Scaling up brain health investing to boost societal resilience

Harris Eyre
4 min readJan 13, 2021


A Brain Capital investment Plan has been launched through the unique collaboration of economics, finance, technology and neuroscience executives.

Brain capital is a novel asset which puts a premium on brain health and brain skills. Brain health includes emotional and cognitive health across an individual’s lifespan. Compromised brain health greatly increases the risk of disorders such as depression, anxiety, substance misuse, dementias. Such disorders cost the global economy more than US$3trn per year in lost productivity. Brain skills include self-control, emotional intelligence, creativity, compassion, altruism, systems thinking, and cognitive flexibility; all are critical in a digitized economy, and all are dependent on good brain health. The Brain Capital Investment Plan outlines the major needs for enhancing brain capital — improved accessed to clinical care, more accurate screening and diagnosis, more personalized treatments. Many of these improvements can be realized with the use of new technologies, such as telemedicine, apps, smartphones and genetics.

Major improvements in brain health outcomes and brain skills will yield more resilient individuals, families, communities, countries and ultimately the global economy. 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 notes “The world economy relies upon complex, nested, and interconnected systems to deliver goods and services around the globe. While this approach has many benefits, it is based on analysis and modelling which sees individuals as rational, welfare-maximising individual agents- rather than agents interacting through human-made systems such as communities, companies and countries. Severe distress from social isolation, loneliness, financial stress and unemployment can collapse individual resilience, and hence system resilience. For example, the COVID-19 crisis shows how it has reduced the resilience of key systems to shocks and allowed failures to cascade from one system to others. A Brain Capital Investment Plan to optimize widespread resilience is proposed to prepare socioeconomic systems for future shocks.”

The Brain Capital Investment Plan is comprehensive and suggests more activity is required in the following areas:
• Venture capital
• Social impact investing
• Philanthropy
• Seed funding early-stage technologies
• Megafunds
• Healthy brain bonds
• Specialized ESG Exchange Traded Funds

“We are encouraged to see more investment from venture capital into early-stage brain health technology companies. Predictions suggest that more than USD $1 billion will be invested into this area in the coming year”, noted Mark Heinemeyer, CEO of PRODEO, a brain health technology commercialization group.

“The global community needs to see more investment from other established corporations to invest more in new innovations for sufferers of brain health conditions e.g., pharma, biotech, and medical device, and even social media platforms and consumer electronics companies”, noted Harris Eyre MD PhD, Adjunct Associate Professor with The Institute for Mental and Physical Health and Clinical Translation at Deakin University.

“Three distinct but interrelated drivers have arisen from the COVID-19 pandemic and are presenting challenges to America’s mental health: the COVID-19 disease itself, the mitigation effects intended to keep people and communities safe, and the economic fallout and massive unemployment that continues to unfold”, notes Cara Altimus, Director of Neuroscience for the Milken Institute Center for Strategic Philanthropy. “This present moment is a clarion call for the philanthropic community, which is uniquely positioned to lead a multipronged approach to meet the pressing need in two distinct ways. First, in the short term, the immediate mental health crisis can be mitigated by supporting interventions for the most vulnerable Americans, the development and deployment of rapidly available mental health tools and technologies, and research to drive evidence-based responses to COVID-19-related mental health challenges. Second, philanthropy is poised to address the long-term mental health impacts caused by the pandemic. There is an ongoing and urgent need for targeted investment in research to better understand, treat, and cure mental health conditions, build capacity and diversity within the mental health system, and advocate for social and policy solutions to improve the ecosystem of mental health care in the United States.”

To read more about the Brain Capital Investment Plan, please see a recent Guest Editorial in Molecular Psychiatry.

The OECD will be holding a Brain Capital Seminar on January 27th, 2021, with guest speakers to include the OECD Secretary General Angel Gurria, Admiral Bill McRaven (former head of the United States Special Operations Command) and Tom Leppert (former CEO of Kaplan and former Mayor of Dallas). See the webcast here: