital, private equity, government grants, philanthropy, healthy brain bonds, megafunds, ESG Exchange Traded Funds). We are pioneering the development of a Brain Capital Index to formalize and track Brain Capital over time.

The Brain Capital Investment Plan provides a framework for organizing and accelerating existing, constructive projects, both public and private. The private sector already recognizes the value of Brain Capital. For example, Venture capital investing in mental health technologies neared USD $1 billion in 2020. Lyra Health, a technology enabled workplace mental health provider, has reached a $2.25 billion dollar valuation and shown major increases in workplace mental health support. Davos Alzheimer’s Collaborative has been initiated as a first-of-its-kind global public-private collaborative linking discovery research, clinical trials and health system readiness across high-, middle- and low-resource countries to tackle Alzheimer’s disease. In the public sphere, the United Nations has noted the critical importance of protecting mental health and wellbeing during COVID, and has launched a series of high-profile programs such as World Mental Health Month and the UN System Workplace Mental Health and Wellbeing Strategy. In April 2020, more than 1,000 mental health experts and advocates from more than 40 countries signed an open letter calling on global leaders to integrate mental health into recovery plans. There could be at least 60 million fewer cases of anxiety, depression and epilepsy between now and 2030 if we increase spending on mental health to recommended levels. People could gain 25 million healthy life years, and 200,000 deaths could be avoided.

On January 27th, we hosted an OECD Brain Capital Event to showcase topics outlined above. Keynote speakers included the OECD Secretary General (Angel Gurria), Admiral Bill McRaven (former head of US special operations), Thomas C Leppert (global business executive), Megan Greene (columnist with the Financial Times and Senior Fellow with the Harvard Kennedy School). The video of the event is here.

We have now launched an OECD Initiative on neuroscience-inspired policy to propel this work further.

Optimized Brain Capital globally will power us to a brighter future. We need to plan how to build Brain Capital in our daily working and personal lives.

Contributors:

Harris A. Eyre MBBS PhD, Co-Lead of the OECD Initiative and Co-Founder of the PRODEO Institute

Rashi Ojha, MD Candidate at UCLA

Erin Smith, Associate of the PRODEO Institute, Thiel Fellow at Stanford University

Andrew S. Nevin DPhil, Chief Economist and Partner, PWC Nigeria

William Hynes DPhil, Head of the OECD New Approaches to Economic Challenges Unit and Senior Advisor to the Secretary General

Karim Barrada, Managing Director, Head of Global Solutions Group at HSBC

Michael Berk MD PhD, Professor at Director of IMPACT (Institute for Mental Health and Physical Health and Clinical Translation) at Deakin University

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