The global brain capital dashboard

Editor's note:

The following working paper outlines the development of the Global Brain Capital Dashboard, a project of OECD NIPI, Brain Capital Alliance, and the Global Brain Capital Dashboard Working Group.

The ‘global brain’ is under tremendous pressure from issues across the lifespan (Winter et al., 2022). Impaired social and emotional development in early childhood, education loss due to COVID-induced school disruptions, the negative effects of social media on youth, long COVID brain effects, and rising rates of dementia are placing strain on the health of the ‘global brain.’

Brain health is a critical aspect of human well-being, affecting cognitive abilities, socioemotional stability, and overall quality of life (World Health Organization, 2022). However, the growing prevalence of brain disorders is taking a steep economic toll. Mental health disorders alone are estimated to cost the global economy $5 trillion per year, and this is projected to rise to $16 trillion by 2030 (Arias et al., 2022; Bloom et al., 2011). Similarly, every year, dementia costs the global economy more than $1.3 trillion, a value that is set to increase to $2.8 trillion by 2030 (World Health Organization, 2023b).

Brain health plays an increasingly critical role in an economy predicated on “Brain Capital” (which encompasses an individual’s social, emotional, and cognitive resources) (Smith et al., 2021; World Health Organization, 2023a). Global economies are becoming increasingly dependent on Brain Capital, whereby a premium is placed on brain skills (both cognitive and non-cognitive) and brain health (Lundbeck, 2023). This is particularly true in the context of accelerating AI advances which are disrupting and replacing lower-skilled tasks (Eyre et al., 2023).

We are living in a poly-crisis i.e., at the confluence of major societal challenges – spanning climate change, political instability, geopolitical and geoeconomic tensions, pandemic recovery, and widespread misinformation. These cumulative challenges are extremely demanding on our brains and minds (Hynes et al., 2023). Appendix 1 outlines key Brain Capital challenges and opportunities across various sectors. The economic burden of brain and mental health-related disorders (e.g., depression, anxiety, Alzheimer’s disease, stroke, and long COVID-19) has recently prompted the need for policymaking (Eyre et al., 2023; Smith et al., 2022). Promoting creativity, innovation, and brain health will help economies flourish.

The Brain Capital Grand Strategy was launched in early 2021. The strategy urged the need for Brain Capital in all policies, for more investment in Brain Capital, and a global dashboard to monitor essential trends for more informed policymaking (Smith et al., 2021). Within the same period, the OECD Neuroscience-inspired Policy Initiative (NIPI) was launched by the then OECD Secretary-General, Angel Gurria, and Admiral William H. McRaven (Rtd). Appendix 2 outlines activities vis a-vis Brain Capital policy innovation

In this paper, we hereby launch the Global Brain Capital Dashboard. This has been developed by the OECD NIPI, Brain Capital Alliance, and the Global Brain Capital Dashboard Working Group since mid-2021. The members of the Working Group are outlined in Appendix 3. The Dashboard aims to quantify and track Brain Capital as well as provide a platform to inspire novel policy innovation. This paper follows the structure of the dashboard. It describes Brain Capital and then presents evidence around the relevance of the selected pillars and dimensions. It concludes by offering a vision of what is next for the Brain Capital Dashboard.

To build the complete Dashboard, novel indicators were extracted from a wide range of data sources under the banner of three pillars: Brain Capital Drivers, Brain Health, and Brain Skills. Brain Capital Drivers refers to the factors that boost or impede the accumulation of brain capital throughout the life course. Some of these factors include digitalization, health services, the natural environment, education, and social connections. Brain Health examines the mental and neurological health of the population at scale. The domain chronicles the absence of disorders, as well as different issues throughout the human lifespan (childhood, adolescence, and aging-related issues). The Brain Skills domain captures key areas for the accumulation of Brain Capital such as cognitive skills, non-cognitive skills, mental flourishing, and mental resilience.

Brain Capital itself is a productive and complex capital stock that accumulates over the lifecycle. It is constructed by a multi-dimensional set of factors varying from physical to socio-cultural, enabling the brain to remain healthy, develop, and avoid deterioration. The policies guiding the development of both the natural and sociocultural environments are important drivers of Brain Capital since they may either promote or impede its development. The Brain Capital concept provides a better understanding of the economic value that can be derived through identifying and unlocking latent human brain potential.

Download the full working paper here


  • Acknowledgements and disclosures

    Harris A. Eyre is a contractor with Meadows Mental Health Policy Institute. The author did not receive financial support from any firm or person for this article or, other than the aforementioned, from any firm or person with a financial or political interest in this article. The author is not currently an officer, director, or board member of any organization with a financial or political interest in this article.

    The Brookings Institution is financed through the support of a diverse array of foundations, corporations, governments, individuals, as well as an endowment. A list of donors can be found in our annual reports published online here. The findings, interpretations, and conclusions in this report are solely those of its author(s) and are not influenced by any donation.