The Brain Gauge: A revolutionary tool for assessing brain health.
Imagine a world where brain health could be measured in a manner as simply as taking your temperature. Check the reading, and you have your answer. Essentially a 1-2 minute task would give you an idea about the status of your brain health. You could immediately determine if that hit your child took to the head playing sports caused a concussion or see if the age of your parents was starting to have an effect on their brain function. Or maybe you want to see if supplements can do the brain enhancing stuff that people claim that they do. Treatments for neurological disorders are often educated guesswork at best; without guidance as to whether they are working you are at the whim of non-objective means to determine what to do.
What would be the applications for such a measure of brain health? Use your imagination. Treatments for virtually any neurological disorder – from traumatic brain injury (or concussion) to developmental disorders (e.g., autism, ADHD, OCD, schizophrenia) to neurodegenerative disorders (e.g. Parkinson’s, aging dementias) to chronic pain would benefit from being able to measure both short-term and long-term treatment outcomes. How many supplements and/or nootropics have you seen advertised that tell you that they improve brain function? With a way to measure their impact on brain function, you could actually determine not only whether they work, but how to optimize their use.
These are the kinds of discussions that Bob Dennis and I had when he moved across the hall from me at the University of North Carolina. I envisioned a method that would be simple and objective for testing brain health. Neither one of us liked where the health care system was leading people – especially in the field of brain health diagnostics. More and more procedures that continued to increase in cost and yet no real solutions were on the horizon. There were virtually no methods that we could envision that clinicians could use routinely that would be objective, quantitative and low cost. And there was even less of a chance that these methods, even if they did work, could be used by individuals to monitor their own brain health. The more Bob and I talked, the more we realized we were on the same philosophical page. So we embarked on a journey that initiated the Brain Gauge well over a decade ago. Although it’s not quite as simple as taking someone’s temperature, it’s getting pretty close. There are very few, if any, other methods that have the portability and ease of use that provide both clinicians and individuals a way to investigate brain health with objective and quantitative measures that relate to brain function. In short, it’s a revolution in brain health assessments and we are thoroughly enjoying the interactions that we are having with the Brain Gauge community of end users that continue to propel the methods forward. This book describes some aspects of the Brain Gauge and if you are a hard core academic researcher, the read would be a bit of a disappointment because I left that writing style in the publications. This text is meant to be easy and entertaining to read!
There is a growing revolution in medicine, and people that are taking their health into their own hands are leading the way. For many years, individuals have had the ability to measure their physical health in many ways – from taking their temperature to measuring heart rate or heart rate variability and blood pressure to simply seeing how fast they can run or how much weight they can lift. Athletes and biohackers have led the way in finding out what exercises to do, what supplements to take and what life style changes have on physical health. Many people are starting to discover that they can determine what is best for them in terms of improving their physical well-being.
The Brain Gauge is a revolutionary tool – it puts significant scientific power into the hands of individuals that want to not only test their brain function but investigate how their brain function changes under different circumstances. Many clinicians are beginning to understand that the best tools to study brain health are right at their fingertips – literally – and are not necessarily the most expensive. Having a tool that can be used to measure different aspects of brain function gives everyone a chance to have a say in their brain health.
The single most important thing that we want to do with the Brain Gauge is to share the knowledge that has taken us decades to obtain. What’s the point in writing scientific papers if what we have learned has no practical value? Although we are still committed to conducting research – after all, that was the initial reason for developing the Brain Gauge – we want people to benefit from our research rather than having it go into a scientific journal and collecting dust (admittedly a figurative statement, since most of our papers are online and never actually get printed!). What’s the best way for people to benefit from the science of the Brain Gauge? The obvious answer is to provide a user guide that directly demonstrates how someone can test themselves, and perhaps, just maybe - how they can develop their own methods for optimizing their brain health. Every individual is different and the only way to truly determine the impact of something on brain health – whether it be a neurological insult such as concussion, pain, dementia or pharmacologic – is to measure it. And the only way to determine if treatments, supplements or nootropics are working to fix that insult is (you probably guessed it) is to measure it. It constantly amazes us when we see or hear advertisements for things that will boost brain health without any quantifiable or objective measures. Then again, I had a conversation with a supplement salesman last year who expressed interest in the Brain Gauge that ended when he asked if the Brain Gauge could show that the supplements that he was selling were working. My response was “only if the supplements actually work”, at which point he lost interest. The point? Do your own research to answer the questions that interest you and hopefully, we have provided the means for you to do that research. This book is really only a primer to give the reader some insights into what the Brain Gauge does, a bit about how it works and a little about why we developed it in the first place.