Hacking Mental Health

hackingmentalhealthMental health has seen some exciting developments in neuroscience, and for many it provides a framework for dealing with stress, anxiety, depression – or even just optimizing their mental health posture.

Dr. Jocelyn Sze in her post, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is for Hackers (http://cbtsanfrancisco.com/cbt-is-for-hackers/) describes CBT in a manner accessible to a population technological astute. Her triangle of Emotions, Thoughts and Behavior lays out how each impact the other; and, her ability to relate this in language that appeals to hackers, coders, or those just interested in the science of the brain makes the article readily accessible.

Sze lays out methods one can utilize as a DIY effort at CBT, and also provides an argument for seeking help on the journey. CBT is a process that takes time, practice, and effort, and sometimes having someone support and track your efforts objectively can help move the process along more effectively.

CBT is a well established therapy that aims at changing behavior – whether it is to learn or even unlearn – and the website http://ncase.me/neurons/ helps visualize the science behind it. With a simple interactive storyboard, Nicky Case displays how neurons in our brain form connections – and we can build or unbuild these connections with conscious practice. The website http://ncase.me/neurons/ is useful one for people of any age and only takes a few minutes to go through.

In one of Case’s simplified examples, a dog bite as a young person connects neurons Dog=Pain; but, overtime, if we expose ourselves to playful dogs, we can change those connections to Dog=Fun. It is a very basic idea to explain the complexity of how neurons in our brain determine how we act and react in the world.

The Washington Post has also reported on the gains in neuroscience with an artcle highlighting the work of Dr. Hasan Asif in Bronxville, NY. Dr. Asif utilizes brain imaging to identify areas of the brain that are overly and/or less active, and utilizes this information to help focus patients efforts. Asif studies a person’s brain circuitry, then creates a strategy based on psychological and physiological information. Strategies might include psychotherapy, drugs, or neurofeedback (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Neurofeedback) – the next step in biofeedback therapy.

There is an excellent video that helps people, children and adults, understand how the brain works making the science of neurons very accessible in fun and surprising ways. Definitely worth a watch.
BRAIN POWER: From Neurons to Networks