In the coming week I am off to San Francisco to take part in NeuroGaming 2014. I'll be there as a co-founder and executive of four growing digital health concerns: Cogniciti, Thriver, NeuroVox, and Dreamstone Technologies. Each of these tech start-ups bring solutions, informed by the latest neuroscience, to the health care consumer table. As with allKonona HealthTech companies, these four address consumers' concerns, in the grey area between wellness and living with any number of medical conditions.
Are we in charge of our brains or merely the means for their incessant drive to exploration? How can we dialog with our own brains? Our current understanding of complex neurological processes is grounded in our study of diseases. We have such a long way to go, both in basic science, and in the making of products that add value to people's lives.
Neurotech is still in its infancy, but Moore's law of exponential growth will no doubt apply admirably to this industry. I am making bets now!
Neuroscientists have two basic strategies for understanding brain function: studying patients with certain damage (stroke, injury etc.); and deploying state of the art imaging techniques (fMRI, EEG, MEG). Combining these approaches makes it possible to model neural regional actions and interactions as they relate to perception, attention, and memory. The understanding gained guides researchers developing assessment and rehabilitation strategies.
This approach led to development of Cogniciti's Brain Health Assessment http://www.cogniciti.com/. It answers the question "Is my memory normal or should I see my doctor?" With the help of researchers and clinicians from Baycrest, a leading authority on memory and aging, the Cogniciti website is a science-based space. It is filled with salient information and provides effective game-like tools crafted to assess memory, attention and other brain health issues. All with the look and feel of well-designed consumer software.
Thriver is another excellent example of brain games tuned to resolve consumer’s need to start addressing a health concern. The impetus for creating Thriver (www.thriver.ca) was a parent's frustration with a child's “borderline ADD” diagnosis. Thankfully, Thriver founder, Rob Whent just happened to be an experienced tech entrepreneur as well. Children’s minds can seem an enigma at the best of times. ADD adds wrinkles to that enigma. Thriver’s technology provides a worried parent with concrete guidelines. It does this by utilizing insights from neuropsychological assessment and rehabilitation techniques. Thriver is unique, a parent-powered, cognitive profile-builder and recommendation platform.
Dreamstone helps people sleep better. The underlying technology grew from 20+ years of research into optimizing railroad workers’ efficiency on the job. Dreamstone’s co-founders identified accurate physiological indicators for tracking sleep patterns unobtrusively and improving sleep architecture. Once again, the driving force for creating the company was an acute, if poorly articulated, need among consumers.
With NeuroVox, Dr. John Connolly is leveraging EEG, MEG and MRI technologies to investigate the neural mechanisms of cognition. To understand brain function he interprets simultaneously the spatial, temporal, and spectral signatures of brain activity. This data-driven “decoding” underlies his team’s development of an 8‐channel EEG Brain Computer Interface system. Dr. Connolly is now heading up a new international team using advanced machine learning tools and EEG to cognitive assessment and brain-device interfaces. NeuroVox is promising great things for both gaming and health-related products.
I am excited to bring these important health tech initiatives to NeuroGaming 2014. San Francisco is always a great stop on the road to our tech future.