Center for BrainHealth Conducts National Study

The Center for BrainHealth is conducting a 10-year study which involves testing calculated thinking strategies to expand the capacity of the human brain. Photo by Anna Phengsakmueang | Mercury Staff.

Research aims to unlock human brain’s potential by including over 120,000 participants in coming decade

The BrainHealth Project, a research study headed by UTD’s Center for BrainHealth, is confronting the challenge of enhancing the brain’s potential through a national study involving 120,000 people throughout the next 10 years. 

BrainHealth Project Leader Sandra Chapman said she and her team are trying to change the way people view their brains with this project.

“Everyone right now has a lot of stigma and worry about their brain because they think about it as testing of IQ that’s fixed (and can’t be changed), but not, ‘What can I do to keep a mental edge?’” Chapman said. “We’re going to change and turn on its head the way we look at our human brain.”

The study is currently projected to reach 120,000 participants across the nation over the next 10 years, but Chapman said those estimates will increase. The project’s overview document also states that the main goal of the study is moving the focus of clinicians and scientists from general brain health to improving the brain’s potential.

“We have the immense potential to keep our brain functioning stronger every single day,” Chapman said. “I think, for me as a cognitive neuroscientist, one of the most surprising things is that compared to other aspects of our health, the brain is the only part of our body that we only focus on when something goes wrong.”

Recent studies regarding brain health have shown that carefully designed tactical thinking strategies, when combined with lifestyle changes, have the potential to drastically enhance the capacity of brains, according to the project overview. The study aims to determine which training patterns work best when it comes to improving the brain’s performance. Chapman  said the study will test brain measures, cognitive measures, psychological well-being, the complexity of what people are tackling in everyday life and social connectedness.

 “I think that it’s going to be a very big explosion for what can happen out of UTD,” Chapman said.

Chapman said the study attracted partners from major institutions such as Stanford, MIT, Harvard and UC Berkeley. She said initially she wasn’t confident that UTD would be able to lead the project when it started attracting east coast institutions such as Johns Hopkins and Harvard but was surprised when each of the institutions chose UTD to lead the study.

She said for her, the most exciting part is removing the societal stigma surrounding brains and brain health.

“It is going to transform humanity,” Chapman said. “To be the best version of yourself and to make sure our brain gets better and better every year instead of thinking in this limited way about the most amazing engine that was ever created — it’s exciting.”

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