The Spark Loves: Thomas Insel


or those who don’t already know, this week is Brain Awareness Week – a global campaign dedicated to increasing public awareness of the progress and benefits of brain research. And since mental health is what we do, Brain Awareness Week is a special one for us!  And speaking of brains, it seems like a good time to explain how we came up with the name ‘The Spark Institute’.

Picture this brainstorming session:  Mental health is related the the brain…… The brain communicates through neuronal pathways…… Those neuronal pathways use a form of electricity to convey their messages…… Electricity = Spark…… and BOOM!!  The Spark Institute was born.

So in honour of the incredible organ that not only inspired our name, but also inspires the work we do each and every day, this week The Spark loves TED Talks – especially when they feature well-reknowned neuroscientist and psychiatrist, Dr. Thomas Insel.

*Feature image courtesy of

Thomas Insel is a very influential and well-renowned medical practitioner and researcher in the world of mental health. After serving 13 years as Director of the National Institute of Mental Health in the United States (the NIMH is the largest organization in the world dedicated to the scientific research of mental health), Mr. Insel recently stepped in order to join Google Life Sciences, known today as Verily. Formerly a division of Google X, Verily is a research organization devoted to studying life sciences, and using technology to better prevent, detect, and manage human disease.   Although this TED Talk took place in January of 2013, Mr. Insel describes the shift in paradigm that he believes needs to take place in order to progress in the treatment of mental health issues, and his perspective makes a lot of sense to us.  It is no secret that mental illnesses are the least understood group of illnesses in medicine, and that today’s treatment of mental illness lacks the sophistication and specificity that we tend to see in other realms of human illness.  It feels like a very exciting time for us to be in the world of mental health because hugely impactful people, like Thomas Insel, are emerging and changing the direction of mental health care as a whole.  And what makes him even cooler in our eyes, is that he has been supporting some very controversial research that goes against much of what the huge pharmaceutical companies are pushing for – that makes him a real trailblazer in our field, and we LOVE trailblazers!  

Whether you have 13 minutes – or part of 13 minutes – it will be worth every second… Enjoy!

Happy Brain Awareness Week from all of us at The Spark Institute!

p.s. If you want to learn more about Brain Awareness Week, check out the Facebook page here.

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