10 Non-invasive Neurotechnologies About to Transform Brain Enhancement and Brain Health


30,000+ sci­en­tists and pro­fes­sion­als gath­ered for the annu­al Soci­ety for Neu­ro­science con­fer­ence in Chica­go last month, prov­ing the grow­ing inter­est and activ­i­ties to bet­ter under­stand the inner work­ings of the human brain, and to dis­cov­er ways and tech­nolo­gies to enhance its health and performance.

Now, which of all those ongo­ing efforts are clos­er to touch­ing our lives, to empow­er con­sumers, patients and health professionals?

To answer that ques­tion, we recent­ly exam­ined the world­wide land­scape of Per­va­sive Neu­rotech­nol­o­gy patents, giv­en that invest­ment in intel­lec­tu­al prop­er­ty is a cru­cial sig­nal in the life-cycle of tech­nol­o­gy com­mer­cial­iza­tion. We paid extra atten­tion to non-inva­sive neurotech­nolo­gies which, being dig­i­tal, are scal­able and rel­a­tively inex­pen­sive, and that, being non-inva­sive, pose few if any neg­a­tive side-effects (the main excep­tion to this rule being #10 below, which is why we place it last).

Through our year-long analy­sis of thou­sands of patents, we uncov­ered ten inno­v­a­tive brain health and brain enhance­ment sys­tems on the cut­ting edge, that, in our esti­ma­tion, are like­ly to go main­stream over the next few years.

10 Non-invasive Neurotechnologies About to Transform Brain Health and Brain Enhancement

1. Big Data-enhanced diagnostics and treatments 

As the costs of com­put­ing pow­er, cloud acces­si­bil­i­ty and hard­ware sen­sors dwin­dle, brain health sys­tems can lever­age mea­sure­ments tak­en from a far broad­er swath of the pop­u­la­tion than ever before pos­si­ble. And this analy­sis CNSResphelps under­stand pre­cise­ly where an individual’s read­ings lie on the dis­tri­b­u­tion curve of health to dis­ease, dri­ves the abil­i­ty to under­stand with nuance how one’s read­ings changes over time, and allows bet­ter dis­cern­ment of prop­er diag­noses and treat­ments based on the effi­ca­cy of treat­ments with oth­ers hav­ing sim­i­lar brain signatures.

Com­pa­nies like CNS Response and Advanced Brain Mon­i­tor­ing are already deploy­ing sys­tems that har­ness the pow­er of big data, exem­pli­fied by neu­ro­met­rics-dri­ven report sys­tems such as in the image to the right.

–> Patent Image: Data Illus­trat­ing Patient Stim­u­lant Respon­sive­ness Spec­trum, by CNS Response


2. Brain-Computer Interfaces for device control

Brain Com­put­er Inter­faces (BCIs) link the com­mands of our thoughts to the devices of the world. The glob­al BCI mar­ket is expect­ed to reach 1.5 bil­lion by 2020, of which 85% is esti­mat­ed to be non-invasive.

Com­pa­nies like Emo­tiv and Neu­roSky are advanc­ing the state of BCI tech­nol­o­gy, while oth­er orga­ni­za­tions are devel­op­ing the exter­nal sys­tems and ecosys­tems to inter­act with BCIs. Phillips has patents describ­ing home med­ical sys­tems that remote­ly mon­i­tor health via EEG, help­ing patients suf­fer­ing from ALS (com­mon­ly known as Lou Gehrig’s dis­ease), for exam­ple, to con­trol home appli­ances via BCIs.

Emotiv4–> Exam­ple: Philips-Accen­ture Project to Con­trol Home Devices via the Mind

  • User sends brain commands
  • Wear­able dis­play shows nav­i­ga­tion interface
  • Dig­i­tal app reads com­mands, con­nects devices
  • Smart prod­ucts are activated


 3. Real-time neuromonitoring (plus robotic aids)

AdvNeuroA good num­ber of com­pa­nies, includ­ing Medtron­ic, Neu­ropace and St. Jude Med­ical, are devel­op­ing sys­tems to active­ly mon­i­tor brain activ­i­ty and respond in real-time with appro­pri­ate treatments.

