Can brain waves be harvested to treat sleep disorders?

A New York company has received a federal grant to test a digital health platform that captures brain waves from a healthy sleeper and transmits them to a person with a sleep disorder.

Imagine using someone else’s thoughts to combat sleep deprivation and get a good night’s sleep. One digital health company is looking to make that happen.

NeuroLight, a New York-based company focused on neuromodulation, is using a grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to implant the brainwaves of a healthy sleeper into one who struggles to fall asleep.

The science behind the concept is described by Aleksandr Poltorak, company founder and president and researcher at City College of New York (CUNY), In an article published in September 2021 At Frontiers in Human Neuroscience.

Poltorak writes, “Brain states, which are associated with specific motor, cognitive, and emotional states, can be monitored with noninvasive techniques such as electroencephalography (EEG) and magnetoencephalography (MEG) that measure macroscopic cortical activity that is manifested by oscillatory network dynamics.” These provide cortical signatures. Circadian insights into neural activity used to determine pathological cortical function in several neuropsychiatric conditions. Sensory and transcranial stimulation, which engages the brain with specific cerebral rhythms, can effectively induce desirable brain states (such as sleep state or attention state) associated with cortical rhythms. Because brain states have distinct neural connections, it may be possible to induce a desired brain state by replicating these neural connections through stimulation.”

according to press release Released this week, Neurolight will use a $255,851 NSF Small Business Innovation Research grant to create a platform that records the cortical signatures, or brainwaves, of a healthy sleeping person and, through a portable digital health device, transmits them to the brain of someone dealing with a sleep problem such as insomnia to train them. to sleep.

“We propose that brain states can thus be transmitted between people by obtaining an associated cortical signature from a donor, which, after processing, can be applied to a recipient through sensory or transcranial stimulation,” Poltorak said in a journal article. “This technology may provide a novel and effective neuromodulation approach for the non-invasive, non-pharmacological treatment of a variety of psychiatric and neurological disorders for which current treatments are mostly limited to pharmacological interventions.”

Company officials said the research could help millions of people dealing with sleep problems, and noted that seven of the 15 leading causes of death in the United States have been linked to sleep deprivation.

The science of neuromodulationThe history of immersion, or harvesting the power of electrical impulses for therapeutic benefits, dates back to 1967, when neurosurgeon C. Norman Shelley developed an implantable plunge for using deep brain stimulation (DBS) to treat chronic and intractable pain. Early efforts ran into problems, mainly because of the technology of the era, but in 1974 doctors developed less invasive electrodes that could do the job without damaging the spinal cord.

Today’s technology has evolved greatly since 1974, with digital health devices and platforms that can capture and transmit without harming the human body. Neurotech Reports estimates that the worldwide neuromodulation industry will see $13.3 billion in business in 2022, addressing issues ranging from pain to chronic conditions such as epilepsy, migraines and enuresis.

NeuroLight officials say they are the first company to develop a technology to “transplant mental states from one person to another,” and early small trials have been positive. If this National Science Foundation-backed project sees positive results, the company may be eligible for up to $17 million in additional funding to continue work.

“We are honored and delighted to be awarded this highly competitive grant from the National Science Foundation,” Poltorak said in a press release. “This grant will support research and development efforts to develop a prototype proof-of-concept study.”

Eric Weklund is HealthLeaders’ Innovation and Technology Editor.

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