Startups that “crawled” into the brain: from implants against depression to neurogaming


Medicine is one of the key applications of neurotechnologies, and the first thing we see is

- a trend towards investing money in this area.The human population is aging, and many medical needs are not yet met. First of all, we are talking about people with impaired motor functions. These are mechanical injuries of the spinal cord, and diseases of the central nervous system, leading to loss of mobility, such as Stephen Hawking's disease. Accordingly, it is necessary to look for some ways for people to maintain contact with the outside world. Elon Musk created the Neuralink project for this purpose. The company is engaged in the production of microchips that are attached to the skull, receive brain impulses and convert them into a signal to control a computer or smartphone.

There are several other startups with similar features.One of them, Synchron, is developing a chip with electrodes that, when implanted, pass through blood vessels to the brain, and has attracted $75 million in investments, including from Bill Gates and Jeff Bezos. Peter Thiel, known as one of the founders of PayPal, took part in another project. He invested $10 million in Blackrock Neurotech, which released an implant that has already proven itself and has been proven over the years. It is about the size of a small coin and is attached to the motor cortex of the brain. A patient with a speech disorder participated in the experiment on its use. She made inarticulate sounds that no microphone, Siri, or Google could understand. In her case, the activity was filmed directly from the brain, and the neural interface translated all this into printed text.

Brain Fitness

The second trend grows out of the modern rhythmlife, which forces us to take on more risks and responsibilities and be in constant stress. This creates a need for brain trackers that help you relax, know yourself and monitor your psycho-emotional state. Everyone already has a smartwatch that tracks activity levels, heart rate, blood pressure and other metrics, but no one has a device to monitor brain fatigue levels. The Neiry company has launched a mind tracker on the market that allows you to pump up your stress tolerance.

Mind tracker

A mind tracker is like a fitness bracelet, only forbrain. A headband or headphones with soft movable gold-plated electrodes fit snugly against the scalp and take an encephalogram, and a special application, based on the data obtained, determines what state the user is in: whether he feels relaxed, involved, tired, excited or stressed. If a person's well-being is determined by the program as uncomfortable, she recommends undergoing special training to combat stress. As part of such an activity, the user listens to sounds: the better the person relaxes, the clearer the signal. There is also such an option as maintaining attention at the level necessary for solving complex problems.

Neurostimulation methods also allow you to fight andwith disorders such as anxiety and depression. Drug treatment is not effective for everyone, psychotherapy is not available to everyone. In this direction, in particular, the startup Inner Cosmos is successfully working and attracting investments. The volunteer was implanted in the head with an implant with electrodes that once a day send impulses to a specific part of the brain. If the study yields good results within a year, the method could be used to treat resistant depression.

The power of thought

The third trend that has attracted the attention of investors istransformation of brain signals into one or another activity. Take, for example, the Zuckerberg bracelet from CTRL-Labs. It can already read the activity of motor neurons from the muscles of the wrist. In the future, technically, this will allow you to actuate the buttons on the keyboard faster than by pressing a finger, because the physical movement of all muscles and bones is replaced by neuroactivity. And let each press saves only about 100 ms, but there are a lot of them, so in general, typing is much faster, the developers assure.

This group includes "reading"brain response to a predetermined stimulus. There is, for example, a technology called P300. This is a signal that is triggered 300 ms after a person has seen something familiar. Such a project is good for airports, for baggage check services. The bottom line is that a person, a professional in this field, receives data from the airport network on the screen at a fairly high speed, 8-10 frames per second. And when his trained brain notices something suspicious, the potential of the P300 is triggered - and the marked picture is sent to the airport security service.

Commercial break

The fourth trend is the use of neurotechnologies inthe field of marketing and advertising. It is safe to say that many films, including Russian ones, have gone through neuromarketing research. A person is shown a movie or a commercial, or he uses an application, a website. While watching, the activity of his brain is fixed: the subject likes what he sees or does not like how much he strives to get the advertised product, or, on the contrary, he wants to avoid what he is shown. At the same time, with the help of an eye tracker, it is tracked which screen area he looks at most often: this is especially important for websites. Based on the data obtained, decisions are made on what to leave in the film and what to remove from it, it is revealed what people do not react to, and what annoys them.

Self Improved Gaming

Neurointerfaces are no less actively implemented inthe field of entertainment. State detection can be used very well in the context of gaming. So, Valve, which owns the Steam game store, uses special equipment during testing in order to understand what is good and what is not very good in the game. And this is also, on the one hand, neuromarketing, and on the other hand, it is a way to create games adapted in complexity in the future. For example, if the neural device detects that the player is bored, they throw another wave of zombies at him. And by the way, thanks to the development of neurocontrol technologies in the future, games can become much faster and more interesting.

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