Mental health: Can technology and therapies other than pills provide solutions?

 In Articles

By Simona Mellino


Today, there seems to be an “app” or a gadget for everything. With mental health issues gaining visibility, we were curious to look into whether there were any “beyond the pill” services and products leveraging novel technologies to address issues around brain and mental health.

We started by looking into start-ups, but quickly realized it wasn’t quite so simple. As a result, we are highlighting a handful of solutions that are tech- and (sometimes) evidence-based, and often close to FDA approval.


What brain and mental health issues are we talking about?

The most common mental health disorders – depression, anxiety and somatic complaints-affect 1 in 3 people worldwide and constitute, according to the WHO, a serious public health problem. While many mental health disorders differ amongst each other, they all share some similar features:

  1. They have a high prevalence – According to a systematic review of 27 studies in Europe (2005), 27% of the adult population experienced at least one of a series of mental disorders. IHME data(2016) show that the most prevalent worldwide are anxiety disorders and depression, the latter being one of the main causes of disability worldwide.
  2. They are highly disabling – Neuropsychiatric disorders show high disability-adjusted life years (DALYs) and years of life lost (YLL). For example, according to the WHO Global Burden of Disease study, the YLL due to Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias doubled from 4.2 to 8.3 million between 2000 and 2012 worldwide.
  3. They primarily affect women–Prevalence rates for women are higher than for men for most mental disorders. According to IHME data (2016), for anxiety and bipolar disorder, higher prevalence in women was observed in all countries analysed in the study (global).


Who is playing in this space?

Venture capital funding in mental health and wellness has been increasing over the past years. The space of mindfulness, mental health, and therapy is nascent by some measures. However, the amount of money has increased significantly over a relatively short amount of time. This flow of capital has been going to different businesses that are building their products or services on anything from cognitive behavioural therapies to applied artificial intelligence.

For the sake of simplification, in this article we will segment the space according to three areas (a non-exhaustive list): general wellness and prevention, diagnosis and disorder management, and treatment.


General wellness and prevention

This segment focuses on building consumer products aimed at facilitating communication between patients and at providing educational content.

One example is Thrive Global, a private company founded by Arianna Huffington. Its objective is going beyond awareness and helping communities and people to improve their well-being, decrease stress, and reduce, if not even prevent, burnout. Thrive helps people to reach their personal goals by providing recommendations and coaching guides. In addition, they address companies’ needs, by assessing the pain points and needs of employees and helping to solve them.

Another company in this space is Shine, which offers personalized content and tips to improve daily happiness, mental health, and productivity.

An additional example is NeuroTracker, a privately-owned neuro-tech company that offers services to monitor and improve cognitive function for human performance and recovery. The company offers centre-based as well as remote training. Their science is based on several years of research and they have a large variety of published studies.


Diagnose or manage disorders

Start-ups in this space use technology aimed at providing a better approach to prevent or manage mental disorders.

One example is Neurotrack. They offer solutions to assess and ultimately improve memory over time. After a baseline assessment, they provide help to incorporate healthy behaviours and track the progress every 3 to 6 months. Their program is modelled after the FINGER study intervention (multi-year study amongst 1,200 adults at risk for cognitive decline, which reported better cognitive performance for those who engaged in lifestyle changes such as diet) and is delivered digitally.

In this category, telemedicine can also be included. One example is 7 Cups, which offers online support 24/7 via an online chat. This company connects patients with trained volunteer listeners.

In the context of prognosis, Altoida is another company to watch. Their approved class II medical device (AMD) provides early screening and monitoring of cognitive outcomes, and specifically declines patterns specific for prognosis (at risk) or classification of mild cognitive impairment. The solution is based on augmented reality that allows performing tests on complex daily tasks.


Treat disorders

In this category, we can identify self-care behavioural programs aimed at offering “drug-replacement” and used to cure mental disorders.

Pear Therapeutics is leading the way. Their solution for substance use disorder, reSET, is the first and only FDA-authorized prescription digital therapeutic. They have a strong pipeline and collaborate with academic as well as commercial partners (e.g., Sandoz), on a broad variety of diseases including multiple sclerosis and schizophrenia.

