Figuring out what’s going on in the brain is commonly thought to be extremely difficult, if not impossible. A major challenge is that the best ways to do this are room-sized machines relegated to hospitals — but brain.space hopes that his wearable, powerful, and most importantly, easy-to-use EEG helmet (plus $8.5 million in funding) could enable new applications and treatments at home and — as a sort of cork pop for his debut — in space.
Electroencephalography, or EEG, is an established method of monitoring certain signals that the brain produces that can indicate which areas of the cortex are active, whether the user is focused, excited, and so on. It’s not nearly as accurate as an MRI, but then again, an EEG only requires a series of electrical contacts on the scalp, while an MRI machine is huge, noisy, and incredibly expensive.
However, there have been precious little advances in EEG technology, and it is often done more or less as it was done decades ago. Recently that started to change with devices like that of Cognixionwhich uses a revised EEG to interpret specific signals to enable people with motor disabilities to communicate.
Israel-based brain.space (in lowercase with a dot in it specifically to annoy reporters) has its own version of the EEG, which it claims not only gives better readings than traditional ones, but it’s wireless and can’t be set up can be expert help.
“It was designed to be the most effective, cheapest and easiest to use EEG acquisition headset in the world. A multi-person headset that automatically adjusts perfectly to each person’s head,” says Yair Levy, CEO and co-founder of brain.space. The headset has been in development for four years, has 460 sensors and is “fully automated” in that it is very easy to set up and operate.
As it’s only just emerging from the camouflage, the company has no peer-reviewed documentation on the headset’s effectiveness and resolution. “But we have recently started research activities with several academic institutes, including the Department of Cognitive and Brain Sciences at Ben Gurion University and a medical center in Israel,” Levy said.
In fact, it would be difficult not to improve the EEG setups used in many labs – if it did more or less what they were doing in a portable, user-friendly form, that would be enough to celebrate.
The science of the EEG is well understood, but the company has improved on existing designs by incorporating more densely packed electrodes and ones that thankfully don’t require any conductive gel or oil on the skin – anyone oiled their head to pick it up Part of an experiment can testify that this is not fun.
Due to the nature of EEG signals, these sensors will overlap somewhat, but Levy explained that her internal studies have found that these signal overlaps obey a power law, meaning they can be computationally disambiguated. That means clean data output that can be interpreted by machine learning systems and used as training material.
Although the headset is obviously a big piece of the puzzle, the company will not only manufacture and distribute it: “Our vision is to provide a comprehensive end-to-end software stack that makes working and integrating brain activities as easy as integrating.” does GPS or fitness data,” Levy said.
Of course, wearing a helmet that makes you look like Marvin the Martian isn’t something you’ll do on your morning run, or even when you’re riding your stationary bike or standing at your desk. It is still a situational medical device. But like other advances in technology that have brought medical monitoring devices into the home, this can still be transformative.
“We see this as asking what it would be good to put a cheap GPS in an iPhone for,” Levy explained. “The obvious answer was mapping, but the reality was that developers were doing far more innovative things with it than just street directions. We see it as our task to create innovations related to brain activity and not to develop the use cases ourselves.”
Of course, if they had no use cases in mind, they would never have been able to fund four years of research and development. But they’re looking at things like tracking learning disabilities, markers of cognitive decline from diseases like Alzheimer’s, and also athletic performance. The cost of the headset varies depending on the application and requirements, the company informed me, but declined to provide further details. For reference, bargain setups cost less than a grand, while medical research equipment runs in the $10,000 range, and brain.space would likely fall somewhere in between.
The first public demonstration of the technology is as striking as you might imagine: an experiment on the International Space Station. Brain.space is participating in Axiom-1, the first fully privately funded mission to the ISS, which will have a variety of interesting experiments and projects on board.
Study participants will use the headset on the surface while performing a series of tasks, and then repeat those tasks with variations onboard the ISS. The company described the rationale for the experiment as follows:
brain.space aims to become the standard for monitoring neuro-wellness in space.
While data collection is being conducted for various physiological measurements such as heart rate, galvanic skin resistance, and muscle mass, there is currently no high-quality longitudinal data on the neuronal changes during prolonged space missions. Such information may be crucial in assessing everyday plastic changes in the brain and predicting how the brain will adapt to long-term space travel.
Of course, they’re not the first to think of it – NASA and other space agencies have been conducting similar experiments for years, but as brain.space points out, these were with fairly old-fashioned equipment. This is not just a potential test of spatial cognitive function, but evidence for the idea that spatial cognitive function can be tested with relatively little effort. Nobody wants to grease their scalp for a weekly cognitive stress test on a 3-month trip to Mars.
In addition to the headset and experiment, brain.space announced that it has raised an $8.5 million seed round led by Mangrove Capital Partners (no other participants identified). It doesn’t come cheap to do research and development for medical devices, but there almost certainly is a market for it in and outside of telemedicine and performance monitoring. We should learn more about the headset’s specific benefits as it conducts more public testing.
Brain.space remakes the EEG for our modern world (and soon, off-world) – TechCrunch Source link Brain.space remakes the EEG for our modern world (and soon, off-world) – TechCrunch