These sys­tems can dis­cern symp­toms lead­ing up to an unde­sir­able brain event (such as a seizure), and pro­vide pre-emp­tive treat­ments to mit­i­gate or alto­geth­er thwart epilep­tic activ­i­ty. Some mon­i­tor­ing sys­tems are cou­pled with oth­er assis­tive devices, such as robot­ic aids to enable patients suf­fer­ing from neu­ro­log­i­cal dis­or­ders (such as ALS) to regain lost motor control.

–> Patent Image: Cou­pling Neur­al Stim­u­la­tion with Robot­ic Assistance.


4. Neurosensor-based vehicle operator systems

Sys­tems employ­ing neur­al detec­tion devices to mon­i­tor vehi­cle oper­a­tor alert­ness (or a lack­there­of) and take pre­ven­ta­tive mea­sures with dri­ver stim­u­la­tion or vehi­cle autopilot/ shut­down sys­tems are described by mul­ti­ple patents.

Whether due to inat­ten­tive­ness (for exam­ple tex­ting while dri­ving) or drowsi­ness, new vehi­cle-inte­grat­ed sys­tems can assess real-time oper­a­tor fit­ness. The US Army, auto­mo­tive com­pa­nies like Toy­ota, start-ups like Freer Log­ic, med­ical device mak­ers and insur­ers are all patent­ing inven­tions address­ing this concern.


–> Patent Image: Vehi­cle Oper­a­tor Sys­tems Aug­ment­ed with EEG Sig­nal Processing 



 5. Cognitive training videogames

Soft­ware appli­ca­tions acces­si­ble online and via mobile devices include gam­ing sys­tems that tar­get spe­cif­ic cog­ni­tive and/or emo­tion­al sys­tems of the brain.

Com­pa­nies like Posit Sci­ence and Lumos Labs have secured patent pro­tec­tion (and sig­nif­i­cant mar­ket trac­tion) on prod­ucts in this area. A patent recent­ly issued to Lumos Labs for enhanc­ing flu­id intel­li­gence and work­ing mem­o­ry through men­tal manip­u­la­tion of mem­o­rized objects is illustrative.


–> Patent Image: Can you deter­mine the pin­ball path after bumpers (818) disappear?


6. Brain-responsive computing systems 

As Microsoft CEO Sataya Nadel­la states:

We are mov­ing from a world where com­put­ing pow­er was scarce to a place where it now is most lim­it­less, and where the true scarce com­mod­i­ty is increas­ing­ly human attention.

A recent study by Microsoft finds that 68% of ear­ly tech adopters and 67% of heavy social media users real­ly have to con­cen­trate hard to stay focused on tasks. So large tech com­pa­nies are patent­ing sys­tems to improve pro­duc­tiv­i­ty and work­er out­put, for exam­ple by using EEG sig­nals to rec­og­nize user’s men­tal state and tai­lor the com­put­ing experience.

–> Patent Image: Clas­si­fy­ing user-tasks based on brain­wave data


7. Virtual Reality treatments, especially in conjunction with EEG and/ or tDCS 

Whether for treat­ing PTSD and pho­bias through expo­sure ther­a­py, or assist­ing sur­geons in the oper­at­ing room, vir­tu­al-real­i­ty is quick­ly gain­ing momentum.

Med­ical tech com­pa­nies such as Medtron­ic and Brain­lab, and con­sumer research firms such as Nielsen are build­ing sig­nif­i­cant IP port­fo­lios in the area. The fol­low­ing patent by Evoke Neu­ro­science shows the inter­play between vir­tu­al real­i­ty, EEG and tran­scra­nial direct cur­rent stim­u­la­tion (tDCS).


–> Patent Image: Vir­tu­al Real­i­ty (VR) Neurotechnology


8. “Mindful” wearables

Wear­ables are being designed to improve not just phys­i­cal health but men­tal Musewell-being as well. Med­i­ta­tion apps in tan­dem with con­sumer EEGs like InteraXon’s Muse  aim to help users build con­cen­tra­tion and self-reg­u­la­tion skills.