Another example is Akili, a digital therapeutic platform aimed at improving cognitive deficits. The company has a broad variety of products in the pipeline, targeting several conditions such as major depressive disorder (MDD) and autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Akili is preparing to file AKL-T01 with FDA, which, would be prescribed as a stand-alone treatment for children, and adolescents with ADHD.

A third company which might soon fall into this category is Headspace, a provider of digital health applications to teach meditation and how to deal with stress. Headspace recently started a set of clinical trials via its subsidiary Headspace Health, in order to get FDA approval of its first digital health product by 2020 (they are currently recruiting for a study on 2000 people called “The Impact of 8 Weeks of Headspace on Stress in a Heterogeneous University Employee Cohort”).


While this is only a drop in the proverbial ocean, the Women’s Brain Project (WBP)is excited to learn about developments and investments in the brain and mental health space. We encourage all these companies and other entities engaged in this sector to integrate questions around gender and sex differences in their research studies, services, and support tools for patients.

If you would like to join us in this discussion about start-ups in health and share your information about your ideas and work – or other inspiring start-ups or companies in this space – leave a comment below or reach out using the contact form.


We will also be discussing artificial intelligence and novel technologies at our International Forum on Women’s Brain and Mental Health this 8-9 June in Zurich, Switzerland. To find out more, visit

Recent Posts
Showing 14 comments
  • Instagram Auto Followers

    excellent post.Ne’er knew this, regards for letting me know.

  • Instagram Numeric Id

    Im no longer certain the place you are getting your info, however great topic. I needs to spend a while finding out much more or working out more. Thanks for fantastic info I was looking for this information for my mission.

  • wefbee machine liker

    Hello! I’ve been reading your website for a long time now and finally got the courage to go ahead and give you a shout out from Humble Texas! Just wanted to tell you keep up the good job!

  • fb auto liker

    Thanks a lot for sharing this with all of us you actually know what you are talking about! Bookmarked. Please also visit my site =). We could have a link exchange agreement between us!

  • read the article

    Today, I went to the beach front with my kids. I found a sea shell and gave it to my 4 year old daughter and said “You can hear the ocean if you put this to your ear.” She put the shell to her ear and screamed. There was a hermit crab inside and it pinched her ear. She never wants to go back! LoL I know this is totally off topic but I had to tell someone!

  • Austchoice

    Norapred Achat Viagra Ligne France En Sarcelles Commande Cialis [url=]viagra online pharmacy[/url] Difference Entre Cialis Viagra Propecia Serious Side Effects Non Us Pharmacies

  • specsavers home eye test

    I believe you have noted some very interesting points, appreciate it for the post.

  • Reply

    Hiya, I’m really glad I have found this information. Today bloggers publish just about gossips and net and this is really annoying. A good site with interesting content, that’s what I need. Thanks for keeping this web-site, I will be visiting it. Do you do newsletters? Can not find it.

  • oneplus repair parts

    You have mentioned very interesting details! ps decent site.

  • iq

    What’s Taking place i’m new to this, I stumbled upon this I’ve discovered It positively helpful and it has helped me out loads. I’m hoping to contribute & help other users like its aided me. Great job.

  • tour booking software

    Thank you for another informative web site. Where else may just I get that type of info written in such an ideal method? I’ve a undertaking that I’m simply now running on, and I have been at the look out for such information.

  • Reply

    I’m impressed, I must say. Actually hardly ever do I encounter a weblog that’s both educative and entertaining, and let me tell you, you’ve gotten hit the nail on the head. Your idea is excellent; the issue is one thing that not sufficient people are speaking intelligently about. I’m very completely satisfied that I stumbled across this in my seek for one thing regarding this.

  • folorentorium

    Some genuinely interesting info , well written and loosely user friendly.

  • Finlay Cedar

    My husband has been diagnosed with Alzheimer in 2016 there’s a herbal foundation in Johannesburg they cured my husband Alzheimer’s disease . Pm me i will give their details. People can search about them on Google or youtube(total cure herbal foundation). My husband faced many difficulties and was in several depression, Trouble understanding visual image, aggression ,so many,. This thing happened to him in very crucial stage of our life. PM if someone needs info or buy direct from them they cured 100% of Alzheimer with their herbal formula .

Leave a Comment

Contact Us

We're not around right now. But you can send us an email and we'll get back to you, asap.

Not readable? Change text. captcha txt