Tech remakes EEG for our modern world (and soon beyond) – TechCrunch

Figuring out what’s going on in the brain is often thought of as somewhere between extremely difficult and impossible. One big challenge is that the best way to do so is for room-sized machines to be delivered to the hospital – but is hoping that the portable, powerful, and most importantly, user-friendly EEG helmet (plus $8.5 million in funding) can power applications and treatments new at home and – as a cork for the first time – in space.

An electroencephalogram, or EEG, is an established method of monitoring certain signals the brain produces and can tell which areas of the cerebral cortex are active, whether the user is focused, agitated or not, etc. It’s not nearly as accurate as an MRI, but on the other hand, all you need for an EEG is a set of electrical contacts on the scalp, whereas a very large MRI machine, noisy and extremely expensive.

Even so, there have been precious little advances in EEG technology and it is often done more or less the same way it was done decades ago. Recently that has started to change with devices like Cognixion’suses a redesigned EEG to interpret specific signals to allow people with motor disabilities to communicate.

Israel-based (written in lowercase, with dots, especially for grudged reporters) has its own EEG functionality that it claims to provide more than just reading results better than traditional, but also wireless and can be set up without expert help.

“It is designed to be the most cost-effective, cheapest, easiest-to-use EEG acquisition headset in the world. A universal headset automatically configures to the perfect fit for each person’s head,” said CEO and co-founder Yair Levy. In development for four years, the headset has 460 sensors and is “fully automated”, it can be very simple to get up and running.

A person wearing a headset is working on a computer.

Not exactly stylish, but other EEG setups are even worse. The armband is an electrical regulator related to the ISS. Image credits:

Since it’s only recently emerged from stealth, the company doesn’t have peer-reviewed documentation on the headset’s efficiency and resolution. “But we have recently started research activities with several academic institutions, including the Department of Cognition and Brain Science at Ben Gurion University, as well as a medical center in Israel,” says Levy. .

In fact it will be hard Not to improve the EEG setups being used in many labs – if it does more or less than what they did in a portable, user-friendly form, that should be enough to celebrate.

The science of EEG is well understood, but the company has improved on existing designs by introducing denser electrodes, and those fortunately don’t require any gels or conductive oils. any electricity on the skin – anyone who has ever floated oil to use a part in an experiment can attest that this is not amusing.

Due to the nature of EEG signals, these sensors will overlap somewhat, but Levy explains that their internal studies have found that these overlapping signals obey the power law, which means they can be distinguished by computer. That means clean data output can be interpreted and used as training material for machine learning systems.

While the headset is clearly a big part of the puzzle, the company won’t just manufacture and distribute it: “Our vision is to provide a comprehensive end-to-end software stack that helps work and integrating brain activity is as easy as integrating Levy said.

Image credits:

Of course, wearing a helmet that makes you look like Mars is not something you would do on your morning jog, or even while cycling or standing at your desk. It is still a situational medical device. But like other advances in technology that have brought medical monitoring devices to the door, this could still be transformative.

“We view this as what it would be good to put a cheap GPS on an iPhone,” explains Levy. “The obvious answer is mapping, but the reality is that the developers did a lot more creative things with it than just giving directions. That’s how we see our work, to allow innovation to happen around brain activity, not build use cases ourselves. “

Of course if they don’t think of any use cases, they will never be able to fund 4 years of R&D. But they’re looking at things like monitoring for learning disabilities, markers for cognitive decline caused by diseases like Alzheimers, and also athletic performance. The company told me the cost of the headphones will vary depending on the application and requirement, although they won’t provide further details. For reference, bargain setups come in at a hefty price below, while medical research grade setups hover in the $10k range and will likely fall somewhere in between.

The first public demonstration of the technology was as flashy as you can imagine: an experiment set aboard the International Space Station. is participating in Axiom-1, the first fully privately funded mission to the ISS, which will feature a series of exciting experiments and projects on board.

Study participants will use the headset on the surface while performing a number of tasks, then repeat those tasks with variations while on the ISS. The company described the reason for the test as follows: has set itself a goal to become the standard for monitoring mental health in space.

While data collection is being done for various physiological measurements, such as heart rate, skin resistance, and muscle mass, there are currently no high-quality longitudinal data on neurological changes in extended space missions. Such information could be important in assessing daily plastic changes in the brain and predicting how the brain will adapt to long-term space travel.

They’re not the first to come up with this, of course – NASA and other space agencies have been doing similar experiments for years, but as points out, it’s with decent equipment old. This is not only potentially a test of spatial cognitive function, but also a proof of concept that spatial cognitive function can be tested with little trouble. No one wants to lubricate their scalps for the weekly cognitive load test during their 3-month trip to Mars.

In addition to the headset and testing, announced it has raised an $8.5 million seed round led by Mangrove Capital Partners (no other participants named). Medical device R&D doesn’t come cheap, but there’s almost certainly a market for this in and out of remote health and performance monitoring systems. We should hear more about the specific pros of the headset as it goes into more public testing.

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