Combating the COVID Brain Health Crisis

Harris Eyre
4 min readOct 26, 2020

Suffering from the misery of the COVID pandemic is widespread. A new brain-based approach to restructuring of the economy can address the global brain health emergency.

The COVID pandemic is causing global misery. Social and physical distancing causes isolation and reduced social support. The crisis accelerates digitalisation threatening jobs and livelihoods. Fragmented and inconsistent policy approaches exacerbate chronic stress and fear. Many have lost family and friends causing wide-spread bereavement. Those with existing brain health challenges, such as depression and anxiety, are having relapses. The COVID virus is causes direct damage to people’s brains, causing emotional disturbances and brain fog. Health systems are struggling to keep up with overwhelming mental health care demands. Economic challenges have meant wide-spread job losses. The impact of this misery has likely caused trillions of dollars of economic productivity loss. Unfortunately, our current economic systems are not structured to deal with these manifold issues.

A September 16th Economic Outlook statement from the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) noted, “With the COVID-19 pandemic continuing to threaten jobs, businesses and the health and well-being of millions amid exceptional uncertainty, building confidence will be crucial to ensure that economies recover and adapt” . Unfortunately, this is a non sequitur and is not possible. In uncertain times, with a high brain health toll, how can people possibly be confident? Clearly traditional approaches to address the global economic and psychological misery and not working and will not work. An entirely new approach to building global resilience is needed and this must endure for future challenging decades. Enter Brain Capital, a new model for economic thinking developed by an inter-disciplinary team of 33 experts and published in Molecular Psychiatry, a prominent neuroscience journal.

“Brain Capital is a form of capital relevant to a complex, interconnected and fragile global economy which puts a premium on brain skills and brain health,” noted Marion Leboyer MD PhD, CEO of Fondation FondaMental and co-author of the paper.

Brain health is essential to ensure that people have the brain skills to flourish in the modern fragile, globalised and digitalised economy. Brain skills include self-control, emotional intelligence, creativity, compassion, altruism, systems thinking, collective intelligence and cognitive flexibility. Brain health and brain skills are critical for resilience. Unfortunately, despite the critical role these skills play, we do not know enough about the impact of these brain health disorders on our workplaces, communities, economies and societies. How can we address this and effectively provide a supportive policy environment, invest in solutions and track outcomes? Think Brain Capital.

“Brain Capital needs to be integral to a new narrative of growth and progress which puts people at the centre of our economic system — their well-being, their interaction with others and their psychological resilience to shocks,” suggested William Hynes, Senior Advisor to the Secretary General and Co-ordinator of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD)’s New Approaches to Economic Challenges (NAEC) Unit and co-author of the paper.

“In this paper, we developed a Grand Strategy for Brain Capital,” mentioned Harris Eyre MD PhD, senior author and Co-Founder of the PRODEO Institute. “The Grand Strategy a multi-pronged effort to define and operationalise Brain Capital in public policy, underpinned by an investment plan and a Brain Capital Index.” Eyre went on to note the novel investment approaches for the enhancement of Brain Capital, “These include restructuring taxation, venture capital, social impact investing and philanthropy.”

In conclusion, William Hynes noted, “COVID will not be the last planetary emergency, further pandemics and natural disasters are predicted in the future with increasing frequency. So we need fundamental reform.”


Harris Eyre MD PhD, Co-Founder of the PRODEO Institute —

Publication details

Smith E et al (2020) A Brain Capital Grand Strategy: Towards Economic Reimagination. Molecular Psychiatry. Accepted and In Press.

Co-authors of this paper

Andrew Lo of MIT, Sandra Chapman of the Center for BrainHealth at The University of Texas at Dallas, Dilip Jeste of UCSD, Howard Fillit of the School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, William Hynes of OECD, Cara Altimus of Milken Institute, Marion Leboyer of University Paris Est Créteil and Fondation FondaMental, Harris Eyre of the PRODEO Institute, Diab Ali of the Oschner Health System, Bill Wilkerson of Mental Health International, Walter Dawson of the Oregon Health and Science University, Kunmi Sobowale of UCLA, Charles Reynolds III of the University of Pittsburgh, Michael Berk of Deakin University, Helen Lavretsky of UCLA, Chee H. Ng of the University of Melbourne, Jair Soares of the University of Texas Health Sciences Center at Houston, Gowri Aragam of the Massachusetts General Hospital and Stanford University, Zoe Wainer of the University of Melbourne, Husseini Manji of Johnson and Johnson, Julio Licinio of Syracuse University, Eric Storch of Baylor College of Medicine, Ernestine Fu of Stanford University, Marion Leboyer of Fondation FondaMental, Ioannis Tarnanas of the Global Brain Health Institute, Agustin Ibanez of Universidad de San Andrea, Facundo Manes of the INECO Foundation, Sarah Caddick of thalamic, Ryan Abbott of the University of Surrey, Ian Robertson of the Center for BrainHealth, Rhoda Au of Boston University, Jeffrey Cummings of the University of Nevada Las Vegas, and Patrick Brannelly of the Rainwater Charitable Foundation.