Is Neurotechnology The Future Of Mental Health Treatment?

Is Neurotechnology The Future Of Mental Health Treatment?

By Beth Leipholtz 03/21/19

Scientists believe that one day neurotechnology may be able to erase mental illness from the brain.

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scientists using technology to examine depression in the brain

Imagine being able to completely erase any unpleasant thought from your brain.  

For some future-oriented people, this idea may not be too far-fetched. According to OZY, some believe that one day, humans may be able to erase depression and other mental health issues from our brains via neurotechnology. 

In simple terms, neurotechnology has to do with mapping activity in the brain and stimulating the brain via magnetic pulses. Neurotechnology could allow a medical professional to examine the brain and determine which parts link to depression, then deactivate that area. 

Although the idea exists, the implementation is a ways off. 

“First, we need to better understand the neural circuits that are responsible for those kinds of mental states,” E.J. Chichilnisky, lead researcher in the Stanford NeuroTechnology Initiative, tells OZY. “In the future, the hope is that, rather than just hit a reset button, we can dialectically manipulate the system in order to put things in a better state.”

But if it comes to the point where this type of neurotechnology is possible, it begs the question: just because we can, does that mean we should? 

In his book The Hypomanic Edge, psychiatrist John D. Gartner points out that in some cases, those with diagnoses such as bipolar disorder actually experience benefits, too, and disabling that portion of the brain would rid them of those. 

“Hypomania is a kind of sub-manic state where people with bipolar have an enormous amount of energy, confidence, drive and creativity,” Gartner writes. 

While this type of neurotechnology does not yet exist, other helpful technologies could be closer to reality. According to OZY, a neural implant could one day help predict depression symptoms before they take hold. 

Then there’s the technology that already exists, OZY points out, such as the mobile app 7 Cups which allows users to anonymously reach out for help via their phones.

“People have 2,600–2,700 touches on their cell phones per day,” Arpan Waghray, psychiatrist and chief medical officer for Well Being Trust, tells OZY. “We now have a way in which we can continuously monitor for certain symptoms.”

Despite the forward steps in technology, the future of mental health isn’t all focused there. In fact, going back to the basics continues to be vital for maintaining one’s mental health. 

According to OZY, one example is getting good quality sleep. In 2007, founder of the Huffington Post Arianna Huffington fell and broke her cheekbone due to exhaustion. After the experience, she started Thrive Global, an organization that promotes a healthy lifestyle.

“Chronic sleep problems are found in 50 to 80 percent of those seeking help for mental health issues,” Huffington said. “Sleep deprivation always predisposes us to rumination, to negative bias, to those things that, if they’re not arrested, become depression and anxiety.”

For more information on these topics, check out OZY’s new podcast, The Future of X

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Beth is a Minnesota girl who got sober at age 20. By day she is a website designer, and in her spare time she enjoys writing about recovery at www.lifetobecontinued.com, doing graphic design and spending time with her boyfriend and three dogs. Find Beth on LinkedInInstagram and Twitter.

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