04. Wellness

Neurotechnologies for Brain Health and Wellness in the Digital Age

January 18, 2024

In today's digital era, technology plays an integral role in our daily lives. From smartphones to wearable devices, we are constantly surrounded by a sea of technology. While this technological revolution has undoubtedly improved various aspects of our lives, it has also raised concerns about its impact on brain health and cognitive performance. Here we will cover some insights of 4 key neurotechnologies currently available, as well explore the potential risks of chronic digital media use and strategies to off-set them.

EEG Headsets and Neurofeedback

Electroencephalography (EEG) headsets are worn on the scalp to measure and record electrical activity in the brain. These headsets can be used to assess attention levels, mental workload, and even emotional states. They are increasingly adopted for cognitive training and brain-computer interface applications.

Neurofeedback systems utilize real-time EEG brainwave data to train individuals to regulate their brain activity. By providing feedback on brain states, these systems can enhance cognitive abilities such as attention and focus.

Typically, they involve efforts to regulate brainwaves into states associated with more focus or calmness, with visualizations or simple games which indicate how successfully brainwaves are changing in the moment.

The goal is to learn awareness of these preferred mind states and to be able to get into them on demand, for instance when they are helpful in dealing with challenging or stressful real-world situations. DIY apps and headsets allow individuals to practice this method independently, with Muse being one of the most popular options on the market.

However, Neurofeedback has also become a go-to tool for many clinical professionals working with patients in mental health and wellness domains, who typically used more sophisticated techniques, often in conjunction with other therapies such as cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT).

HRV Biofeedback

HeartMath is an example a biofeedback product that helps individuals tap into the power and intelligence of their heart to manage stress and improve well-being.

HRV (Heart Rate Variability) is the variation in time between heartbeats, and it reflects the body's ability to adapt to changing conditions, as well as providing indications of psychological status, including measuring flow states.

HeartMath's HRV biofeedback techniques allow users to measure and monitor their short-term HRV, providing real-time feedback on their heart rhythm and variability. Through practice, individuals can learn to self-regulate their heart rhythm patterns and attain a state of coherence, which is a state of optimal physiological functioning and emotional balance. This is done through training techniques such as heart-focused breathing, positive emotional focus, and fostering appreciation or gratitude.

Wearables for Sleep Monitoring

Wearables’ are small sensing devices which are usually paired with smartphones. In terms of brain health they are most commonly used for sleep monitoring, providing individuals with insights into their sleep quality and patterns. These devices, such as fitness trackers and smartwatches worn on the body, utilize various sensors and technologies to track sleep-related data1.

By gathering data on movement and activity throughout the night, sleep duration and quality can be estimated on a daily basis and tracked over time. Some devices also include additional features like heart rate monitoring and pulse oximetry to provide more detailed information on sleep stages and oxygen levels during sleep.

One popular example of a wearable for sleep monitoring is Fitbit (now owned by Google). This devices use a combination of accelerometer data and heart rate monitoring to provide insights into sleep patterns, giving personalized sleep scores and recommendations on better sleep habits.

By using wearables for sleep monitoring, individuals can gain a better understanding of their sleep patterns and make informed decisions to improve their sleep quality and overall well-being. However, the downside may be overthinking sleep or a tendency towards obsessive monitoring, potentially hindering some of the benefits.

Cognitive Training

NeuroTracker is an example of a neurotechnology with wide scientific validation for its efficacy in measuring and improving cognitive performance with training. It involves performing a multiple object tracking task in stereo 3D, which takes 6-minutes to complete.

Over 100 independently published research papers have demonstrated its effectiveness for improving high-level cognitive functions, as well as real-world performance. The research spans low-functioning populations with neurodevelopmental or cognitive impairment issues, through to high-performance domains such as elite sports, professional Esports, fighter pilots and military special forces.

Collectively NeuroTracker research shows that 6-minutes training provides a sensitive measure of cognitive status, even predicting daily work performance, and that 3 hours of distributed training produces significant and measurable gains in cognitive performance.

Social Media and Screen Time - Friend or Foe?

The widespread use of digital devices and social media platforms has become an integral part of modern life. From computer gaming to smartphone use and social media, highly interactive digital medias have become wildly popular, yet at the same time which have been associated with compulsive behaviors and decreases in mental wellness. Here are some of the concerns which emerged regarding their impact on brain health and cognitive performance.

Sleep Disruption: The blue light emitted by digital screens can interfere with the production of melatonin, a hormone that regulates sleep-wake cycles. Prolonged exposure to screens before bedtime can disrupt sleep patterns, leading to reductions in cognitive performance and overall well-being.

Social Media and Mental Health: While social media allows us to connect with others and share experiences, excessive use has been linked to negative impacts on mental health along with a reduction of in-person social activities. Research has found strong links between heavy social media usage and increased stress, anxiety, and feelings of loneliness, which in turn can affect cognitive functioning.

Attention and Cognitive Control: The constant influx of notifications, messages, and scrolling through social media feeds can lead to reduced attention spans and difficulties in maintaining cognitive control. Research suggests that excessive screen time can impair attention and cognitive performance, particularly in tasks requiring sustained focus.

On the flip side the digital age has very much taken hold in most people’s lives for many positive reasons, and with the dramatic rise of AI it is certainly here to stay. To find a balance, digital well-being strategies have come to the foreground, such as setting screen time limits, practicing mindful technology use, and engaging in regular offline activities.

Similarly, the concept of digital detox has emerged. This involves taking frequent short breaks from digital media, increased focus on in-person social activities such as playing sports, or extended breaks through digital detox retreats and spending quality time in natural environments.

The key factor here is providing the brain and mind some respite to allow for cognitive restoration from chronic exposure to digital media. In this light, the neurotechnologies mentioned above may also play a useful role in off-setting or helping to monitor and manage some of the side effects of our digitally focused lifestyles.


As well as the potential risks associated with excessive technology use, there also are many benefits to be gained from the rise of technologies designed to optimize brain health and performance.

Neurotechnologies and validated cognitive training apps offer opportunities for individuals to engage in brain-stimulating activities to enhance cognitive performance and adapt our behaviors for better overall wellness in the digital age. As technology continues to evolve and pervade our lives at an ever-increasing pace, finding this balance between the pros and cons of technology will only become more important.

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