Raising awareness of brain research

By Damaris Critchlow, Frontiers Science Writer

Since January 2014 the European Brain Council found the cost of brain disorders across Europe was just short of €800 billion, which is more than is spent on cancer, diabetes and cardiovascular diseases put together.

Dr. Mary Baker is the current President of the Year of the Brain and former President of the European Brain Council. She explains that the idea of the Year of the Brain is to raise awareness of the importance of the brain.

Baker says she wants to change the discrepancy between the implications of brain disorders and the modest resources offered to brain research.

The unsustainable cost to society needs to be balanced with its importance. Dr. Baker explains the brain is at the core of society and “an organ of great resilience, so we want to inspire and also encourage the younger generation to nurture, to develop and above all to protect their brain.”

A three-fold mission to brain health

Baker’s husband suffered a stroke, and this firsthand experience has sharpened her awareness of the multi-faceted ways health and social care systems respond to illnesses across all aspects of life. All of these, she explains: “mount and there are many other people across Europe consuming an awful lot of these benefits so they become a cost.”

In response, the Year of the Brain has tried hard to raise awareness and recommend ways that we could reduce costs.

Dr. Baker explains the mission for Year of the Brain is: to prevent the preventable such as traumatic brain injury, alcohol injury to the brain, and perhaps stroke with the atrial fibrillation; examine those you can’t prevent, like Alzheimer’s, multiple sclerosis and Parkinson’s; and finally look at what more research needs to be done?

One of the projects found its inspiration from the Rugby World Cup, she says: “We hope to develop a concussion unit in UCL or Imperial in London, starting with rugby, hoping to go into other causes of concussion like Winter sports and other sports.’”

Although concussion is a major problem in sport, she explains: “nothing is really being done about this, with the help of the MRI scanners and better knowledge we could do a lot of work there.”

Dr. Baker is also working on fostering a healthy and positive mental life. She explains: “We’re trying very hard to do create a book for children. We want to lift them up, to show them what really matters, like contentment and happiness.’

Changing attitudes can change the future

Dr. Baker hopes that attitudes will change in the future. She states: “Health is wealth, and a healthy nation is a wealthy nation.”

Instead of discussing the cost of medicine, we should be discussing the cost on human wellbeing – explains Dr. Baker. Medicine is expensive and costly to produce, however when you see the difference it makes in a patient’s life – then that investment is worthwhile.

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