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On building better brains at any age, treating Depression vs. Dementia, emerging neurotechnologies, psychedelics, and more

Welcome to a new edition of SharpBrains’ e‑newsletter, featuring eleven new research findings and innovative resources for lifelong cognitive and brain health.

#1. Debate: Are depression and dementia two sides of the same coin? And, if they are, how to best approach treatment?

#2. Either way, the earlier the better, but it’s never too late: New book outlines the five lifestyle pillars to “build a better brain at any age”

#3. “If I were a cardiologist evaluating a patient’s chest pain, for instance, I would speak with the patient, but then I would listen to their heart and measure their pulse and blood pressure. I might order an electrocardiogram or a cardiac stress test, tools that weren’t available a century ago. Because I’m a psychiatrist, however, I evaluate patients in precisely the same way that my predecessors did in 1920…” Reading Our Minds: New book issues strong call to action to … Read the rest

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In California, Nursing Home Owners Can Operate After They’re Denied a License

The pandemic has highlighted poor care in America’s nursing homes, where nearly 175,000 people have died of covid-19 — a third of all deaths from the disease nationwide.


This story is part of a partnership that includes KPCC, NPR and KHN. It can be republished for free.

Even before the pandemic, patient advocates pointed to dangerous conditions in U.S. nursing homes, including staffing shortages and infection control failures. Many nursing homes didn’t provide quality care, they charged.

Studies have found that homes owned by for-profit entities racked up more deficiencies and had lower staffing levels, compared with nonprofit facilities. And as the number of for-profit nursing home chains has increased, industry watchdogs and patient advocates say, states aren’t doing enough to vet nursing home owners.

California is home to about 1,200 licensed nursing homes. Those facilities care for 100,000 nursing home patients — the biggest nursing home population of any … Read the rest

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KHN’s ‘What the Health?’: The Return of the Public Option

Can’t see the audio player? Click here to listen on SoundCloud. You can also listen on on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, Pocket Casts or wherever you listen to podcasts.

The “public option” is back — both in Washington, D.C., and the states. President Joe Biden as a candidate supported the idea of a government-run or heavily regulated insurance plan that would compete with private insurance. But until now it has been more of a concept than a plan. Two top health leaders in Congress say they will try to put a plan together, while public options in various forms work their way through legislatures in Colorado and Nevada.

Meanwhile, bioethicists are debating whether the U.S. should be vaccinating low-risk adolescents against covid-19 while high-risk adults in other countries remain vulnerable.

This week’s panelists are Julie Rovner of KHN, Margot Sanger-Katz of The New York Times, Alice Miranda Ollstein of Politico … Read the rest

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Akili Interactive Labs raises $160M in equity and debt to transform cognitive healthcare via prescription videogame treatments

Akili raises $110m to build its digital therapeutics pipeline (pharmaforum):

EndeavorRx became the first and so far only approved prescription video game treatment in the US when it was cleared by the FDA last year to treat attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and has also been given a green light in Europe.

It is also being tested for other indications including fuzzy thinking in COVID-19 survivors, a condition sometimes known as ‘brain fog’.

The new funding, which is accompanied by a $50 million loan facility, is earmarked for the continued rollout of the app as well as Akili’s pipeline of prescription digital therapeutics for “a range of chronic and acute cognitive disorders,” said the Boston-based company.

The Series D was led by Neuberger Berman Funds and included a string of other investors, including venture capital arms of drugmakers like Shionogi, Amgen and Merck KGaA … Other programmes in the R&D phase

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Minneapolis Police Injured Protesters With Rubber Bullets. The City Has Taken Little Action.

(Editor’s note: This is a follow-up to last year’s joint investigation by KHN and USA Today finding that police in several cities violated their own crowd-control policies during protests over racial injustice and police brutality.)

As police in riot gear approached the demonstrators, Soren Stevenson raised his hands like scores of others and called out, “Hands up, don’t shoot.”


This story also ran on USA Today. It can be republished for free.

Suddenly, tear gas canisters and rubber bullets rained down.

The demonstrators had gathered for a sixth straight day to decry Minneapolis police officers’ use-of-force practices after the slaying of an unarmed Black man named George Floyd.

On May 31, 2020, the protesters were under fire.

Stevenson, a graduate student at the University of Minnesota Humphrey School of Public Affairs, lost his left eye after an officer fired a plastic-tipped round at him — even though Minneapolis Police Department … Read the rest

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Corporations Encourage Employee Vaccination but Stop Short of Mandates


This story also ran on U.S. News & World Report. It can be republished for free.