Even gen­er­al-pur­pose fit­ness wear­ables are start­ing to include men­tal health and train­ing appli­ca­tions. Jaw­bone (through its sub­sidiary Body­Media) has secured patents that con­sid­er phys­i­o­log­i­cal and con­tex­tu­al factors.

–> Patent Image: Men­tal Health Appli­ca­tions of Wear­able Devices


 9. Collaborative cognitive simulations 

These are sys­tems that focus on improv­ing learn­ing and skill acqui­si­tion across the extend­ed work­force through online inter­ac­tive plat­forms and cog­ni­tive sim­u­la­tion mod­els. Human cap­i­tal-inten­sive orga­ni­za­tions such as AT&T and Accen­ture, and start-ups such as Applied Cog­ni­tive Engi­neer­ing, are devel­op­ing mul­ti­ple appli­ca­tions in the area, and secur­ing rel­e­vant intel­lec­tu­al prop­er­ty rights.

–> Patent exam­ple: Sys­tem method and arti­cle of man­u­fac­ture for cre­at­ing col­lab­o­ra­tive appli­ca­tion sharing 


10. Electrical and magnetic brain stimulation

These are tech­nolo­gies that can influ­ence brain Thync activ­i­ty via mag­net­ic fields or elec­tri­cal impuls­es, and they are becom­ing increas­ing­ly com­mon. Mul­ti­ple hos­pi­tals and clin­ics already offer treat­ments based on brain stim­u­la­tion, DARPA has award­ed con­tracts to devel­op sys­tems to aug­ment mem­o­ry with tar­get­ed elec­tri­cal stim­u­la­tion tech­niques, and con­sumers can buy wear­able devices claim­ing to induce an array of brain states from calm­ing to energizing.

–> Patent Image: Wear­able Trans­der­mal Elec­tri­cal Stim­u­la­tion Device

This patent comes via Thync, an ear­ly-stage com­pa­ny backed by Khosla Ven­tures. Oth­er com­pa­nies push­ing the bound­aries of brain stim­u­la­tion tech­nol­o­gy include St. Jude Med­ical, Brain­lab and Neuronetics.


Now that we have reviewed some of the excit­ing neu­rotech­nolo­gies ahead, we need to step back for a sec­ond. Which of these tech­nolo­gies will deliv­er the most val­ue, and in what con­text? How will inno­v­a­tive assess­ments and ther­a­pies be val­i­dat­ed, adopt­ed, reg­u­lat­ed and com­mer­cial­ized? How do we max­i­mize the ben­e­fits and min­i­mize the risks?

2015SharpBrainsVirtualSummit_webThose ques­tions con­sti­tute, in essence,  the Agen­da for the 2015 Sharp­Brains Vir­tu­al Sum­mit tak­ing place next week, where over 200 pio­neers and experts will gath­er around a vir­tu­al table to dis­cuss the lat­est, the next, and how to har­ness it all to improve work and life.

Please con­sid­er join­ing us!


– Alvaro Fer­nan­dez, named a Young Glob­al Leader by the World Eco­nomic Forum, runs Sharp­Brains, an inde­pen­dent mar­ket research firm track­ing health and well­ness appli­ca­tions of brain sci­ence. He is an inter­na­tion­al­ly-known speak­er and expert, and has been quot­ed by The New York Times, The Wall Street Jour­nal, New Sci­en­tist, CNN, and more.

– Nikhil Sri­ra­man is a patent attor­ney admit­ted to prac­tice before the Unit­ed States Patent and Trade­mark Office (USPTO). Nikhil has held posi­tions at the USPTO, IP law firms and in-house at For­tune 500 com­pa­nies. He cur­rent­ly serves as Pri­mal’s Vice Pres­i­dent of Intel­lec­tu­al Prop­er­ty, as well as Sharp­Brains’ Intel­lec­tu­al Prop­er­ty Analyst.

About SharpBrains

SHARPBRAINS is an independent think-tank and consulting firm providing services at the frontier of applied neuroscience, health, leadership and innovation.
SHARPBRAINS es un think-tank y consultoría independiente proporcionando servicios para la neurociencia aplicada, salud, liderazgo e innovación.

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