Brain Capital: A New Investment Approach for Late-Life Well-Being

To solve late-life brain challenges spanning dementias, depression, anxiety, social isolation, workplace changes and disinformation — a novel approach is needed. Could an economic focus on brain health be the answer?  

Exploring Brain Capital 

Harris Eyre, is a medical doctor, Adjunct Associate Professor at Deakin University and co-lead of the Organisation for Economic Co-Operation and Development’s Neuroscience Inspired Policy Initiative 

He works to combine research that can be translated into real-world settings, economics, international diplomacy, commercialisation and investment strategies.  

Working with emerging technologies, his current research focus is the concept of ‘Brain Capital’. In simple terms, Brain Capital emphasises the economic importance of our brains and encompasses interpersonal factors such as critical thinking and emotional resilience. 

The term was first coined in 2011 by the Canadian-led Global Business and Economic Roundtable on Addiction and Mental Health. For Dr Eyre, he says he first heard of Brain Capital at a chance meeting at a conference and was instantly intrigued. 

‘We define Brain Capital as an economic asset which integrates brain health and brain skills in the knowledge economy,’ Dr Eyre says.  

‘We must recognise and highlight that brain skills and brain health are a vital component of a successful knowledge economy.’ 

Dr Eyre has taken the idea and run with it, opening the concept to research across the lifespan.  

How Australia can invest in Brain Capital 

In Australia, IMPACT is leading this ground-breaking field of research, where Dr Eyre and his colleagues have spent the past two years working to bring the idea of Brain Capital across diverse fields. 

In a new article, authored by Dr Eyre and IMPACT Director, Professor Michael Berk, a global team of 25 experts from around the world have proposed a new approach to elevate health and well-being by optimising late-life Brain Capital. 

The paper, Investing in Late-Life Brain Capital published in the Innovations in Aging journal, highlights and seeks to drive investment into later-life Brain Capital, for individuals over 60 years of age. 

The paper reveals that within many societies and cultures around the world, older adults are too often undervalued and underappreciated. This exacerbates many key challenges that older adults may face and also undermines the many positive aspects of late-life that are of value at both an individual and societal level.  

The paper argues that environmental, social and governance (ESG) approaches have driven positive business and societal value; however, they are incomplete. Incorporating Brain Capital into ESG frameworks would provide a more comprehensive, robust approach to create long-term positive impacts for the economy, the environment, and all stakeholders. 

While this is an emerging area of research, Dr Eyre stresses the need for more work to be done. 

‘We urgently need a new transdisciplinary model for brain health, which prioritises one of our most important societal assets: our brains during one of the dramatic demographic shifts of the century,’ he says.  

Vital research for greater change 

Importantly, the research informs and complements the findings of  TheRoyal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety. The Final Report of the Commission was titled Care, Dignity and Respect.  

It the report’s final notes from Royal Commissioners Tony Pagone QC and Lynell Briggs AO wrote:   

‘The extent of substandard care in Australia’s aged care system reflects both poor quality on the part of some aged care providers and fundamental systemic flaws with the way the Australian aged care system is designed and governed. People receiving aged care deserve better. The Australian community is entitled to expect better. 

‘To deliver an entitlement to high quality care and support for older people, and to ensure that they receive it. The care and support must be safe and timely and must assist older people to live an active, self-determined and meaningful life in a safe and caring environment that allows for dignified living in old age.’ 

Dr Eyre is hopeful that future work can work across multiple sectors to find solutions. ‘Careful work is required to knit together public health, neuroscience-inspired innovations, policy, diplomacy, economics, responsible innovation and finance,’ he says. 

To read more about Brain Capital, explore the previous articles about Brain Capital in the first five years of life and on youth mental health. 

Read the new paper, Investing in Late-Life Brain Capital, by Dr Harris and colleagues in the latest edition of the Innovations in Aging journal, here 

 Grand Round Webinar

Don’t miss The Barwon Health and Deakin University Research Grand Round Webinar Series on Tuesday 24 May. Find out more here.

New Approaches to Building Australian Brain Infrastructure: Insights from Brain Capital. Brought to you by IMPACT. Presented by: 

  • Dr Harris Eyre, Co-lead, OECD-PRODEO Institute Neuroscience-inspired Policy Initiative (NIPI) supported by the Meadows Mental Health Policy Institute, Adjunct Associate Professor with IMPACT at Deakin
  • Mr Matt Wright, Partner, Deloitte Access Economics
  • Hon Jay Weatherill AO, CEO of Thrive by Five of the Minderoo Foundation and former Premier of South Australia