Put together advanced neuroscience with signal-processing and machine-learning technologies and you get Neurosteer, the world’s first miniature, wearable continuous brain-activity monitor.
This Israeli invention, now in clinical trials in Israel, Europe and the United States, improves user experience compared to multiple-electrode electroencephalograph (EEG) and functional MRI (fMRI exams), explains Neurosteer CFO and VP business development Paul Weinberg.
“An EEG requires a half hour of placing electrodes, and fMRI involves getting into a big machine in a special controlled setting for 15 to 20 minutes with limited ability to stimulate the brain during recording,” says Weinberg.
“With Neurosteer, brain monitoring can be done on a 24/7 basis. It’s the EEG equivalent of a heartrate and glucose monitor that can be on continuously in a nonintrusive way while the patient carries out regular activities.”
Compared to fMRI – the current gold standard for brain activity screening and assessment – Neurosteer is inexpensive, portable and unobtrusive, requiring only an adhesive three-electrode strip placed on the forehead connected to a pocket-sized device that wirelessly transmits sensor data to a cloud-based HIPAA-compliant server.
The device can be used clinically for initial assessment of neurological disorders and then as part of a patient’s normal daily routine to see the effects of treatment.
Thanks to algorithms that decompose the single EEG channel into 100-plus components, the clinician sees a real-time map of brain activity on which blue represents weak activity and red represents strong activity.
Weinberg compares this automatic harmonic analysis to a trained ear detecting each instrument in a symphony orchestra.
“If you listen closely you can tell a violin from a bass and other string instruments because they all have different harmonics and timbres. Our advanced techniques can tease out the different elements in the neurological signal corresponding to different functional neural networks, in the same way.”
The biomarkers display parameters including cognitive load, emotional states, stress, pain, epileptic activity, consciousness disorders, sleep stages and level of anesthesia – and also could be used by pharma companies to streamline drug development and discovery.
FDA approval on the Neurosteer device is expected this year for neurodegenerative or epilepsy monitoring. Approvals for additional uses are to follow.
Neurosteer came out of experiments that Tel Aviv University professor of computer science and neuroscience Nathan Intrator began about 12 years ago in search of a new method of interpreting (EEG) data.
“After a few years, I realized that an advanced mathematical method I was familiar with might be able to reduce the need for a large number of electrodes, and I started working on that in my lab,” he tells ISRAEL21c.
“The method actually worked and appeared to produce improved results from just a single EEG channel. I decided to take a leave from the university to commercialize this novel brain activity interpretation.”
Reactions from the clinic
Neurologist Dr. Steven Laureys, head of the Coma Science Group at Sart Tilman Liège University Hospital in Belgium, has been testing Neurosteer for a couple of years on coma patients across Europe. He uses various neuroimaging techniques to reduce uncertainty regarding their brain activity.
“We face a tremendous challenge in measuring consciousness, so every tool that can help us is very much welcome,” Laureys tells ISRAEL21c.
One of the technologies he uses is high-density EEG, which requires placing 250-plus electrodes on the head. “There is a clear need for easier tools and so Neurosteer is interesting to us. It’s small, faster and easier, and presents a color-coded recording of very complicated electrical brain activity that I can see on my smartphone to monitor patients from a distance,” he says.
“You don’t see the brain as you do in fMRI and PET scans. But Neurosteer has other advantages because you can see the activity of the brain at millisecond resolution. This helps with more precise diagnosis and prognosis. We are now comparing it to expensive brain scanners and classical EEG in different conditions.”
Laureys’ group even put Neurosteer on a Buddhist monk before an audience in Brussels to demonstrate the brain activity of an expert meditator. He says that he also believes the device could help monitor the brain activity of patients under anesthesia with more precision than current technology allows.
Alexander Reed, president and founder of the European Parkinson Therapy Centre in Italy, tells ISRAEL21c that he and two staff neuropsychologists discovered Neurosteer at the European Neuro Convention in London last fall. They have been testing it ever since.
“Neurosteer allows us to see reactions to testing and it shows how much difficulty the person is in,” says Reed.
“We also use it to look at reaction time to certain mentally stimulating exercises until we find something that makes them go into the red [stimulated] zone. One man’s reactions were consistently blue until we asked him what he likes to do, and he said, ‘Play the piano.’ When he just imagined playing the piano, the result showed a lively red.”
Reed said the Neurosteer product “gives us a tool to understand the brain individually — what works in one person may not work in another — and that is very useful for neuropsychologists.”
Dr. Federica Provini of Bologna University, who specializes with sleep disorders of seniors, tells ISRAEL21c: “Based on a preliminary study that we performed, we think that Neurosteer can improve the accessibility to objective sleep recording in large populations. The device is comfortable and cheaper. Using Neurosteer we hope to obtain objective sleep recordings with a quality comparable to video polysomnography, the current gold standard for sleep studies.”
‘Extremely important to monitor’
Intrator says the system could also be used in the hospital to send an alert before there’s serious damage from a stroke, blood clot, epilepsy or other neurological disorder.
For instance, post-trauma epilepsy can develop quickly following a traumatic brain injury and can damage the brain further, Intrator explains.
“When a person comes to the hospital, every organ in their body can be monitored except the brain,” says Intrator. “That is a crucial problem because the brain has rich types of activity and a lot of things can go wrong very quickly, so it is important to be able to respond fast. Therefore, it is extremely important to monitor.”
The company also is developing a lifestyle platform for its technology and is seeking partners to develop add-ons in fields including computer games and augmented reality.
Neurosteer has raised about $5 million and employs 12 people in Herzliya (Israel), Los Angeles and New York.
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