May is European Month of the Brain. This initiative is about increasing awareness of the importance of brain research and healthcare matters. This month there are a whole series of events going on all over Europe and in Ireland.
Putting on my hat as a social researcher, issues related to the brain are very relevant. Previously I conducted a very extensive study for the Mid-Western Health Board looking at the prevalence and needs of people with brain injuries in that region. This was a very interesting study but also very worrying to hear many stories from people with brain injuries that felt the health system had let them down. Of course a brain injury isn’t just something that impacts the sufferer but also there extended network that may have to care for them. So the social impacts can be extensive and generally long lasting.
I have also worked with the National Disability Authority looking at people’s attitudes towards mental health difficulties. When people were asked about their views on mental disabilities, they had the most negative views towards this group compared to any other disability group. This is worrying as it shows there is still the most stigma associated with mental problems.
Research has shown that those who have had direct contact with a person with a disability have more favourable attitudes towards people with disabilities generally. Interestingly some of these mental health difficulties are now very common, including stress, anxiety and depression. However a friend or family member may not recognise the problem as it may not be externally obvious like a physical disability would present itself.
Using the brain is even becoming more common as a research tool for social and market research. Using sensors placed on the scalp, the brain wave activity of participants can be measured thus giving an indication of the emotional state of the person. This is a way of bypassing the conscious mind in terms of understanding peoples behaviour. At my sister company Life and Balance Centre we already use this technology for improving health http://www.lifeandbalance.ie/sub-page/Biofeedback-and-Neurofeedback-Training/88905
If you’re interested in your brain which I hope you are, you can see more about the events in your country here. http://ec.europa.eu/research/conferences/2013/brain-month/index_en.cfm