The illusion of mind over matter is poised to become even more rooted in the public’s eye.
Indeed, the healthcare community knows that the brain is just another organ, and as such, mapping the latent power of a patient’s brainwaves could produce new treatment breakthroughs.
As EEG science advances, those who deal with the mind - notably psychiatrists and psychologists - are turning to the technology for solutions. A number of applications are assessing EEG changes related to depression and anxiety, for instance, and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has cleared an EEG diagnostic tool for attention deficit disorders, setting the stage for new algorithms that rely on EEG as the primary diagnostic.
On a daily basis neuro-feedback is being used to treat patients with PTSD, ADHD, TBI (Traumatic Brain Injury), epilepsy, Parkinson’s, sleep Apnea and even ALS.
While a full 24-channel EEG is still far too difficult to be applied by a non-professional, patients can use a four-channel system. Three companies - Advanced Brain Monitoring, BrainPaint and Emotiv - are delving into these areas with EEG mobile solutions.
Advanced Brain Monitoring
Advanced Brain Monitoring has such a device. Weighing 3 ounces, the EEG reader is Bluetooth-equipped, so users can transmit results to a tablet or laptop.
Advanced Brain Monitoring has designed a real-time system to analyze metrics for drowsiness and fatigue. The software classifies a person on a scale ranging from ‘highly engaged’ to ‘sleep onset,’ using auditory feedback such as a tactile buzzer clipped to the user's shirt to send an alert.
“It has been used by pilots while flying,” Advanced Brain Monitoring founder Chris Berka said.
In psychiatry, an analyst typically makes an evaluation by what many would say is a subjective interview with the patient, who might then be put on medications based on the discussion. The next step is usually trial and error, with doctor and patient working together until the right balance is found. Berka said Advanced Brain Monitoring is being used in cases like this to help diagnosis and stratify different psychiatric disorders, with medications prescribed accordingly.
The patient uses the device at home or the readings can be taken right in the office. One can envision having a globe-trotting patient with his psychiatrist half way around the world still able to monitor various treatment outcomes.
In certain cases, the brain can improve outcomes even without the active participation of the patient. And BrainPaint’s take on EEGs is a bit unique in that the patient is barely a participant in creating better outcomes. Rather, it is the brain itself seeking homeostatic balance that will make the proper corrections.
“We are training the brain, not the mind,” said BrainPaint co-founder and president Cora Scott. “Homeostasis is the body’s mechanism to stay in balance,” and it is the brain that helps the rest of the body keep in balance.
BrainPaint records brain activity on its portable EEG system. Readouts are sent to the BrainPaint software to guide feedback. BrainPaint uses individualized protocols for issues such as ADHD, PTSD, TBI, migraines, insomnia, depression and anxiety.