MedGizmo - MedGizmo: Brain Wearables and Applications (Part I)
27.02.2016, 16:42   MedGizmo

MedGizmo: Brain Wearables and Applications (Part I)

During the last years a great deal of attention is devoted to human brain. It was a well-established situation – aside of scientists, the general population did not study the brain – unless something happens. People asked questions about their brain only if they were diagnosed with some mental illness - epilepsy, autism – or had traumatic brain injury. However, it turns out that gathering at least some sort of metrics about your brain might be of a great use in life.

The governments understand that importance and started their initiatives:
Obama’s Brain Initiative
Was started in April 2013 targets to accelerate understanding of human brain function and to fund new technologies to tackle neurological and psychiatric diseases.
Another important milestone is The SUBNETS program
DARPA-funded brain-research program that seeks to reduce the severity of neuropsychological illness in service members and veterans:
 This is a slide from presentation The Human Intranet. Where Swarms and Humans Meet. By Jan M. Rabaey, University of California at Berkeley. Highly recommend for reading – since it has a lot of cognitive and exciting information. Can be downloaded HERE.
The Human Brain Project is a European Commission Future and Emerging Technologies Flagship that aims to achieve a multi-level, integrated understanding of brain structure and function through the development and use of information and communication technologies (ICT).

Naturally, wearables are indispensable in discussed area. A new term is now in use – Brainwear; others use Brain Wearables. In this series of posts we cover certain developments in this area and provide links to the gadgets in the market

From the physics point of view -  the task for Brain Wearables is to record and report the signal from the brain: they are analog, in the 1 μV - 10 mV range, frequency band of 0-1 kHz, subject to interference by noise. This noise comes from the human body itself and from the power supply lines (50/60 Hz).  
These devices have to run algorithms for monitoring and diagnosing the life parameters, and at the same time provide necessary communication interfaces; having a long battery-operated life. It is achieved in existing and being under development bio-sensing wearables. A biosensor is an analytical device which converts a biological response into an electrical signal and wearables are on or in body accessories that enhance user experience. Biosensing wearables can monitor changes in physiology and the external environment. These are rather sophisticated devices that use integrated circuits, mixed analog- digital signal  acquisition  techniques,  digital  signal processing, low power algorithms and adaptive filtering techniques.
An interesting fact is that almost daily we notice some discussions – that means that the subject is rather hot? Just two of them:
Live Science published a few days ago Mind-Tracking Devices: Do 'Brain Wearables' Really Work? that discusses in detail various issues associated with this types of wearables.
This also doubts the usefulness of Brain Wearables: Tech Trends: What About Brain Wearables?

Market research shows that neurology devices demand is extremely huge – it grew from $2bn per annum in 2010 to estimated $7bn by 2017.

One interesting side of Brain Wearables is – they have to be fashion-centric product that people won’t mind wearing for longer durations of time, as well as to endure different types of activities.

So, what is going on now:
  • Brain wave detection technology is getting cheaper, lighter and smaller
  • Monitoring brainwaves can boost a range of performance activities and provide real-time feedback on brain state, awareness, focus, etc. 
  • Professional and amateur athletes are already using it
  • Technology can also be used for safety in driving (preventing drowsiness in train/bus drivers) and other applications
  • Can be used to monitor mental states in patients with psychiatric conditions (anxiety, depression) Another possible application involves assessing different reaction types in response to a stimulus.  Planning social interaction/manipulation with audience: depending on emotional/rational reaction to a speech or advertisement
In specific healthcare applications Brain Wearables are useful tools for treating:
  • Mental wellness, cognition, relaxation
  • Neurofeedback
  • Brain trauma
  • Mental / neurological conditions: detection and treatment of AD(H)D, PTSD, Anxiety, dementia, schizophrenia, autism

Brain Computer Interfaces (BCIs) are currently making the transition from being high complex lab-only devices to mass-market products. Here is a comparison table from
Brain Computer Interfaces for Mobile Interaction: Opportunities and Challenges

Important part of the picture are mental health applications.
The number of mental health apps has increased rapidly in the past few years. In 2013 a review of some
43,698 health apps available from the Apple iTunes App store found 1,980 to be related to specific therapy areas. Of these, 558 or 28 per cent were found to be in the mental health category
Connected health. How digital technology is transforming health and social care. Deloitte Center for Health Solutions


This concludes first part of the series. More to come
27.02.2016, 16:42   MedGizmo
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