The brain is by far the most complicated puzzle in the human body. It’s always been very mysterious. Aristotle, for example, thought the brain helps cool the heart. Over time, of course, doctors have come to know much more about the brain. Some very recent innovations are helping scientists understand the brain better than ever before.
Big data has changed the way medical science works today. For example, with the expansion of storage and processing capacities, it costs less than ever before to sequence a genome. This means researchers are getting closer than ever before to uncovering which genes affect diseases like Alzheimer’s. Big data is making it possible for researchers to compare data collected from more patients than ever before. Seeing these patterns is key to effective diagnosis and treatment.
Continuous, real-time monitoring is also changing the way doctors treat patients with neurological problems. Being able to track patients from anywhere means that doctors can tell whether or not they’re following medical advice. Smart devices can also read signals from the brain. They can notice patterns indicating that a seizure or other event is about to take place. For patients with ALS (or Lou Gehrig’s disease), monitoring devices can help them communicate with robotic devices. This allows them to have better motor control.
New digital platforms are also driving costs down. They’re making it easier for patients to access their records and book appointments. Telemedicine is making it possible for people in rural areas to access highly qualified specialists. For neurologists and mental health specialists, being able to communicate with underserved patients has been a goal for years. New technology in the form of big data is poised to make it easier to understand common issues like anxiety, bipolar disorder and depression. Advances in telecommunications have the potential to bring counseling services to many, many more people around the world. VR environments hold a lot of promise for therapies related to phobias and PTSD.
This is one of the most interesting times in history for the field of neuroscience. Researchers are poised to understand the mysteries of the brain that have flummoxed doctors for hundreds of years. Hopefully, patients will start to see relief for disorders that have seemed intractable until now.