Three rapid-launch research initiatives seek to advance the development of brain health metrics

Center for BrainHealth® is excited to announce three rapid-launch research initiatives seeking to advance the development of the first objective metrics of improved brain systems in response to interventions. The projects, funded by a transformative investment from Sammons Enterprises, will leverage the massive individual brain data from The BrainHealth Project to determine what changes in the brain’s physiology, structure and function are linked to gains in comprehensive psycho-social measurements over time.

Right now, brain assessments are solely focused on early detection of brain decline or damage. The time is now to transform this outdated approach and seek ways to measure brain betterment. Scientists at Center for BrainHealth are on a quest to discover markers of the brain getting better in response to brain health trainings, lifestyle habits and treatment regimes. The BrainHealth Project is providing rich, valuable data that is allowing us to do just that – not only to address whether individuals can maintain brain health or forestall decline but also to see whether they can take steps and show measurable brain improvement over time.”


Sandra Bond Chapman, PhD, chief director of Center for BrainHealth and Dee Wyly Distinguished Professor, School of Behavioral and Brain Sciences, The University of Texas at Dallas

The first project, Validating and Identifying Biomarkers Experimentally (VIBE), will use neuroimaging data from The BrainHealth Project to glean insight into how the brain’s blood flow and connectivity change as an individual engages in brain health trainings and shows gains on a composite BrainHealth Index. These physiological features, in turn, will be used to validate the structure of the BrainHealth Index (BHI), a proprietary assessment of overall brain performance that is measured by a comprehensive set of scientifically robust metrics of cognitive, emotional, social and real-life functioning. The investigators team includes director of biostatistics Jeff Spence, PhD, computational neuroscientist Monroe Turner, PhD, professor and Meadows Foundation Endowed Chair in Behavioral and Brain Sciences Bart Rypma, PhD, and research scientist Sergey Cheshkov, PhD.

The second project, Linking Functional and Structural Neuroimaging Markers to Brain Health, uses a different machine learning approach to big data analytics to determine differences in the brain’s connectivity as brain health gets better. Vince Calhoun, PhD, the Jane and Bud Smith Chair, and Jeff Spence will use functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) and structural MRI (sMRI) data to determine which aspects of the brain’s neural activity predict response to interventions, cross-validate the behavioral measure of brain health with brain changes and evaluate big data approaches to further optimize the BHI using neuroimaging data.

The third project, Collaborative Data Sharing Dashboard, seeks to create a structure and system to securely share data from The BrainHealth Project platform with other researchers. The team includes Aaron Tate, director of emerging technology, Lori Cook, PhD, CCC-SLP, director of clinical research, Julie Fratantoni, PhD, CCC-SLP, head of operations for The BrainHealth Project, and Zhengsi Chang, data analyst. The researchers’ objective is to create an accessible application portal to advance Project-related research objectives, foster more productive collaboration and attract new researchers to the platform. This opportunity to make rich, protected data available to researchers everywhere will help to address an infinite number of brain health questions.

In the longer term, these projects will contribute to the development of predictive models for the early detection, interception and prevention of cognitive decline at the earliest time point using machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI). “This work is life changing. For the first time, we are looking beyond reactive measures and thinking proactively about ways to improve and elevate brain health starting young,” said Chapman. “We want to help people make positive changes to their brains and redefine what it means to flourish as individuals, a community, and a society.”

The scientific review committee consisted of three esteemed reviewers: Dr. Geoffrey Ling, Jean Ann Brock BrainHealth Project Co-Leader; Dr. Mark D’Esposito, Distinguished BrainHealth Scientist Collaborator for The BrainHealth Project; and Dr. Ian Robertson, T. Boone Pickens Distinguished Chair and Co-Leader for The BrainHealth Project. The committee will meet on a regular basis to ensure rapid progress and achievement of milestones.These projects were made possible by Sammons Enterprises, which recently gave Center for BrainHealth the largest single corporate gift in its history and kicked off the public phase of its Limitless BrainHealth comprehensive campaign – one more way this transformational investment is turbo-charging the center’s ability to pioneer, test and deliver novel metrics that assess gains in brain health and performance. More rapid launch projects will be funded in the coming year.

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