A little more than a decade ago the editorial and business executives at Scientific American noticed a curious trend. Readers always snapped up issues that featured the brain. A German sister publication had picked up on this enthusiasm as well and had recently launched a magazine on the brain sciences, called Gehirn & Geist.
The team at Scientific American decided to release its own test issue on the mind and brain in early 2004. To everyone's astonishment, newsstands sold out of nearly every copy. The data suggested that people hungered to learn more about the way they think. By the end of the year Scientific American Mind had officially launched.
Ten years on, the magazine now has its own stable of seven international editions, as well as a tablet edition and a thriving Web presence. The issues still come out every two months, but new articles appear online daily. As we reflected recently on our own evolution, we decided to also look forward to what the next 10 years might bring. In this issue's special report,“The Future of the Brain,” we describe the trends that intrigued us most. The common theme in all of them is technology, which is opening up new frontiers in mental health and cognitive enhancement.
A key reason is that brains and computers communicate in dialects of the same language. They both transmit information using electricity. So it is only natural that emerging technologies are harnessing that shared lexicon to tease out the roots of disease, the building blocks of learning and the neural representations of thoughts. Scientists are also making use of the brain's electrical nature to tinker with it—to overcome illness and boost select abilities.
The power of technology is evident not only inside the brain but also outside it, in the ways we maintain relationships. For example, the impoverished social cues that often accompany interactions on social media are giving rise to new behaviors—some that bring us closer together and others that cause harm. Psychologists are just beginning to make sense of our partly digital psyches.
We believe that the themes highlighted in this special issue will resonate for years to come. What do you think? Drop us a note at the e-mail address below or reach out to us on Twitter (@sciammind) or through our Facebook page. Whatever your preferred technology, we'd love to stay connected.