Many of the companies with the largest number of employees say they’ll do almost anything to encourage their employees to get vaccinated. But a survey of some of them found that none would be inclined to mandate shots as a condition for holding a job.

Almost all 15 companies surveyed — among the largest and most influential Fortune 500 companies — have strong pro-vaccine messages from their corporate leadership, emphasizing that the shots can both help protect individuals and bring the pandemic to a close.

CVS Health, which administers covid vaccines as part of the federal pharmacy distribution program, says it strongly encourages the shots for its employees “from a public health standpoint” but won’t mandate them. Starbucks is also encouraging the shots “to help mitigate the spread of COVID-19,” but also doesn’t mandate … Read the rest

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Artificial Intelligence (AI)-enabled chatbot Wysa raises $5.5M to broaden access to mental health support

Wysa’s AI-Guided Mental Health Platform Closes $5.5M Series A to Bridge the Gap in Employee Mental Health (press release):

“Wysa, the leading global AI-powered mental health platform, today, during Mental Health Awareness Month, announced a $5.5M Series A financing round led by W Health Ventures, a Boston-based digital health investor. Others participating in the round include the Google Assistant Investment program, and existing investors pi Ventures and Kae Capital. Wysa will use this capital to support its offering to employers who want to expand their mental health benefits, as well as scale up Wysa’s sales team and therapist network.

“We are impressed with Wysa’s uncompromising clinical safety and unparalleled patient-centricity. It maintains a near-perfect rating from approximately 100,000 reviews resulting from over 100 million conversations,” said Dr. Pankaj Jethwani, Executive Vice President at W Health Ventures. “As we enter the second year of the pandemic, so many people are struggling

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Is Your Living Room the Future of Hospital Care?

Major hospital systems are betting big money that the future of hospital care looks a lot like the inside of patients’ homes.


This story also ran on Fortune. It can be republished for free.

Hospital-level care at home — some of it provided over the internet — is poised to grow after more than a decade as a niche offering, boosted both by hospitals eager to ease overcrowding during the pandemic and growing interest by insurers who want to slow health care spending. But a host of challenges remain, from deciding how much to pay for such services to which kinds of patients can safely benefit.

Under the model, patients with certain medical conditions, such as pneumonia or heart failure — even moderate covid — are offered high-acuity care in their homes, with 24/7 remote monitoring and daily visits by medical providers.

In the latest sign that the idea is … Read the rest

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Colorado Will Pay Hospitals to Close Expensive Free-Standing ERs

Colorado health officials so abhor the high costs associated with free-standing emergency rooms they’re offering to pay hospitals to shut the facilities down.


This story also ran on Fortune. It can be republished for free.

The state wants hospitals to convert them to other purposes, such as providing primary care or mental health services.

At least 500 free-standing ERs have set up in more than 20 states in the past decade. Colorado has 44, 34 owned by hospitals.

The trend began a decade ago with hopes these stand-alone facilities would fill a need for ER care when no hospital was nearby and reduce congestion at hospital ERs.

But that rarely happened.

Instead, these emergency rooms — not physically connected to hospitals — generally set up in affluent suburban communities, often near hospitals that compete with the free-standing ERs’ owners. And they largely treated patients who did not need emergency care, … Read the rest

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KHN Journalists Comment on Abortion Case, Wasted Covid Doses

KHN chief Washington correspondent Julie Rovner discussed the Supreme Court’s decision to hear a challenge in an abortion case from Mississippi on Newsy on Tuesday.

  • Click here to watch Rovner on Newsy

KHN freelancer Sara Reardon discussed allegations by a rail company that a clinic in Libby, Montana, is defrauding Medicare by overdiagnosing asbestos-related diseases on Montana Public Radio on May 13.

  • Click here to hear Reardon on Montana Public Radio
  • Read Reardon’s “In Poisoned Montana Town, Warren Buffett-Owned Railroad Accuses Clinic of Medicare Fraud“

California Healthline correspondent Angela Hart discussed how the pandemic has shaped California Gov. Gavin Newsom’s political outlook on KCBS’ “The State of California” on May 12.

  • Click here to hear Hart on KCBS
  • Read Hart’s “Salesforce, Google, Facebook. How Big Tech Undermines California’s Public Health System“

KHN freelancer Joshua Eaton discussed how CVS and Walgreens account for the majority of wasted covid-19 vaccines on NPR’s … Read the rest

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