There is a growing interest in alternative approaches for treating neurological disorders. Despite this, there are many gaps in our scientific understanding of how these treatments work. Branch Out's goal is to address this knowledge gap through rigorous, high-quality scientific studies across Canada, so that health-care providers, patients, and care-partners can make informed decisions about all possible treatment options. To accelerate non-pharmaceutical and tech-based solutions to brain disorders, we created the NeuroCAM model (the neuroscience of complementary and alternative modalities) to conceptualize these gaps for researchers to study.
Modalities of the NeuroCAM Model
There has recently been a profound appreciation of how influential our gut can be on our brain. Branch Out views this as a revitalization of the importance of nutrition (e.g. specific nutrients), diet (e.g. Ketogenic Diet), and plant-based medicines (e.g. Cannabinoids) as tools for proper brain functioning. The Nutraceutical Modality leverages our new appreciation of the gut-brain axis and the microbiome as tools to treat mental health and neurological disorders.
Mind and Body
Our body is very complicated, so everything is connected to everything. This means that small changes in the way you think (e.g. mindfulness), the actions you do (e.g. exercise), and other forms of rehabilitation (e.g. acupuncture) can have big impacts on your brain's operations. The Mind and Body Modalities explore the relationships between the mind and the body to promote a healthy brain and recovery from injury.
Much like how traditional medical approaches are not for everyone, not all NeuroCAM treatments will work for everyone. The Modality of Personalized Therapies seeks to understand why this is so that healthcare practitioners make informed decisions about people as unique individuals. This often involves the development of new assessment tools for subtle changes in our brains to help make these determinations.
While Branch Out firmly believes in the power of natural and holistic treatment approaches, there is an exciting opportunity for neuroscience technology augment their implementation. The NeuroCAM Tech Modality explores how the development and use of new technologies can revolutionize how we deliver and assess the impact of innovative non-pharmaceutical holistic treatments.
Impact Driven Research
Branch Out's vision is for a world free of neurological disorders. That starts by supporting idea creation and funding research to explore these ideas. Science is incremental and collaborative, so while no single study will achieve Branch Out's vision, we believe in supporting both Foundational and Translational Research. Any study that advances scientific ideas towards community impact (i2i), no matter how small of a step, is eligible for funding from Branch Out.
Foundational science studies are the long-term investments of research, as it is the essential foundation that more directly impactful research is built upon. Basic science studies help us better understand how the brain works and in turn how NeuroCAM treatments could be used to heal the brain. After all, how can we hope to fix a problem that we don’t understand in the first place?
After Basic science makes discoveries, Translational Research makes it useful for people in everyday life. Within clinical contexts, Translational Research explores why and how interventions work, as well as how other findings from Foundational Science can be applied to promote positive impact for people. This can include clinical trials to directly test a treatment's effects to help inform clinical decision making.