An Introduction to Neurotechnology

2014- Rio De Janeiro

But first, what is neurotechnology?

Simply put, neurotechnology = neuroscience + technology. It is the interdisciplinary field involving a whole range of disciplines including: computer science, neuroscience, psychology, electrical engineering, mechanical engineering, etc..

I like to divide neurotechnology into 3 distinct sectors.

1. Understanding the Brain

Jeff Lichtman, a professor at Harvard University, once said, “If understanding everything you needed to know about the brain was a mile, we have walked 3 inches.”

2. Restoring Brain Functions

Although our knowledge about the brain is fairly limited, that’s not to discount all the decades of research and progress that has been made so far. In fact, many neurological and psychiatric disorders such as Parkinson’s, Depression, ADHD, etc.. have been studies at length, and several treatments for them have entered the commercial market.

3. Augmenting Existing Brain Functions

This is arguably the coolest sector of neurotechnology, in my opinion. A brain-computer interface is any technological/electrical device that can be interfaced with the brain. It can be a keyboard, mouse, drone, car, prosthetic limb, light bulb, …you get the point.

Muse

A thin headband costing around $300, Muse by Interaxon is a device aimed at assisting individuals with mindfulness and meditation. Employing the use of EEG technology, the device plays rainforest sounds and bird chirps when the user is in a state of relaxation and relative calmness. The goal, as funny as it may sound, is to get the most amount of bird chirps, indicating a more relaxed mental state.

Halo Neuroscience

Halo Neuroscience developed a wearable headband of sorts that is meant to increase skill acquisition for any task that requires physical repetitions. Any task that requires movement like playing a sport or playing an instrument involves the use of the motor cortex in the brain. By wearing the headband for twenty minutes prior to starting the physical task, electrical stimulations will be sent to the motor cortex inducing a state of hyper-plasticity for the next hour or so. This state of hyper-plasticity primes the motor cortex to make and enforce neural connections more easily, meaning you essentially speed up the rate at which you can acquire new physical tasks. For athletes, this translates into getting more out of each rep, and that can put them at an advantage over all their competitors, especially when we we are looking at any way to optimize performance.

So What’s Next?

Neurotechnology is still in a stage of infancy. Only recently have we acquired enough data and enough computational power in our devices to actually build meaningful products, so expect a big surge in new endeavors within the next decade.

Neurotech Enthusiast

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