May 26, 2022

Figuring out what’s going on in the brain is usually considered somewhere between extremely difficult and impossible. One of the big problems is that the best way to do this is with room-sized machines in hospitals, but Brain.Space hopes to make their EEG helmets portable, powerful, and most importantly, easy to use (plus $8.5 million). funding). . ) will happen again. -Energetic can deliver applications and treatments at home and – as a kind of pop plug for its debut in space.

Electroencephalography, or EEG, is a recognized method of monitoring certain signals generated by the brain that can indicate which parts of the cortex are active, whether the user is focused, aroused, etc. It’s not as accurate as an MRI, but again, you all you need is a set of electrical contacts on your head for an EEG, while an MRI machine is huge, loud, and incredibly expensive.

However, little progress has been made in EEG technology, and it is often performed more or less the same as it was decades ago. Recently, this has begun to change with the advent of devices such as the Cognixian, which use redesigned EEGs to interpret certain signals so that people with motor disabilities can communicate.

The Israeli company brain.space (stylized as lowercase letters with a dot inside, specifically to annoy journalists) has its own take on EEG, which it claims not only provides better readings than traditional ones, but is also wireless and can be used . Installed without the help of specialists.

“It is designed to be the most efficient, cost-effective and easy-to-use EEG recording headset in the world. “For many people, this is a headset that automatically adapts perfectly to everyone’s head,” says Yair Levy, CEO and co-founder of Brain.Space. The headset, which has been in development for four years, has 460 sensors and is “fully automatic” because it’s so easy to set up and use.

A man wearing a brain.space headset and working at a computer.

Not exactly cool, but other EEG settings are even worse. The bracelet is a current regulator belonging to the ISS. image credit: brain space

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

the fact that it would be difficult Not If he did more or less what they did in a portable, easy-to-use form—improved the EEG setup used in many labs—that would be enough to celebrate.

The science of EEG is well understood, but the company has improved existing designs by adding more densely spaced electrodes, and thankfully they don’t require conductive gel or oil to be applied to the skin – anyone who joins hands can take part. applied to the head. There is an experiment that is not fun.

Due to the nature of the EEG signals, these sensors will overlap somewhat, but Levy explained that his internal research has shown that these signal overlaps follow a power law, meaning they can be explained mathematically. This means outputting clean data that can be interpreted and used as training material for machine learning systems.

While the headset is certainly a big piece of the puzzle, the company won’t just build and distribute it: “Our vision is to provide a comprehensive end-to-end software stack that makes it easy to work with and integrate brain activity. For example, integrating GPS or fitness data,” Levy says.

image credit: brain space

Of course, wearing a helmet that makes you look like Marvin the Martian isn’t something you do while jogging in the morning, or even when you’re on a stationary bike or standing at a desk. It’s still a situational medical device. But like other technological advances that have led to in-home medical monitoring devices, they can still be transformational.

“We look at it as a question of what good is cheap GPS in the iPhone,” explains Levy. “The obvious answer was mapping, but the developers were actually doing a lot more innovative things with it than just giving directions. This is how we view our work with brain activity to drive innovation rather than develop use cases themselves.”

Of course, if they didn’t have use cases, they would never fund four years of R&D. But they are researching things like tracking learning disabilities, markers of cognitive decline due to diseases like Alzheimer’s, and athletic performance. The cost of the headset depends on the application and requirements, the company told me, but declined to provide details. For context, setup deals tend to be in the $10k range, while medical research deals are in the $10k range and are likely to fall in the middle of Brain.Space.

The first public demonstration of the technology is as exciting as you can 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 number of interesting experiments and projects on board.

Participants in the study used the headset on the Surface to perform several tasks and then repeated those tasks with variations on board the ISS. The company described the rationale behind the experiment as follows:

Brain.space has set itself the goal of becoming the standard for monitoring neuro-health in space.

Although data are collected for various physiological parameters such as heart rate, galvanic skin resistance and muscle mass, there are currently no good longitudinal data on neural changes in long-term space missions. Such information could be important for assessing daily plastic changes in the brain and predicting how the brain adapts to long-term space travel.

Of course, they’re not the first to think of this – NASA and other space agencies have been doing similar experiments for years, but as “brain.space” points out, they were pretty old-fashioned with the equipment. This is not only a potential test of cognition in space, but also evidence of the idea that cognition in space can be tested with relatively little effort. No one wants to smear their skull with a weekly cognitive stress test during a 3 month trip to Mars.

In addition to the headset and experiment, Brain.Space announced an $8.5M seed round led by Mangrove Capital Partners (no other participants named). It is not cheap to do R&D in medical equipment, but there is almost certainly a market for indoor and outdoor telemedicine and performance monitoring. We should hear more about the specific benefits of the headset as it goes through more public testing.

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