Train your brain?

Neurofeedback technology for the brain could help many seizure patients live a little easier.

From video games to saving a life, neurofeedback is stepping into the commercial spotlight as a way to monitor your brain and move away from episodic disorders.

Andrew Faulkner, co-founder of Personal Neuro Devices in Ottawa, says he is developing an App for smartphones to track and monitor people with traumatic brain injury, constant seizures or even mental disabilities.

Faulkner says he uses Electroencephalography, or EEG, a neuro imaging technique that picks up electrical signals in the brain.

EEG reads signals from the electric magnetic field coming from changes in the voltage of a human scalp, which can be picked up by electrodes. He says it’s kind of like a circuit, and EEG technology picks up all the sparks and volts.

He uses headsets designed by Neurosky thatsiton your head like  microphone headsets used at pop concerts. These can pick up on neurofeedback and give you data on your concentration, relaxation and agitation levels.

According to Faulkner, it is proven clinically effective.

In October 2012,  Mind over chatter: Plastic up-regulation of the fMRI salience network directly after EEG neurofeedback, a study by researchers at Western University, took 34 men and women to see how monitoring brain waves using EEG can help users control their mind.

The small study results suggested that EEG technology can be used to help a person with cognitive disorders to understand and potentially control their thoughts—or, alternatively, a high risk seizure patient be aware of warning signs before an episode.

Right now, Faulkner said EEG is really limited to the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) in most hospitals to monitor anything from seizure prone patients to mental health issues.

Personal Neuro Devices is working on a more discreet neurofeedback headset for a person to use throughout the day that would fit around the ear and under the hair to track and monitor brain waves. Faulkner says the best research done has predicted a seizure within an hour of it actually occurring.

“Rather than being trapped in an ICU your whole life, you can walk around, it will warn you and allow you to give the medication,” Faulkner says.

Not just for seizure patients, but also for someone with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), it can help them concentrate.

“ Telling them when they are in an attentive state, can help make a difference and it became clinically affective recently with the effects the equivalent to Ritalin and behavior modification therapy,” Faulkner says.

What does this mean for the future? Personal Neuro Devices has high goals for this technology, to the limits that it could help quadriplegics walk again.

“We’ll see,” Faulkner says. The device is scheduled for release this May.

— Thumbnail image courtesy of Dierk Schaefer

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