Trends that will shape the 2020s: Psychedelics as medicine, diagnostic cell phone apps and AI prediction of disease outbreaks

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Credit: Mind Unleashed

Clearly, a lot can happen in a decade—but innovation has to start somewhere. Based on what’s breaking through now, here are some trends that have the potential to shape the 2020s.

The 2010s saw 18 states approve the use of marijuana for medical purposes, bringing the total to 33 states. In the 2020s, research into the potential medicinal uses of psychedelics could increase dramatically.

In another recent example, one researcher found that MDMA, or ecstasy, can make the characteristically shy octopus act friendlier. Though cephalopod brains are more similar to snails than to humans, scientists gleaned insights about how neurons and neurotransmitters behave on the drug that could inform future studies in humans. Other researchers doing experiments with mice hope MDMA ability to manipulate oxytocin could benefit people suffering PTSD.

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At the University of California, Berkeley, scientists have developed cell phone apps that can spot pathogens in biologic samples. The World Health Organization has increased funding to initiatives working to scale up vaccine production in disease-afflicted countries. Artificial intelligence is also starting to make a big splash in the infectious disease arena as computer scientists deploy the technology to predict—and hopefully temper—outbreaks that originate in animals.

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